DETROIT--The Detroit Tigers kicked off a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics on Memorial Day with Drew Smyly on the mound. Smyly has had an up and down season making the transition from the bullpen to starting again, and an inconsistent schedule coupled with pitching in relief hasn't helped.
Smyly had another rough start on Monday when he allowed two solo home runs in the second inning and back-to back homers in the third inning. He had difficulty controlling his offspeed pitches and all of the home runs Smyly allowed were by way of two breaking balls and two changeups.
As if four home runs weren't bad enough, Smyly gave up back-to-back singles and a walk which loaded the bases in the fourth. A sacrifice fly by Coco Crisp and an RBI single by Josh Donaldson added two more before Smyly got out of the inning. After five innings Smyly was finished having allowed a career high eight hits and six runs (all earned) and had struck out only three batters.
Corey Knebel's major league debut on May 24 did not go as planned for the Tigers. However, in his second relief appearance, Knebel pitched two innings and gave up only two hits while striking out two. But Phil Coke replaced Knebel in the eighth and served things up, grand slam style. He had some help though with interference being called on catcher Bryan Holaday, and a fielding error by Nick Castellanos which loaded the bases.
With the grand slam, the Tigers have now allowed nine or more runs in five of their last six starts and have been shut out for just the second time this season. The last time the Tigers were shut out was on April 11 in game one against the San Diego Padres.
Austin Jackson nearly made the catch of the year in the second inning when he made a leaping grab attempt at a ball hit over the center field wall by Brandon Moss. While Jackson had actually caught the ball he was unable to close his glove in time before it ricocheted out of his grip and over the wall for the first home run of the game.
One positive in a week where upsides have been to find is that it would seem the cork has been pulled on Andrew Romine since he hit his first career home run on May 23. Romine made solid contact again when he scorched a first-pitch double to left field in the third inning and got the first hit of the day for the Tigers.
Coming into Monday's game Cabrera was hitting .372/.418/.663 for a combined 1.081 OPS with five home runs and 10 doubles in May. He continued that on Monday with a leadoff double in the fourth inning. But with the exception of the hits by Romine and Cabrera, only two other players reached safely. Davis hit a single to center and Victor Martinez was the only Tigers player who more than one hit (two singles) in the game.
Smyly is the second starting pitcher who has suffered back-to-back losses since May 18 when the Tigers had won 11 consecutive road games and six in a row overall, joining Justin Verlander who took the loss on Sunday. The only starting pitcher who has not taken a loss nor allowed a home run in that time frame is Anibal Sanchez who starts for the Tigers on Wednesday.
Despite losing seven of their last eight contests, the Tigers are third in MLB, although they no longer lead the American League. Max Scherzer looks to break the ongoing losing streak the Tigers currently find themselves stuck in and he will take the mound on Tuesday as the Tigers face the A's right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray.