A wild game in Cleveland ended in the most unusual way possible on Wednesday afternoon when Detroit Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque balked home the winning run with the bases-loaded in the 13th inning, giving the home-standing Indians an 11-10 victory and a clean sweep of their three-game series.
All things considered, that may actually be the perfect ending to a game that felt like Detroit never truly wanted to win, but up until that point also refused to lose. The Tigers blew a 4-0 lead in the first inning and a two-run lead in the ninth before reclaiming a 10-9 lead on Alex Avila's two-out, solo home run in the 13th. That's when the wheels went into motion on their final and most spectacular meltdown of the day, culminating with Alburquerque's walk-off balk.
Obviously, Alburquerque bears the blame for the balk, but he had a little help setting up the situation. In fact, by the the time he entered the game, Cleveland had already tied it against Phil Coke thanks to Michael Brantley's RBI single. Upon Alburquerque's arrival, he was first tasked with intentionally walking Yan Gomes to load the bases, which eliminated any margin for error. Then, after throwing just one ball to Ryan Raburn, he flinched on the mound, home-plate umpire Tim Timmons caught it, and the game was over just that quickly.
According to STATS, the game-ending balk is the first since July 4, 2011, when the Royals' Aaron Crow committed one in the ninth inning against the White Sox. It's the first walkoff balk in extra innings since June 16, 2011, when New York Mets pitcher D.J. Carrasco balked against the Atlanta Braves, allowing the winning run to score. Previous to that, the last walk-off balk was in 2008, so apparently it's a once every three year occurrence, which certainly cements it as an unusual way to end a game.
Ironically, Detroit did also drop a spring training game in March on a game-ending balk. In that case, manager Brad Ausmus took responsibility after giving the wrong sign to his catcher, which led to a miscommunication. It's a little more understandable in March, especially when a rookie manager is involved and players are still working out the rust. But that excuse doesn't exist on Wednesday, partially because Ausmus was already ejected in the sixth inning along with Miguel Cabrera for arguing balls and strikes.
Yes, everything that could go wrong did for the Tigers on Wednesday. That even included a rare rough start for reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who allowed seven runs in seven innings. And really, Murphy's Law could probably apply to their entire week so far, which began with a plane issue Sunday night in Boston. The team was stranded there overnight and didn't travel to Cleveland until early Monday for the series-opener later that evening.
Prior to the plane issues, Detroit was 6-0 on the road trip with impressive sweeps in Baltimore and Boston. Now they'll just be happy to head home, where they hope better luck awaits when they host the Texas Rangers for four games over the weekend.
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