It was by no means a routine play, but it was the kind you could essentially pencil Jose Iglesias in for.
There was one out in the seventh inning, and the Tigers were clinging to a 2-1 lead in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night. Jonny Gomes had already reached on a double. Xander Bogaerts had worked his second walk of the night, and Jacoby Ellsbury was at the plate.
When Ellsbury sent a ball skipping up the middle, Iglesias’s mind was already on turning the double play that would have gotten them out of the inning.
“He hit it pretty good,” Iglesias said. “So I thought I had the double play.”
From the dugout, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was picturing the same thing.
“I think we could have,” Leyland said. “It was hit pretty hard, but that’s part of the game. I have no problem with that. Probably could have turned that, even though Ellsbury runs good. I think we doubled him once this series.”
But the ball was in a rush to get to Iglesias.
From there, Iglesias found himself hurrying.
He had crossed ever so slightly to the other side of second base to grab it and found himself in an awkward position, trying to twist to make the grab and at the same time put himself in a good position to make the toss to second baseman Omar Infante.
“I couldn’t get in good position,” he said.
He was able to get his glove down, but the ball still had a mind of its own.
For a split-second, it settled in the pocket of Iglesias’s glove, but before he could get his bare hand down to cover it, the ball hopped loose.
“I felt it in my glove and then after that, I didn’t feel it no more,” Iglesias said.
When he ran the play back in his mind, the maybes started to creep in.
“I maybe rushed a little bit to flip it to Omar,” he said.
But maybes couldn’t change what happened after. With the bases loaded, Shane Victorino, who was 2 for 23 in the ALCS when he stepped to the plate, sent a shot into the Monster seats, making Iglesias pay for the error and sending the Tigers staggering into the offseason feeling the sting of a 5-2 loss.
In Game 2, Iglesias also had a costly error. In the ninth inning, Gomes hit an infield single, and Iglesias’s throw went by first baseman Prince Fielder, allowing Gomes to advance to second. The next batter, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, drove in Gomes, giving the Sox a 6-5 win.
In 164 regular-season chances at shortstop with Detroit, Iglesias had made just two errors.
Only two shortstops — the Sox’ Stephen Drew and the Cardinals’ Pete Kozma — had more chances in the postseason entering the game than Iglesias’s 25 and he only booted one of them.
With the Tigers facing elimination, it was the worst time for a hiccup.
Having been in the other dugout for half the season, before being traded to the Tigers in the deadline deal that brought Jake Peavy to the Sox, Iglesias knew that Boston was the kind of team that made a living off capitalizing on mistakes and coming back in late-game situations.
“I want to make that play so bad, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get it done,” Iglesias said. “You turn that double play the inning would be completely different,” Iglesias said. “It was over. They just got some momentum and Shane hit a grand slam. So that was huge.”
At the same time, he was able to look at the season as a whole and appreciate the playoff run he had just experienced.
“We’ve got an amazing group,” Iglesias said. “A lot of veteran people. So it’s just fun. Fun being in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it done. But hopefully we’ll get it done next year.”
Asked if the play would haunt him in the offseason, he responded cooly, “Eh, nah.”
But it will fuel him, he said.
“I’ll take this experience and come back next year stronger,” he said.