DETROIT — In Max Scherzer's last outing, he shut out the White Sox to pick up his first career complete game, but there was no sign of that dominance Tuesday night. A clean first inning was followed by a 51-pitch second, where he gave up a career-high seven runs. The Tigers couldn't dig out of that hole, losing 11-4 to the Royals and falling to second place behind them in the AL Central.
Scherzer was pulled after only four innings and three batters, his shortest outing of the season. "I didn't pitch well," Scherzer said. "I can make all the excuses in the world, but I pitched like crap. I'm just not putting guys away with two strikes. That's my problem." (h/t Dave Hogg, Fox Sports Detroit)
Scherzer has struggled off and on over the course of his last six outings, picking up two wins and two no decisions to go along with two losses. But even on May 21 against the Cleveland Indians, when Scherzer allowed seven runs over the course of five innings — the first five of which scored in the first three innings — he was able to recover and pitch into the seventh.
That wasn't the case Tuesday night, and what was once discussed in passing as a slump for the team has now become something else. "Quite frankly I stopped saying every team goes through this about a week ago," Ausmus said. "Teams do go through losing streaks and slumps, but this is a little bit more than what it should have been."
The loss knocked the Tigers out of first place for the first time since July 2, 2013, and struggles of the past weeks have begun to take the energy out of the team amid mounting frustrations.
"Well they're getting sick of it, for sure," Ausmus said. "Anyone that would go through something like this on a team that's supposed to win, we get sick of it. I'm sick of it, they're sick of it, the fans are sick of it. We're just sick of it. I don't know that there's a magic spell that can be cast to fix it. If there is, let me know."
While the Tigers know from experience that they are better than their current record indicates, even Alex Avila is at a loss for why the losses keep coming. "I'd never expect us to have a month like this, and I certainly haven't liked doing it," he said. "We work hard and we prepare in order to avoid exactly what is happening. We do that work to be consistent and avoid stretches like this, but it isn't working right now. There's nothing magic. We just have to do what it takes to win games."
While catching a break would help, at this point they need to get back to the fundamentals, and that means finding a way to get back to how they played when they were 27–12, and leading the major leagues by a comfortable margin.
Ausmus said it doesn't matter who is in first place now, but rather who remains standing atop the division when the regular season comes to a close. But in order to get there the Tigers need to get back on track. "We still need to play better," Ausmus said. "We need to pitch better, we need to come up with big hits, we just need to play better baseball. Period."
Ian Kinsler: His seventh home run of the season was a paper cut that made the score 11-4 in the eighth inning. But it was a rare positive.
Blaine Hardy: Gave the Tigers their first 1-2-3 inning since Scherzer's in the third. He started out by getting Billy Butler to strike out swinging and finished by getting back-to-back groundouts for a quick eighth.
Eugenio Suarez's defense: Made a leaping catch for the final out in the fifth inning to prevent the Royals from adding to an already blistering lead.
Miguel Cabrera: Was 0-for-2 entering the fifth inning but drew a walk with the bases loaded and forced in the Tigers' third run of the game.
Max Scherzer: There are rough innings, then there was the top of the second. Scherzer gave up two two-run home runs and five singles before recording his first out of the inning — which scored the Royals' seventh run of the inning. He allowed another in the fifth for good measure, which brought the score to 8-2 in favor of the Royals.
Lorenzo Cain: Made a leaping grab on a deep fly ball to right field by J.D. Martinez in the fourth, robbing the Tigers of a run.
Eugenio Suarez's baserunning: Caught advancing from third base, on a wild pitch with two outs, with the bases loaded and Victor Martinez at the plate. Miguel Cabrera had just been walked to force in a run.
The Royals' offense: Since the Royals acquired their new hitting coach, Dale Sveum, on May 29, the team went from being in last place to first, and are currently on a nine-game hitting streak. After May 29, the Royals hit .286/.337/.436. Before then they hit .251/.306/.348.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Scherzer threw 51 pitches and allowed seven runs to score in the second inning, a new career high for runs allowed in a single inning. Tuesday night matched his shortest outing of the season and the 10 runs given up were also a career high for runs allowed in a game.
- Coming into Tuesday's game, Scherzer had a 3.05 ERA, but it rose to a 3.84 after his outing.
- Victor Martinez's two singles in the second and fourth innings gave him four consecutive multi-hit games for the eighth time in his career, and the first time since July 8–11, 2013.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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