Sunday Notes: Matt Tuiasasopo Recalls 2013 ALCS Game 2 (and Jim Leyland)

Matt Tuiasosopo has fond memories of his 2013 season with the Detroit Tigers. An October swing of the bat is responsible for one of the few unpleasant memories. Now the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves, Tuiasosopo was watching from the bench when David Ortiz blasted an eighth-inning, game-tying grand slam, a play that saw Torii Hunter tumble into Fenway Park’s home bullpen in a futile attempt to snare the drive. It was the signature moment of an epic ALCS Game 2 that the Red Sox went on to win, and a catalyst to their eventual capturing of the series.

What was it like to be on the wrong side of such a memorable event, and how does he look back at it now that a decade’s worth of water has passed under the bridge? I asked Tuiasosopo those questions when the Braves visited Boston earlier this month.

“That was an intense moment, “ recalled Tuiasosopo, who while not on Detroit’s ALCS active roster was in uniform for the games. “The whole stadium was going nuts. It was really loud. Of course, my first concern was Torii, because he flew over that wall. When he got up, it was ‘Thankfully he’s okay.’ I mean, there were a lot of different emotions.

“It obviously wasn’t fun,” continued Tuiasosopo. “At the same time, as a baseball fan it was, ‘Big Papi against one of our best relievers — Joaquín Benoit was big for us that season — and there was also everything that happened for the city of Boston [the Marathon bombing] that year. The moment was special, even though it sucked on our end.”

Being part of a team managed by Jim Leyland is something that definitely didn’t suck for the erstwhile role player. The Tigers will be formally retiring Leyland’s No. 10 in a ceremony at Comerica Park on August 3, and you can count Tuiasosopo among those who feel he is worthy of the honor.

“You wanted to play well for him,” said Tuiasosopo, who logged a 115 wRC+ over 191 plate appearances in his lone Motown season. “You wanted to make sure that you were prepared to do your job for the team when your number was called. That was all he asked, that you prepared well, prepared smart, and were always ready. And he had a great feel for the clubhouse. He made it a point to communicate with everyone.

“During BP, he would walk around the entire field. He’d come out when I was shagging, to check in with me, joke with me. He’d say things like, ‘Tui, you’re still here.’ I would be like, ‘Yeah, I know skip. Damn. I still am.’ He’d say, ‘No, you deserve it. You’ve been great. You’ve been working your tail off and doing your job.’ Things like that help fuel your confidence. He cared about his players, on and off the field. He was genuine.”

Every bit as genuine is the player-turned-coach’s appreciation for the highlight-reel play that Tigers fans would like to forget. As painful as it was at the time, he can look back and cherish being up close and personal for a piece of baseball history.

“Every time I see the highlight, those feelings kind of rush through me again,” Tuiasasopo told me. “It’s ‘Wow, what a big moment in that series.’ You could sense things shifting —it was ‘I don’t like this feeling’ — but again, a magical moment for baseball. Sitting here now, in the same dugout, I can look out and see the entire play evolve, relive the whole entire reaction of this place. Again, it was loud. It was crazy.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Don Mattingly went 1 for 17 against David Cone.

Jorge Posada went 1 for 21 against David Price.

Derek Jeter went 6 for 48 against Scott Kazmir.

Joe DiMaggio went 6 for 36 against Joe Coleman Sr..

Thurman Munson went 9 for 56 against Joe Coleman Jr.

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Jeff Francoeur experienced a momentous postseason play that was disastrous for his team in October 2005. Then a rookie outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, “Frenchy” was stationed in right field when Chris Burke hit a walk-off home run in the 18th inning to give the Houston Astros a 7-6 win and a berth in the NLCS. As the now Braves broadcaster recalls with a mix of horror and appreciation, the swing culminated a furious rally.

“The thing that was toughest about that game is we were up 6-1 in the eighth inning,” Francoeur told me. “We were looking at a [potential] John Smoltz versus Andy Pettitte [decisive] Game 5 back in Atlanta. I was 21 years old, man. I was thinking ‘This is great.’ Then freaking Lance Berkman hits a grand slam. In the ninth inning, Brad Ausmus hits what I think was his third or fourth home run all year to tie it up.

