DETROIT -- Ian Kinsler is struggling in every sense of the word. Both with the bat and the glove. Reaction plays are becoming mistakes, at-bats have resulted in quick outs. Take out the Anaheim home run by Kinsler, his first in 222 plate appearances, and you're left with a player representative of someone whose mind seems to be anywhere but in the game. And it's surprisingly uncharacteristic.
Tuesday night in the seventh inning, three mistakes kept the inning going, an inning that should have ended well before the grand slam given up by Angel Nesbitt. Past the 100-pitch mark, Alfredo Simon threw a wild pitch after allowing a leadoff single. Marcus Semien singled sharply to Jose Iglesias, who threw to Nick Castellanos, who was unable to hang onto the throw.
With the bases loaded, Eric Sogard hit a shallow sharp ground ball that Kinsler fielded, turned, and fired home. Except, Iglesias was clearly signaling for a throw to first base well before Kinsler threw home, and the runner at third had taken only a few steps in a bluff towards home -- the runner was not on the move.
On the mound, Simon dropped his hands in disbelief. There was more than enough time for Kinsler to throw to first, and Miguel Cabrera to fire home. And with the ball not hit deeply enough, there was little chance that Lawrie would have scored anyway. But Kinsler didn't even glance at first. Kinsler, though, saw it another way.
"It was a reaction play," Kinsler said. "Complete reaction play. I had to pick up a tough hop and turn towards the outfield, and my first look was to second base to see if I could get an out there, and I couldn't. And as I was continuing to move to throw the ball to first I saw him take three hard steps I just reacted to the play."
For such a high-caliber defensive player, it has seemed as if every high-leverage play that Kinsler has made of late has resulted in a miscue. Be it the time that Kinsler fell asleep at first base on the last homestand, the error against the Angels, or Tuesday night's game, Kinsler's fielding has become increasingly prominent for the wrong reasons.
The Tigers are in a rut, that much is no surprise. Players are pressing to the degree that it's prompted Cabrera to discuss just how bad things are. A five-game losing streak isn't pretty, and to come home after being swept out West, taking just two of the seven games on an exhausting road trip, it's "a punch in the gut," as manager Brad Ausmus said after the game.
And with Kinsler, he may be able to separate his fielding and hitting, but when both are slumping to this degree, it doesn't give that appearance. Defense aside, Kinsler's offense has been bad enough that it prompted him to take up a discussion with Ausmus recently about moving him in the lineup, in the hopes that it would shake something up for him.
Coming into Tuesday night's game and going back to his last two-hit day, Kinsler has hit just .125/.236/.229 in 55 plate appearances from May 18-31. He's hit just one home run, two doubles, and six hits in all.
On Tuesday Kinsler moved to fifth in the lineup, but it didn't help, as he went 0-for-4, seeing three, one, five, and four pitches respectively. Kinsler's two-fold slump is highly unusual for him. He appears to be stuck in his own head, and the rest of the team in the same predicament only compounds the problem.
"We just need to be free and play," Kinsler said. "That's really it. Just trust our abilities and just play. And that's what I was doing on that play, there was no pressing on that play. It was just complete reaction, it just so happened that they scored five runs in that inning.
"We had an out at third base in that inning and we didn't come up with it, and they capitalized on it. Baseball has a funny way of humbling you and making it tough. We just need to continue to play hard."