DETROIT — The Tigers came home for a seven-game homestand, fresh off a shutout complete game win by Max Scherzer. That should have been more than enough momentum for the Tigers to wake up and get something going. Instead it was just another mirror image of what the team has been going through for the last several weeks, with no tangible sign of things turning around; at least for now.
Drew Smyly pitched just the second game of his career on his birthday and had six solid innings where he gave up just one run, which was a solo shot off the bat of Eduardo Escobar in the third inning. Despite three walks, Smyly's command was more consistent and 11 of the last 12 batters he faced failed to reach base safely. He allowed just four hits and struck out two in that time, getting two 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth.
Of all the things the Tigers could have used Friday night, it was solid pitching accompanied by consistent hitting. They couldn't get the latter going off of Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson. Despite some sloppy fielding work, which did more than enough to help the Tigers with multiple chances, the Tigers just couldn't gain enough momentum to run away with anything, most notably so in the fifth inning.
Drew Smyly: Despite giving up a solo home run in the third inning to Escobar, Smyly pitched five shutout frames and allowed just four hits in six innings. While Smyly was handed the loss, his outing reflected one deserving anything but that and he deserved more than the record he now holds, which stands at 3-5 for the season.
Defense: Most notably the Tigers outfield corner positions, but all around the defense was firing on practically all cylinders Friday night. J.D. Martinez and Don Kelly were in right and left field respectively and made several nice plays to prevent what could have been base hits and a more dire situation on the scoreboard.
Bullpen (Nathan excluded): You can't ask much more out of a bullpen that pitches two 1-2-3 innings and a life raft strikeout by Phil Coke in the ninth inning after Joe Nathan failed to get the third batter out; twice.
Twins fielding work: The Twins were practically begging for the Tigers to take the slim lead away from them several times when they couldn't complete throws and put the Tigers in business despite a scarcity of hits.
Offense: The Tigers offense took the Twins' golden opportunities and kicked it off the cliff. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said it hasn't been getting hits that has been the problem, but rather the big hits to score the runs.
Miguel Cabrera's fifth inning at-bat: Cabrera was given a gem with the bases loaded in the fifth inning but he squeezed the life out of a huge opportunity for the Tigers when he grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Ian Kinsler's bunt: With two on and nobody out, Kinsler bunted rather than go all out for a base hit. Turns out, it was only partially his fault. "I had him bunting in the first pitch, then I took it off but there was a sign mix up between Clarky (Dave Clark) and Ian. He was free to swing." Ausmus said.
Miscommunication: These things happen, but it couldn't have come at a worse time for the Tigers to have a breakdown in communication. With that said, Ausmus didn't have a problem with Kinsler bunting either way.
Joe Nathan: It's a nightmare carousel that Nathan can't seem to get off. It took 29 pitches to get two batters out and Nathan allowed a wild pitch, a walk and hit a batter to load the bases. He followed it up with a ringer of an 11-pitch at-bat that forced in a run and added to the Twins lead, making the score 2-0.
With the loss, the Tigers are now 34-29 for the season and their lead in the American League Central Division continues to dwindle. They have a two-game lead over the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are in last place by only three and a half games. What was once a blowout lead margin has turned into the closest race in any division in baseball.
The Tigers are now 16-16 at home and 18-13 on the road; they are currently 3-7 in their last 10 games.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to seven with a single in the first inning and is now batting .407 during that stretch.
- Phil Coke's ERA now sits at 1.80 in the last six outings since June 1 and pitched the Tigers out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning.
- Alex Avila went 2-3 for the night and is now hitting .364 in his last seven games since June 4.
- Al Alburquerque has become the dependable setup man for the Tigers. Since May 12, Alburquerque has a 1.62 ERA in his last 15 games with 11 strikeouts.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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