“We were dominating extra innings, but we just couldn’t score,” continued Francoeur. “We left numerous guys at second and third. And you know how it is in that ballpark. The longer the game went on, with that short porch, you knew it was just a matter of time. I was standing in right field, the game was taking forever, and when Chris Burke got that ball up in the air, it was ‘aaaah.’ I knew the game was over.”

The outfielder-turned-broadcast-analyst learned a valuable lesson that day.

“Ever since, I always tell people, ‘Don’t look ahead,’”said Francoeur. “When the score was 6-1, I was thinking about a Game 5 and what it was going to be like in Atlanta. I felt that if we came home we were going to beat them. And while we never got the opportunity, I do remember being aware, as the game went on, that win or lose we were going to be a part of history. Looking back, I can absolutely appreciate that. It did take me awhile, though.”

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Brad Ausmus has far more pleasurable memories of 2005 NLDS Game 4.

“It was the biggest home run of my life,” the now-New York Yankees bench coach said of his two-out, game-saving bomb. “The game itself became a war of attrition, really. We went another nine innings after my home run. Neither team could muster any offense. I remember that I moved to first base for a couple of innings, then moved to catcher when [Roger] Clemens came in [in the 16th inning]. Pettitte had gone home sick. He was going to be the starting pitcher the next day if we had to play in Atlanta. He was actually driving back to the ballpark when we finally won it in the 18th, because we didn’t have any pitchers left. He’d basically been in bed watching the game on TV, hoping to be healthy enough to pitch a Game 5 if there was one. Fortunately there wasn’t.”

Ausmus went deep 83 times in his 18-year career. Two of his 80 regular season home runs came against the Braves. All three of his postseason home runs came against the Braves.

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A two-part quiz:

A Hall of Famer led the National League in home runs in each of his first seven seasons. Another Hall of Famer, this one a pitcher, led the National League in strikeouts in each of his first seven full seasons. Who are these players?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Gordy Lund, an infielder who played for the Cleveland Indians in 1967 and for the Seattle Pilots in 1969, died on April 10 at age 83 (per Baseball Player Passings). A native of Iron Mountain, Michigan, Lund logged the first of his dozen big-league hits off of Jim Lonborg in the Red Sox right-hander’s Cy Young season.

Steve Klauke, the play-by-play voice of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees from 1994 through last season, died on Monday at age 69 after being struck by a car. Klauke called more than 4,000 games for the Pacific Coast League club.

SABR’s Oral History Committee will host a live Zoom interview with Harold Baines this coming Tuesday, June 18, at 6 pm EST. More information cane be found here.

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The answer to the quiz is Ralph Kiner and Dazzy Vance. Kiner led NL hitters in home runs each year from 1946-1952, while Vance led NL pitchers in strikeouts each year from 1922-1928.

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You can have either of Shohei Ohtani or Juan Soto for the next six-plus seasons. Which are you taking?

I asked that question in a Twitter poll a few days ago, and the results weren’t as close as I expected. Ohtani won by a decisive margin, garnering 64.9% of the votes cast, while Soto received just 35.1%.

Why did I expect Soto to fare better than he did? Their respective ages are a big reason. Soto will be in his age 26-31 seasons over the forthcoming six-year span, while Ohtani turns 30 in just a few weeks. Come 2030, the two-way star will be firmly into his mid-30s.

Will Ohtani perform at at high level both on the mound and at the plate over the next few seasons? My guess is that he will. That said, I’m skeptical that he can continue to do so for more than another two or three seasons. Maybe I’m wrong. Regardless, I’d bet on Soto logging the higher WAR total when all is said and done.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

NPB’s Chiba Lotte Marines announced on Thursday that Roki Sasaki has been deactivated “due to the poor condition of his right arm” (per @jballallen). The highly-touted 22-year-old right-hander has a 1.96 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59-and-two-thirds innings on the season.

Yokohama BayStars outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo recorded his 1,000th career NPB hit last Sunday. The 32-year-old erstwhile MLBer logged 110 hits while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates from 2020-2022.

