Detroit — It’s something Brad Ausmus said often during his managerial tenure with the Tigers. And it’s as true now as it was then.
When you aren’t hitting, when you aren’t putting runners on base, there’s no energy, no verve — it looks like your compete level is low.
AJ Hinch didn’t know much about that during five winning seasons in Houston, but he can relate now.
The Tigers, who were beaten by the American League Central-leading Kansas City Royals 6-2 Friday night, are in one of those ruts. It was their seventh loss in the last eight – and it’s been the same tired script.
Start with a stagnant offense. Coming into play Friday, the Tigers have produced less than two runs a game on average over the last seven. They’ve struck out 77 times in those games, 13 times Friday.
That lack of offense has negated what, until Friday, had been solid pitching. In fact, since April 11, the Tigers rotation was second-stingiest in the American League since April 11.
Given the way things have been going, though, rookie right-hander Casey Mize had to feel just about defeated after giving up two solo home runs through four innings. And then it got worse.
It ended up being a forgettable start Mize. He gave up the solo home runs to Andrew Benintendi (a center-cut fastball on a 1-2 count) and Ryan O’Hearn (hanging splitter), and then was KO’d in a 31-pitch, four-run fifth, capped by a two-run double by Jorge Soler (2-0 slider).
His pitch-mix was confusing. He talked on Thursday about how his four-seam fastball had become a better pitch for him than his two-seam sinker, as it certainly had. But against the Royals, he threw 25 sinkers and just 14 four-seamers.
He didn’t have a good feel for his splitter and his slider was spotty.
The result: six runs, seven hits, three walks and just one strikeout.
The Tigers hitters, meanwhile, were being lassoed by veteran lefty Mike Minor. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning when Jeimer Candelario, who had been in a 3-for-26 funk, doubled. One batter later, Robbie Grossman blasted a two-run home run into the seats in left.
End of the night for the Tigers’ offense. Minor struck out nine in 5.2 innings.
There were a couple of pockets of light for the Tigers on this otherwise dark night. Lefty Tyler Alexander, who hadn’t pitched since April 15 and had thrown just 6.1 innings total, worked 2.1 hitless innings, yielding only a walk.
Also, rookie Zack Short, in his second start, produced his first big-league knock – a single in the sixth. He also made a nifty defensive play at second base in the eighth. Speedy Nicky Lopez hit a slow ground ball. Short fielded it and flipped it backhand from his glove to first base.