HOUSTON — The hits keep on coming for the Tigers, who were swept in four games by the Astros after taking a 5-0 loss in Sunday’s series finale at Minute Maid Park. And it’s not the type of hits they’re looking for.
The offensive woes continue for Detroit (8-19), which suffered a one-hit shutout Sunday and scored just six runs in the series. The Tigers have lost 10 of their last 11 road games, while the Astros (18-11) wrapped up a perfect 7-0 homestand.
“We’re frustrated,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Clearly, it’s the same struggles.”
If there’s any consolation, it’s that the Tigers have an eight-game homestand starting Monday against Oakland. Detroit has won three of its last six at Comerica Park, and one big reason is its superior hitting at home.
Entering Monday, the Tigers have hit for a .234 average and .641 OPS at home. That OPS figure ranks 22nd in MLB, which — while not great — is much better than their .205 road average with a .548 OPS. Detroit’s road OPS ranked 29th in the Majors, barely ahead of Cincinnati for last.
Per Statcast, Comerica Park ranks in MLB’s bottom half (19th) in offensive park factors, so the disparity isn’t solely about field dimensions.
“Last year, we swung the bats well in our home ballpark,” said catcher Eric Hasse, who has a .433 OPS so far this season after posting a .745 OPS in 2021. “Especially [against] lineups that can bang it around, our ballpark is kind of a neutralizer.
“Hitting is contagious. I feel like we’ve been having better ABs. I keep saying we’re one hit away, and you can only line out to people with runners in scoring position so many times before it starts falling our way.”
Miguel Cabrera, who hit his 600th career double on Saturday, is one of many Tigers with a better batting average (.300 vs. .222) and OPS (.695 vs. .604) at home. As the Detroit legend sees it, though, it’s less about geography and more about specific types of hits.
“When we get some hits with two outs and hit more with runners in scoring position, I think the pressure will be off,” Cabrera said. “I think we’ll be able to score more runs and play better.”
Though Cabrera surpassed multiple milestones in Houston, he wasn’t in a celebratory mood after watching Detroit go 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position on Saturday while stranding nine on base.
“It’s about winning games,” Cabrera said. “It’s tough to think about milestones right now, since we’ve been losing a lot.”
The road losses are brutal for Detroit’s pitching staff, which pitched well versus Houston’s high-profile lineup. The Astros scored only three runs in each of the first three games, but the Tigers didn’t receive enough run support to win any.
On Sunday, the primary damage was a two-out grand slam in the third inning by Aledmys Díaz, which followed a single and two walks. It wasn’t as if Díaz hit a no-doubter against Drew Hutchison, either, with the ball going only 347 feet and with an expected batting average of .130, per Statcast. But it barely cleared the left-field fence and landed in the Crawford Boxes.
“It maybe caught a bit too much of the plate,” Hutchison said of his pitch. “But it comes back to making too much traffic. If it’s a solo home run, it’s different, but that put us in such a big hole.”
“We’re just too careful around the strike zone,” added Hinch.
For the season, the Tigers are ranked ninth in MLB in road ERA (3.35). However, they are 3-10 in road games due to an absence of run support.
While Hinch knows the data, he doesn’t want to add to the pressure that Detroit’s hitters already feel. The good news is that the Tigers have recent experience to draw upon, considering their 68-61 finish to the 2021 season after starting 9-24.
“We’re encouragers, by nature,” Hinch said. “Bringing yesterday’s drama into today doesn’t really help today. We’ve got a long hill to climb, but you’ve got to take your first step. You’ve got to continue to be positive.
“This game is built on so much failure, even when they’re doing well. So when they’re not, it piles up. But these are our guys, and we’re going to try and push through this with more opportunity. They are very well aware that we need to do better if we want better results. Added pressure, anger or frustration coming from leaders in the dugout will not help.”
For now, Detroit hopes the friendly confines of Comerica Park will.