Punchless offense has Detroit Tigers ‘pissed off’ after loss to Kansas City Royals

Detroit Free Press

Based on Matthew Boyd’s somber tone of voice, it would’ve been impossible to guess he just pitched an eight-inning gem for the Detroit Tigers against the Kansas City Royals.

Yet the Tigers (7-14) once again failed to provide run support in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Royals at Comerica Park. Kansas City was led by Brady Singer, who allowed just one run over seven innings.

Detroit has lost eight of its last nine games. During this stretch, the Tigers are 51-for-273 (.186) with 12 walks and 89 strikeouts. They’ve accumulated nine doubles, two triples and six home runs — a few big hits but no consistency.

“We’re better than how we’ve played, and we’re getting it handed to us pretty often right now,” manager AJ Hinch said Saturday. “Our guys are pretty frustrated and, quite honestly, pissed off.”

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In his fifth start this season, Boyd was perfect until the fifth inning, when Jorge Soler crushed a leadoff double. He later scored when first baseman Jonathan Schoop jumped away from the base to field a bouncing grounder from Andrew Benintendi. He tossed the ball to second base for a force out, and the Tigers couldn’t turn an inning-ending double play.

Soler trotted home for Kansas City’s first run.

“It’s a tough read play,” Hinch said. “Once you take yourself off the position or have to jump or move, I thought he was going to come home. He turned quickly and threw the ball to second, which was his reaction. Those were the two chances that he had.

The second run also came in the fifth, but it wasn’t charged to Boyd’s tab. Victor Reyes fielded a bloop single from Michael A. Taylor and attempted to throw out Benintendi chugging for third base. But his throw went wild for an error; Benintendi scored with ease.

The rest of the way, Boyd went back to being perfect, dropping his ERA to 1.82 this year. He needed just 89 pitches (69 strikes) to accomplish one of the best outings in his career.

Boyd got nine swings-and-misses: three with his four-seam fastball, two with his changeup, two with his slider and two with his curveball. He chipped in 15 called strikes.

“There are ways we can all get better,” Boyd said. “We’re going to go forward and continue to get better as a team. These games happen, but we’ll be on the other side of them very soon.”

To go with Boyd’s 1.82 ERA through five games, he’s given up six walks and generated 22 strikeouts. He led the majors with 15 homers allowed last season, and he paced the American League with 39 homers in the 2019 campaign.

This year, Boyd has only allowed one long ball through 34⅔ innings.

“He was incredible,” Hinch said. “It’s unfortunate for all of us that we couldn’t pull out a win when you get a game pitched like that. He was in complete control and arguably could’ve finished the game himself had I not had (Jose) Cisnero hot and ready (for the ninth inning). He’s pretty locked in right now.”

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But the Tigers’ kryptonite is their own offense.

When the Tigers swept the Houston Astros from April 12-14, they went 31-for-109 (.284) with 20 runs, 13 walks and 31 strikeouts. The esteemed Astros were outscored 20-8 in the three-game series.

Then, the bats went numb.

“We’ve got to do better if we want to win games,” Hinch said before Saturday’s game. “The players know that. I know that. The fans know that, anybody who watches our games. But carrying that baggage into today doesn’t help us hit Singer. The mentality of concern or worry, it’s just not something I spend a lot of time on.”

Singer, the No. 18 overall pick in the 2018 draft — taken 17 spots after Tigers rookie Casey Mize went No. 1 overall — used his two-pitch mix (sinker and slider) to tear apart Detroit. He gave up one run, a solo homer by Willi Castro in the fifth inning, and three hits. He didn’t allow a walk and got eight strikeouts.

“The stuff is real, and that’s why he was picked high,” Hinch said. “They’re really high on him. He came in and threw a really good game. He didn’t made a ton of mistakes. He was challenging us inside quite a bit, getting us off the barrel. We had a tough time with him.”

The Tigers’ top three hitters in the batting order — Robbie Grossman, Akil Baddoo and Jeimer Candelario — each struck out three times, combining for nine of the team’s 11 strikeouts in the loss. The No. 9 hitter, JaCoby Jones, got punched out twice.

Besides Castro’s home run, the Tigers failed to advance a runner past first base. Harold Castro and Reyes hit singles but were stranded.

“I think we’ve played pretty good, but I think baseball is hard,” Castro said. “We go through ups and downs, but I think we’re going to do better in the coming games.”

Cabrera returns

Miguel Cabrera is coming back from the 10-day injured list Sunday, the Tigers announced. In a corresponding move, infielder Zack Short was sent back to the alternate training site in Toledo.

Hinch previously said Cabrera will start at first base in his return.

Cabrera, 38, hasn’t played since April 10 because of a mild left biceps strain, but the injury wasn’t ever believed to be serious. He took live batting practice Friday against righty Erasmo Ramirez — called up from Toledo for one day to pitch to the 19-year MLB veteran. He went through regular batting practice Saturday.

In August 2016, Cabrera strained his left biceps and missed one game. In June 2018, he ruptured his left biceps tendon, underwent surgery and missed the remainder of the season.

Cabrera is batting .125 (3-for-24) with one double, one home run, three RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts in seven games. Short made his MLB debut Wednesday and played two games in his short-lived stint with the Tigers, going 1-for-5 with two walks.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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