The Tigers have been down this road before.
Too many times, actually, in the last four years.
A losing streak typically starts with a bad loss — like their 8-5 defeat with 10 walks and two hit batters Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers — before a couple of close downfalls suck any remaining life away.
The Tigers just dropped two close games, by scores of 2-0 and 3-2, in Friday’s doubleheader to open a five-game series with the Minnesota Twins. They traveled this path earlier in the 60-game season, with nine straight losses from Aug. 11-20.
“I mean, both games, we scored two runs all day,” manager Ron Gardenhire said Friday. “That’s not going to help you win too many games. It’s just one of those things — they got big hits, we didn’t.”
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The Tigers are 17-19 with 24 games remaining, three games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL’s eighth and final playoff spot. The Tigers are five games out in the AL Central, where there’s a tie between the Chicago White Sox (23-15), Cleveland Indians (23-15) and Minnesota Twins (24-16).
After already climbing out of a hole once with eight wins in 10 tries from Aug. 21-Sept. 1, the Tigers are determined not to spoil a chance at the expanded 16-team postseason. That needs to begin Saturday as rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal starts against the Twins.
“We gotta do what we gotta do to come up (Saturday) and get a win,” second baseman Jonathan Schoop said. “Whatever we got to do to get a win, go out there and do it. We know how it feels to win and going through a rough stretch, so you know you don’t want to go there again. Just got to go out there and try to stop it, try to win games.”
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The Tigers will need to step up against the surging White Sox, Indians and Twins. Their final 15 games — not counting a yet-to-be-rescheduled two-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals — will be played against division opponents — six vs. the woeful Kansas City Royals, four against the Indians, three against the White Sox and two against the Twins.
“All of us, we haven’t played our best baseball yet, collectively,” said left-handed starter Matthew Boyd, who struck out eight in Friday’s Game 1. “There’s a lot of fight in the clubhouse. It’s fun going forward with what we got.”
But first, the Tigers have three more matchups in a five-game series in Minneapolis. They only scored two runs in Friday’s doubleheader, losing the second game in extra innings as relievers Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez crumbled.
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“We’re bummed,” Gardenhire said. “… We fought for two games, and they were good ballgames. We just didn’t drive in any runs. We didn’t come up with any big hits, maybe one or two. It’s hard to win when you score two runs in 14 innings. It’s really hard to win.”
Gardenhire doesn’t want that to be his team’s September narrative.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any frustration,” said left-hander Tyler Alexander, who tossed four innings of one-run ball to open Game 2. “I mean, we fought hard. You know, it’s not like we made any mental errors out there. It’s the game of baseball.
“You can’t win every game.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.