Detroit — The media isn’t allowed in the clubhouse these days, but even through the Zoom lens, the growing frustration level is palpable.
“It’s pretty high,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch acknowledged after his team’s offensive ineptitude squandered a brilliantly pitched game by Matthew Boyd Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. “As you might expect coming off some of these losses. We’re better than how we’ve played and we’re getting it handed to us pretty often.
“Right now our guys are pretty frustrated and quite honestly, pissed off.”
Here’s the ugly summary: The Tigers have lost eight of their last nine and have scored a total of 18 runs in those nine (two runs per game). They have also struck out 89 times in that stretch, 10 times on Saturday.
“Hitting is hard,” Hinch said. “Pitchers aren’t just going to feed you fastballs and breaking balls that you can hit. Right now, (pitchers) are smelling blood in the water and they get after you.”
Royals starter Brady Singer went after the Tigers Saturday like it was personal. And maybe it was.
The Tigers didn’t take him with the first overall pick in 2018. They took Casey Mize. Seventeen teams ended up passing on Singer until the Royals grabbed him with the 18th overall pick. But it seems like he’s punished the Tigers more than the others since.
He struck out eight Tigers in seven innings on Saturday and the only damage was a solo home run to Willi Castro in the fifth.
“We had a hard time with him,” Hinch said. “He’s a good pitcher, good young arm. It looked like his ball was moving pretty late and he’s got a quick tempo so it looks like he jumps at you a little bit. But his stuff is real.”
He threw two pitches, a power sinker at 94-95 mph and a slider with a velocity range between 82 and 87 mph.
“His usage is simple but that doesn’t make his stuff simple,” Hinch said. “It’s pretty electric.”
Singer, who allowed three hits in seven innings, has now beaten the Tigers three times in four starts, allowing just four runs in 25 innings.
“Hats off to Singer,” said Boyd, who has four quality starts in five games and lowered his ERA to 1.82. “There’s ways we can all get better. We’re going to move forward and we’re going to continue to get better as a team.
“These games happen. We will be on the other side of them soon.”
Boyd pitched eight innings for the second straight start. And but for the fifth inning, seven of them were perfect Saturday. The Royals collected all three of their hits and both runs (one earned) in the fifth.
“He was incredible,” Hinch said. “It is unfortunate for all of us that we couldn’t pull out a win when we got a game pitched like that. He had all of his pitches going. He was dominant with first-pitch strikes. He was in complete control.”
Boyd was moving his four-seam fastball to all quadrants of the plate and against an all-right-handed Royals lineup, threw 21 change-ups. The 10 that were put in play had an average exit velocity of just 81 mph.
But it was the one bad one that got him in trouble in the fifth.
Jorge Soler led off with a double. Boyd had gotten ahead of him 0-2 with change-ups and just missed with another. But the fourth change-up he threw, on a 2-2 count, proved one too many.
“The location was fine,” Boyd said. “But I got on the side of it (meaning his hand placement on the ball) and that caused it to run a little more than run and sink. It gave him a chance.
“When it moves on one plane instead of a multi-plane, it gives guys a chance.”
With one out, Hanser Alberto singled Soler to third. Soler ended up scoring on a fielder’s choice ground out by Andrew Benintendi. First baseman Jonathan Schoop threw to second to get a force on Alberto.
“Once (Schoop) left his feet, I thought he was going to throw home,” Hinch said. “I think he turned instinctively and threw to second. That was his reaction.”
With two outs, Michael A. Taylor singled to right. Victor Reyes ill-advisedly tried to throw out Benintendi out at third. Reyes’ throw caromed off Benintendi, allowing him to score.
It shouldn’t have been enough to beat Boyd, though. He only struck out three but he induced mostly soft contact with his four-seam fastball (average exit velocity of 87 mph on 10 balls put in play), change-up (81 mph on 10 put in play) and his slider (77 mph on three put in play).
He needed just 89 pitches to get through eight innings.
But other than Castro’s blast — his first homer of the season on his 24th birthday — the Tigers did not put a runner in scoring position.
“Just continue to encourage,” Hinch said. “It’s not an easy skill. You’re trying to make adjustments and put balls in play and they’re trying to exploit weaknesses. … It’s not a matter of effort or preparation.
“It a point of emphasis every day. But can’t beat down on them all the time and expect better results. You just continue to encourage and make adjustments.”
Some help could be on the way. The Tigers announced after the game that Miguel Cabrera would be activated off the injured list (bicep strain) Sunday.