Sunday afternoon the Detroit Tigers lost their 20th straight to the Cleveland Indians, this time by a final of 8-5. The Indians, who came into the series ranked dead last in most major offensive categories, hit five home runs in the game. Additionally, just about every call went against the Tigers, and although the offense strung together quite a few hits throughout the day, every time they made a comeback, Cleveland just kept tacking on runs. The Tigers losing streak has now reached five games.
Michael Fulmer made his third start of the season, another that was planned to be no more than three innings. Last Monday against the White Sox Fulmer’s velocity was back up to 95 MPH and his command was mostly there as he threw three scoreless. Sunday afternoon his velocity got up to 96 MPH, but he wasn’t as sharp and the Indians made him pay. He labored through 2 2⁄3 innings, throwing 58 pitches and allowing three runs on five hits, which included two home runs, two walks, and two strikeouts.
Cleveland’s offense got started in the second inning with an opposite field line drive home run by Franmil Reyes to take a 1-0 lead. Reyes, who hit a 460 foot cannon shot to dead center on Friday night, jumped all over a 94 MPH high fastball from Fulmer to send it into the right field seats. Cleveland got two more runs in third off a two-run homer by Francisco Lindor to take a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers responded in the bottom half of the third to tie the score, but it was not without some major controversy that resulted in Ron Gardenhire’s 85th career ejection as a manager. After a lead off double by Grayson Greiner, three straight one-out hits by Niko Goodrum, Harold Castro, and Miguel Cabrera had the game all tied up at 3-3.
And now for some controversy.
With two outs and Cabrera still on first, Jeimer Candelario roped a line drive down the right field line. With Cabrera streaking around the bases — I’m not kidding, he was absolutely booking it — the ball rolled all the way to the fence where it hit the padding on the bottom of the wall and abruptly stopped. From there, Indians right fielder Tyler Naquin picked up the ball and threw it in. For Candelario, it looked to be a run scoring triple, and for the Tigers, a 4-3 lead.
However, first base umpire Tim Timmons had apparently blown the ball dead upon it stopping up against fence despite Naquin not putting his hands up to call for any interference. The ball wasn’t stuck, and Naquin had no trouble picking it up and throwing it in, so there was no reason for the call, but such are the Tigers’ fortunes against Cleveland. The dead ball resulted in Candelario being sent back to second, and most criminally, Cabrera, who unbelievably scored from first, being sent back to third.
You might recall a play earlier in the week where Tim Anderson of the White Sox hit a ball down the left field line that stopped upon reaching the padding on the fence. This hit resulted in a triple, while Candelario’s hit was called a ground-rule double. Although the umpiring crew had changed, Ron Gardenhire was tossed arguing that point home.
For what it’s worth, Cody Stavenhagen of the Athletic found a rule that applies to the situation, though the validity of either ball being “stuck” underneath the fence could be challenged. Regardless, the rule was applied one way against the Tigers, and then the other way, also against the Tigers.
Gardenhire wouldn’t be the last ejection of the day for the Tigers. After Cleveland took a 4-3 lead off a Jose Ramirez home run in the fourth inning, the Tigers strung together a few hits in the fifth to retie the game off another Cabrera single. What looked like was going to be a big inning for the Tigers with two on and no out took a turn for the worst with Cabrera running through a stop sign at third base on another Candelario hit, getting thrown out at home.
Pinch hitting for Christin Stewart, Cameron Maybin then took a 1-0 slider that was low and a few inches off the outside of the plate for a strike. Maybin, considered to be one of the friendliest guys in the game, did not take kindly to that call whatsoever. Maybin then swung at the next pitch in a similar area off the plate and grounded into an inning-ending double play. While walking off the field, home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn threw Maybin out for continuing to complain about the strike call.
From there, the game unraveled for the Tigers. John Schrieber came on after 2 1⁄3 one-run innings from Tyler Alexander and had his first poor outing of the season. Schrieber allowed a home run to Sandy Leon, a catcher hitting .119, and would have to be relieved by Gregory Soto with two outs. Soto got the final out of the inning in a classic case of using your best reliever in a mop up role, after you’ve already blown a tie-game against the team that has beaten you 19 straight times, and in the middle of a four, and now five, game losing streak, but not before allowing the Indians seventh run of the game to score courtesy of a double by Lindor.
In the seventh inning, Carson Fulmer allowed a 450-foot home run to Reyes — who is in the process of becoming a certified Tiger killer — and just like that the Indians had an 8-4 lead.
The Tigers made it interesting in the ninth scoring a run courtesy of a leadoff double from JaCoby Jones, your nine hitter for reasons, and an RBI single from Victor Reyes to make it 8-5, and after a walk to Cabrera, brought the tying run to the plate before a double play from Jonathan Schoop ended the game.
A common theme among many of the losses this season is a starting pitcher who isn’t able to get deep into the game nor able to limit runs. While Michael Fulmer is on a three inning per game limit, that doesn’t change the fact that the bullpen is being overtaxed and now the fallout is starting to rear its ugly head. The Tigers have two quality starts on the season, and are without scheduled starting pitchers for both Tuesday and Wednesday due to injury and ineffectiveness.
While the Tigers have an elite prospect core of starting pitchers in Toledo, Al Avila has repeated his hesitancy to call up Casey Mize, Matt Manning, or Tarik Skubal even now when quality innings are desperately needed, not only for competitive reasons, but in order to avoid getting your better relievers hurt through overuse. At a record of 9-10, it’s looking as if the bottom is starting to fall out on this shortened 2020 season after a hot start by the Tigers. Without an infusion of the major league ready talent on the farm, there just isn’t any way to stop the bleeding for a team with a mediocre offense at best, and just two full-time starters on the roster.
Matthew Boyd (0-2, 10.24 ERA) will kick off a four-game series against Gio Gonzalez (0-1, 6.61 ERA) and the White Sox on Monday night at 8:10 p.m. from Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. The Tigers have no scheduled starters on Tuesday or Wednesday. Presumably Daniel Norris will take the ball in one of those games, but the other is anyone’s guess. May god have mercy on our souls.