DETROIT — While some were watching a successful high-wire act across Niagara Falls, Tigers fans watched a less successful — and longer — high-wire act by the team’s closer.
It all looked so promising for the Tigers, coming off a 4-2 road trip, with a 4-4 tie heading into the bottom of the ninth with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young coming up.
But the Tigers (30-34) got a single from Young and that was it.
Then the 10th inning turned into an unmitigated disaster.
Jose Valverde came out to start the inning. It was 8-4 by the time his bungling outing, including a botched bunt play, was over nine batters later.
Luis Marte then surrendered back-to-back bombs to Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer to make it 12-4 Rockies, which is how it ended.
“It’s a funny game,” manager Jim Leyland said. “It was a great game, obviously, for nine innings.
“Everybody talks about home runs and doubles and that kind of stuff, but it was a little bunt that caused us all kind of chaos.”
The inning took 28 minutes, six minutes longer than Nik Wallenda’s walk across Niagara Falls Friday night.
It was the most runs allowed in a single inning in extra innings since the Angels scored nine in the 13th in Baltimore on Aug. 16, 2009.
The Tigers didn’t really have another option besides Valverde because they had already used Duane Below, Brayan Villarreal, Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit. Had Octavio Dotel not been on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, perhaps Leyland could have used him.
Leyland said the thought was, you go with the best option to hopefully get you through the top of the inning and give your team a chance to score in the bottom of the inning. It just didn’t work out that way.
“Sometimes the adrenaline’s different in those situations,” Leyland said of Valverde pitching in a non-save situation. “It gives you a chance, an inning to play with to win the game. It didn’t happen.
“Probably would’ve have happened if we hadn’t made an error on the bunt play. Almost got out of it, as it was. Extra outs usually lead to extra runs, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Leyland acknowledged that the game might not have come to that situation had they scored a few more runs against a pitcher in Jeff Francis, who came in with a 21.60 ERA, or against some of the relievers.
In the sixth inning, the Tigers had the bases loaded and only managed the tying run. Cabrera was walked intentionally and Fielder was walked unintentionally. Young fought for nine pitches against Rex Brothers, eventually striking out.
“It happens,” Young said. “Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re a window. I was a bug.”
Leyland didn’t fault Young, despite the strikeout.
“He threw a nasty pitch and got him out but I thought he had a great at-bat in that situation,” Leyland said. “We just haven’t pounded the ball good enough, to be honest with you. We just didn’t score enough runs. We’re supposed to score more runs than that.”
Instead, the Rockies (25-38) ended an eight-game losing streak and ensured Detroit’s winning streak heading into Friday would not extend beyond two.
Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski announced after the game that the team had optioned Matt Young and Casey Crosby to Toledo. On Saturday, the team will reinstate Doug Fister from the disabled list.
With the excessive use of relievers Friday night, Dombrowski said the team would also recall right-hander Thad Weber, who will be available in the bullpen.
With Drew Smyly on the disabled list and Crosby going back to Toledo, the Tigers will eventually have to figure out what to do about the fifth starter.
“We’ll have a decision at a later point on who’s going to be in our starting rotation,” Dombrowski said. “At this time, we don’t have any decisions that have been made in that regard.”