Another day, another feeble performance from the Tigers offense. The only question this season has been whether the starting pitcher would keep them in the game or not. On Sunday, Jose Ureña handled a terrifying Yankees lineup with little trouble, but this lineup full of windmills generated no power and went down in a 2-0 defeat anyway.
Ureña continues to be a bit of a revelation. We knew the stuff was good and that he would induce tons of ground balls, but his command of all of his pitches and ability to avoid mistakes that has really impressed. The only damage he took on Sunday was of the cheap variety, but unfortunately the offense was once again completely tied in knots by opposing pitching.
The Yankees put together the only runs against either starter in the second inning. A Gio Urshela swinging bunt rolled right down the third base line and somehow stayed fair to lead off the frame. Ureña walked Mike Ford, and then Urshela advanced to third on a deep flyout off the bat of Mike Ford. Ureña left a sinker up to catcher Kyle Higashioka, and he lined it off the chalk into the left field corner to plate Urshela and move Ford to third. A Brett Gardner sac fly brought in Ford, and that was all for the scoring.
Ureña proceeded to set down the next 17 Yankees in a row, and seemed to gather steam throughout the whole outing. It only took him 18 pitches to cruise through the third and the fourth inning, racking up plenty of routine groundballs along the way. In the sixth and seventh, Ureña struck out five of the six hitters he faced. He punched out Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge back-to-back to start the sixth. In the seventh, he punched out Urshela, Aaron Hicks, and Mike Ford to complete another superb outing.
This was Ureña’s four straight start of seven innings or more, with two runs or less allowed. His record in those four starts? One win, two losses, one no decision.
Unfortunately, veteran ace Corey Kluber had no trouble doing him one better against the feeble Tigers’ offense. Kluber doesn’t have the power fastball he used to, but he can still make the ball dance and command five pitches to all parts of the plate. Against a heavily left-handed Tigers order, he even broke out his rarely used changeup to collect a lot of whiffs. In total, Kluber punched out 10 Tigers on the day, allowing just two singles and a walk along the way.
The only threat the Tigers mustered came in the third inning. Wilson Ramos walked to lead off the inning, and after Akil Baddoo struck out, JaCoby Jones flicked a single into right-center to put two on with one out. Kluber dug in and punched out Robbie Grossman after a seven pitch AB, and then got Jeimer Candelario whiffing over a changeup down and away to escape any damage.
Gregory Soto needed some work, as closing for the Tigers right now is like being a firefighter in Antarctica. He came on in the bottom of the eighth, punched out Higashioka and Brett Gardner, and got DJ LeMahieu on a groundout to make quick work of the Yankees.
That left the Tigers with one final chance to avoid squandering another fine pitching performance. But yes, they squandered it. Aroldis Chapman went through them like a buzzsaw in the top of the ninth, and with that, they’ve now lost five straight games...again.
The Tigers will have an off day to regroup on Monday, but the central problem isn’t going to change. Until the minor league season is well underway, they aren’t going to be calling anyone up other than potentially Nomar Mazara. And frankly, there really isn’t anyone likely to help the offense that much. Isaac Paredes? Daz Cameron? Derek Hill? Just not a whole lot of hope in that group. Willi Castro and Jonathan Schoop have to get it going, or this offense will remain DOA.
Here’s today’s box score. The Tigers will try to pull it together as they travel to Boston to open up a three-game set on Tuesday night.