Kyo Suzuki debuted with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Wednesday, less than three months after celebrating his 18th birthday. The right-handed-hitting catcher went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

Taek Yeon Kim is 2-0 with four saves, a 2.53 ERA, and 36 strikeouts in 32 innings for the Doosan Bears. The 19-year-old right-hander was the second-overall pick in last September’s KBO draft.

Jun Seo Hwang is 2-6 with a 4.38 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 51-and-a-third innings for the Hanwha Eagles. The 18-year-old left-hander was the first-overall pick in last September’s KBO draft.

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A random obscure former player snapshot:

Bubba Church missed the 1950 World Series after being hit in the face by a line drive — the ball reportedly caromed into right field on the fly — off the bat of Ted Kluszewski in a mid-September game. A rookie right-hander who was 8-4 with a 2.18 ERA for the Philadelphia Phillies at the time, Church was hospitalized for eight days, then returned to make two more starts, both of them ineffective. He subsequently watched from the bench as The Whiz Kids were swept by Yankees in the Fall Classic. He returned the following season to go 15-11, 3.53, but after that faded into obscurity with the Phillies, Reds, and Cubs.

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The Boston Red Sox held a three-run lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the late innings on Wednesday night when I noticed that Cam Booser was in line for what would be his first MLB win. Curious where the 32-year-old reliever would rank among the oldest players in Red Sox history to record a first win, I approached two members of the team’s excellent PR staff to see if they knew. They didn’t off the top of their heads, but proceeded to find out.

Booser (32 years, 39 days) became the fourth oldest, behind Tommy Fine (32 years, 206 days), Hirokazu Sawamura (33 years, 20 days), and Oscar Judd (34 years, 67 days). Judd’s club-record accomplishment, which came in 1942, isn’t his most notable distinction. The following year, the London, Ontario native became the first Canadian pitcher to make an MLB All-Star team.

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FARM NOTES

Jonah Cox is slashing .310/.422/.374 and has 38 steals in 40 attempts for the Low-A San Jose Giants. Acquired by San Francisco from Oakland over the winter in exchange for Ross Stripling, the 22-year-old outfielder out of Oral Roberts University was the A’s sixth round pick last summer.

Robert Calaz is slashing .356/.444/.673 with five home runs and a 169 wRC+ over 117 plate appearances in the Arizona Complex League. The 18-year-old outfielder is No. 12 on our Colorado Rockies Top Prospects list.

Noah Schultz has a 3.00 ERA, 56 strikeouts, and just seven walks in 39 innings between High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. Drafted 26th overall in 2022 out of Oswego (Illinois) East High School, the 20-year-old southpaw is No. 2 on our Chicago White Sox Top Prospects list.

Jaden Hamm has a 2.13 ERA, 67 strikeouts, and just eight walks in 50-and-two-thirds innings for High-A West Michigan. The 21-year-old right-hander was drafted in the fifth round last year by the Detroit Tigers out of out of Middle Tennessee State University.

Matt Wilkinson leads all minor league pitchers with 99 strikeouts. The 21-year-old, Vancouver-born left-hander in the Cleveland Guardians system has a 44.0% strikeout rate to go with a 1.97 ERA in 59-and-a-third innings between Low-A Lynchburg and High-A Lake County.

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I’ve shared several entertaining memories from the minors in recent months, some in a piece that ran in mid-April, and others in one that ran a few Fridays ago. Not included in either compilation were a pair of stories from Cleveland Guardians pitcher Scott Barlow.

“I was with the Great Lakes Loons,” recalled Barlow, who played for the Midwest League affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014. “We were in Lansing, Michigan, it was the Fourth of July, and the city fireworks show was going to take place after the game. I think they were supposed to start at 10 [o’clock] on the dot. Of course, our game goes really long. We went extras, something like 13 or 14 innings. All of a sudden, these giants fireworks are going off in center field, right behind the batter’s eye. It was like the scene from The Sandlot. We were in the dugout, it was the Fourth of July, perfect weather, a packed crowd, and fireworks were going off. We just played through it. It was a really cool experience.

