Tigers’ woes continue against Tribe, Bieber

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — As Shane Bieber worked through the top of the Tigers’ lineup in order in Saturday’s sixth inning, a lone gull, perhaps confused by the artificial crowd noise, flew over Comerica Park, starting in left field before gliding in low towards home plate. The birds are usually annual summer

DETROIT — As Shane Bieber worked through the top of the Tigers’ lineup in order in Saturday’s sixth inning, a lone gull, perhaps confused by the artificial crowd noise, flew over Comerica Park, starting in left field before gliding in low towards home plate. The birds are usually annual summer visitors in search of food, to the point where the grounds crew have had to send off flares between innings to shoo them away in some years. But this season, the gulls have been understandable no-shows.

While the wayward gull carried out to center field, very little for Detroit did off Bieber. The bird the Tigers really needed was a rally goose.

“Their guy was filthy,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after the 3-1 loss to the Indians. “We still had our chance at the end. The guys kept playing.”

Box score

That in itself was a sign of progress amidst a historic losing streak. Cleveland’s 19th consecutive win over Detroit extended the longest streak by one Major League team against another since the Orioles won 23 in a row over the Royals from 1969-70, overtaking the Yankees’ current 18-game winning streak over the O’s.

A game that last year would’ve probably been a runaway for a team that had nearly twice as many losses by five or more runs (40) than by one run (22) instead came down to the final at-bat. As frustrating as Cameron Maybin’s game-ending comebacker against Indians closer Brad Hand was, stranding the potential tying run on second after JaCoby Jones’ pinch-hit RBI double, it was the sign of a more competitive team.

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“When you face guys like [Bieber], you have to try to get them out of the game as soon as possible,” Jonathan Schoop said. “They’re really good. And when he got out of the game, you can catch your breath a little bit and try to get the next guy coming in.”

It took seven innings to chase Bieber, whose 11-strikeout gem had all the makings of a seventh shutout of the Tigers in a streak that began when Bieber outpitched Spencer Turnbull with seven scoreless innings on three hits on April 11, 2019.

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“I had no idea it was like that,” Bieber said. “I think I saw [a] tweet yesterday, and I was just trying to keep things rolling.”

Saturday was arguably the best the Tigers have seen the 25-year-old right-hander. Bieber sat down nine Detroit batsmen in a 10-batter stretch from the second inning into the fifth, the lone exception being Niko Goodrum‘s two-out walk. Bieber struck out four before that pass and five more after, including the middle of the Tigers’ lineup in order — all swinging.

“I think he’s better than last year,” said Schoop, who was 2-for-10 off Bieber last season and doubled off of him in the second inning Saturday. “He commands all his pitches. He was hitting the corner. The slider was working, his fastball, his cutter. Everything was working for him.”

Detroit was hoping Turnbull could keep it in a pitching duel, but Cleveland’s lineup worked counts against the big right-hander until it could capitalize on a mistake pitch. All three Indians runs off Turnbull reached base on walks.

Four Cleveland batters worked full counts on Turnbull in his first trip through the Tribe’s order, including back-to-back walks to Sandy León and Oscar Mercado to lead off the third inning. The Indians’ first 10 batters took the first pitch until José Ramírez turned on a Turnbull curveball and hit a two-run double that one-hopped the right-field wall.

“I didn’t think he was sitting [on] curveball first pitch. I’ve only thrown like six of them all year,” Turnbull said. “I think it was a terrible pitch, but it was the first pitch. I’m trying to get a strike with it, and he hit it well.”

Turnbull was a pitch away from keeping the score there, but Carlos Santana sent Turnbull’s 97th and final pitch of the game — another full-count offering — into the left-field gap for a two-out RBI double in the fifth.

John Schreiber, Jose Cisnero, Bryan Garcia and Rony Garcia kept it there with 4 1/3 hitless innings of relief. Bryan Garcia escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh. The combined effort kept the Tigers close enough to threaten against Hand in the ninth, starting with Willi Castro’s leadoff walk.

A catcher’s interference call brought up the tying run in Jeimer Candelario, who hit a high fly ball to left ahead of Jones’ double.

“Candy just missed one,” Gardenhire said. “He killed that ball, just got a little bit underneath it. We felt pretty good there at the end, like we were going to get that tied up or win it. We made a charge. It just didn’t work out.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

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