Detroit Tigers’ frustration is building as offense stalls. There’s no magic cure in sight

Detroit Free Press

Here’s the good news: The Detroit Tigers finally showed some fight at the plate.

Now the bad news: It was arguing with the home-plate umpire.

Both Javier Bàez and manager A.J. Hinch were ejected on Monday night at Comerica Park in a 2-0 loss against the Oakland A’s.

“Javy wasn’t saying anything unprofessional,” Hinch said. “He wasn’t cursing at him. He was just voicing his displeasure with the call.”

Yes, the frustration is boiling over for this team that is stuck in a mind-numbing, miserable stretch. This was one struggling baseball team beating another struggling baseball team that is, now, struggling even worse. So pick your stat that sums up the Tigers’ ugliness and ineptitude:

• It was the Tigers 13th loss in 15 games;

• The Tigers have now gone 24 innings without scoring a run;

• And the Tigers now have a 8-20 record, the worst in the American League.

“Frustrating night to end with a loss, and obviously the way it ended,” Hinch said.

Once again, the Tigers followed a similar routine: They are getting enough solid pitching to keep it close, and so little offense that it’s maddening.

So did they lose because of the ump? No way.

“We’re not going to use the excuse,” Hinch said. “We just got beat.”

We have a tendency to lump all of these struggles together. But they aren’t the same.

Some of the Tigers look lost and confused — Akil Baddoo was sent to Triple-A Toledo to get right, which was probably overdue.

Some are under performing — OK, just about all of them.

Some have been sapped of their power — Eric Haase hit 22 homers last year but has just one this year (and yes, homers are down across the MLB).

Some have yet to get on track — Spencer Torkelson is struggling through a .160 start to his MLB career.

And some of them are experiencing horrendous luck.

In the fourth inning and a runner on second, Jonathan Schoop hit a 105 mph bullet — one of those shots where you think, all right, that’s the kind of hit that will bounce out of his slump.

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But he hit it right at the third baseman.

The poor guy can’t buy a big base hit, even if you give him a wheel barrel full of cash.

Then again, that happened over and over on Monday night. Robbie Grossman hit a line drive — right at the right fielder. And Miguel Cabrera hit a line drive — right at the first baseman, which doubled up Bàez.

“We hit a lot of balls hard tonight,” Hinch said. “When you don’t get any production out of it, it feels bad. Nobody wants to hear, ‘way to hit it.’ when they come back after hitting the bullet. I mean, especially with the way things have been going.”

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What can Hinch do?

You want to know what’s even worse?

There are no magic cures. This is their team.

And the only way to turn this around — and just improve from awful to respectable — is for key members of the roster to start hitting.

Now, let me dispel an ongoing narrative. While this might feel like last year, when the Tigers started out cold and then turned it around, it’s actually different.

Part of the 2021 turnaround was swapping out several players. The Tigers got rid of JaCoby Jones after 29 games (.170), Wilson Ramos after 35 games (.200) and Normar Mazara after 50 (.212)

This year, there are very few options to swap out. And it’s not like there are several players waiting in the wings, ready to take over for them.

Hinch has very few buttons to push.

But one person to keep an eye on is Kody Clemens, who has hit .291 in his first 28 games with six homers, four triples and five doubles in Toledo.

You remember those, extra base hits?

It’s been a while since you have seen them stacked together.

Clemens is even more interesting because of his versatility. He has played third base and left field this year, but he can also play right field, second and first base.

“He’s gonna play a little first and third this week,” Hinch said. “I just talked to Lloyd (McClendon) about him today. He keeps swinging the bat, he’s gonna make himself a very viable candidate soon to come here.”

OK. That’s one.

But it’s not like there is an entire lineup that can be swapped out.

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Not from a lack of trying

The Tigers are in the midst of a crucial eight-game home stand.

They will play Oakland four more times in three days — a team that came into this series having lost 12 of 14, just like the Tigers.

And if the Tigers don’t get things turned around now, against a team like the A’s (last in the AL West), it’s hard to imagine when they will.

To be fair, it’s not like they aren’t trying.

Before the game on Monday, Scott Coolbaugh stood behind an L-screen, throwing extra batting practice, offering tips and encouragement, trying to fix a group of broken Tigers.

Coolbaugh, the Tigers hitting coach, threw a pitch to Grossman, who crushed a ball to deep right field. Coolbaugh stopped and turned and watched it fly. Then, he walked toward Grossman and they talked for about 15 seconds.

Grossman came into the night hitting .191 in May, so there he was, getting extra swings about three hours before first pitch.

So did Tucker Barnhart, who came into the night struggling through a 1-for-13 skid, as well as Jeimer Candelario, who hit .200 in his first 26 games.

Did it help? Not Monday.

But it’s not like they aren’t putting in the work.

You know what will fix this team? Getting a few hits and then stacking them together.

It’s not any more complex than that.

This is their team, for better or worse.

And we are seeing plenty of worse.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Happy Mother’s Day, baseball-style: How 1 mom put 2 sons into the Tigers’ system

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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