In the battle of the bullpens, the Detroit Tigers jumped out to a three-run lead they would squander an inning later.
The Tigers’ bats cooled off on Sunday as they fell to Cleveland, 7-5, in the finale of the three-game series at Progressive Field.
“We didn’t do enough on either side of the ball to take control of the game,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “Once we gave them a few extra outs and a few extra bases, they took advantage of it. We didn’t really have an opportunity to to push through with the lead. “This is a game that was winnable, and we didn’t do enough to win it. We missed an opportunity to walk out of here with a series win.”
Tigers pitchers gave up seven runs, though only four were earned, on 11 hits, including two home runs and two walks. Starter Willy Peralta pitched five innings, allowing five runs (two earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out four.
EVAN PETZOLD: What extending Jonathan Schoop means for Tigers: ‘One of the best days of my life’
The Tigers turned to right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who pitched two innings but gave up the go-ahead two-run homer to Bradley Zimmer in the seventh.
The loss puts the Tigers (54-60) 2½ games behind Cleveland (54-55) for second place in the American League Central. Detroit travels to Baltimore for a three-game series, beginning Tuesday.
“We played a pretty good game,” outfielder Derek Hill said. “They had some really good pitching coming in out of the pen, and they executed. We just got to keep fighting till the end, do better.
“We’re gonna come out against Baltimore, and I guarantee you’re going to see a really motivated team.”
King of the Hill
Exactly four months since Zach Plesac carved up the Tigers in his second start of the season, throwing seven scoreless innings and six strikeouts, Detroit tried to attack the 26-year-old righty’s changeup and fastball.
The right-handed hitters in Detroit’s lineup — Hill, Jonathan Schoop, Eric Haase and Zack Short — went 1-for-15 with one walk and eight strikeouts against Plesac, who allowed five runs (four earned) on two hits and three walks.
[ Tigers have tough decision looming with Niko Goodrum’s imminent return ]
Hill had the big blow against Plesac, hitting his first major league home run. The three-run shot gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead in the second inning.
A fielding error at the top of the third ruined a double play for Cleveland but set the Tigers in prime scoring position. A Plesac wild pitch brought Schoop home, and seconds later Jeimer Candelario doubled to left field, scoring Haase and giving the Tigers a 5-2 lead.
Peralta buckled down in the third, striking out the side in order to preserve the Tigers’ three-run lead.
Fumbling the fourth
A walk and a throwing error by Short put runners on second and third with one out in the fourth inning for Cleveland. A sacrifice fly by Andres Gimenez, followed by an Austin Hedges RBI single and an Ernie Clement RBI double tied the game at five.
After a quick visit to the mound by pitching coach Chris Fetter, Peralta refocused and struck out Myles Straw to end the bleeding for the Tigers.
“I think it was a little bit of a grind for him,” Hinch said. “I don’t think he was at his best and executing perfectly. He was just off the plate here before the meltdown ending for us where they scored three runs. So he wasn’t particularly sharp. “He was probably fighting back from the onset of the game but, again, he pitched a little better than the line is going to indicate. He gave us what he could.”
The offensive flow that the Tigers found early on dried up as they stranded five runners and combined for just one walk and five strikeouts against Cleveland’s bullpen.
Righty Joe Jiménez came on in relief of Ramirez in the seventh for the Tigers, allowing a walk before getting two outs. Ian Krol pitched the eighth and ninth, giving up two hits.
“We didn’t hit today, (but) we did draw a few walks if you add those to the hit total,” Hinch said. “We had created some opportunities but not enough back-to-back quality at-bats for us to do much against their bullpen. We’ll see the same bullpen in a week.”
Mia Berry is a sports reporting intern with the Free Press. Reach out via email: email@example.com.