“That same year, we were on the bus going from Midland, [Michigan] down to Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was after a game, so we were driving through the night. We got to the hotel in Bowling Green around five or six in the morning, and our keys weren’t ready. There were about 30 of us, and the desk clerk had to go one key at a time. Our manager got his first, leaves, and then comes storming back. They were doing a bunch of renovations at the hotel and his room didn’t have a bed. It didn’t have a toilet. It was this beat up room with nothing in it. Again, this was five-something in the morning, and we’d been on the bus all night. He was livid.

“The next day they were still doing renovations, which included painting the doors. They had to take them off to do that. The workers drilled the door off in the room next to mine — where one of my teammates was in the shower and the other was still sleeping. It was kind of a nightmare.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At CBS Sports, R.J. Anderson wrote about how public ownership works for some of the world’s best sports teams.

John Thorn profiled sabermetric pioneer Pete Palmer at his Our Game blog.

MLB.com’s Matthew Ritches wrote about the Birmingham Black Barons and legendary Rickwood Field.

MLB.com’s Keegan Matheson talked to Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Yusei Kikuchi about 19-year-old Japanese slugger — and incoming Stanford University student — Rintaro Sasaki.

At Start Spreading The News, Richard Cuicchi looked back at some former New York Yankees players who aren’t thought of as former Yankees.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Beginning with 1-1, the Red Sox have had a .500 record on 17 different occasions this season. That includes each number(s) from 26 through 35. Currently 36-35, they haven’t been as many as plus- or minus-2 in the W-L column since May 22, or plus- or minus-3 since May 5.

Bruce Bochy got managerial win number 2,126 on Thursday, moving him ahead of Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy and into sole possession of ninth-most all time. Bochy’s 2,138 managerial losses are fourth-most all time.

Andrew McCutchen has hit 10 or more home runs in each of his 16 MLB seasons. He has 309 in all, the same number as Edgar Martinez.

Jim Thome went 43-for-100 with 18 home runs and 31 walks against the St. Louis Cardinals. His slash line against the Cards was .430/.565/1.010.

In 1986, Vince Coleman stole 107 bases and was caught stealing 14 times. The Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox combined to steal 105 bases and get caught stealing 68 times.

On today’s date in 1988, the Philadelphia Phillies scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7. Mike Lieberthal capped the rally with a two-out, pinch-hit three-run homer, while the win — the only one of his brief MLB career — was credited to left-hander Robert Dodd.

Lew Krausse Jr. was less than two months removed from his 18th birthday when he took the mound for his MLB debut with the Kansas City Athletics on today’s date in 1961. The right-hander’s father, Lew Krausse Sr., had turned 19 three days prior when he made his own debut, also as a pitcher, with the Philadelphia Athletics on June 11, 1931.

Player’s born on today’s date include Libe Washburn (his given name was Libeus), a native of Lynn, New Hampshire whose big-league career comprised six games with the New York Giants in 1902 and eight games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1903. A pitcher/outfielder, Washburn went 7-for-27 at the plate and was tagged with the loss in all four of his mound appearances.

Also born on today’s date was Max Surkont, a native of Central Falls, Rhode Island who holds a pair of notable distinctions. On April 13, 1953 the right-hander pitched the first game in Milwaukee Braves history, a 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Six weeks later, on May 25, he set a since-broken MLB record by striking out eight consecutive batters. That game was also against the Reds.

Pop Joy played for the Union Association’s Washington Nationals in 1884, as did Icicle Reeder.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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sadtrombonemember
1 month ago

Spent a long time on the quiz today trying to figure out whether there were any father-son duos in the Hall of Fame but nope, it has nothing to do with it.

TKDCmember
1 month ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Had a long debate about the most likely first father-son duo to make the hall. Vlad and Vlad made a lot more sense after 2021 but not looking good now. Andruw Jones will likely make it in the next few years and his kid is very talented. I don’t think you could squint hard enough to make a case for Bobby Bonds, and of course Barry has to make it, too.

None of these are very likely at all.