Hope has evaporated. The hole is getting deeper and the misery spreading.
The Detroit Tigers lost for the ninth time in nine-straight days on Thursday afternoon — a disgusting display of the wrong kind of consistency — and the mood in the clubhouse was predictable. No talking. No music. Just blank faces.
Jonathan Schoop slumped on a stool and stared at his phone. Miguel Cabrera sat in the corner — in silence — with a plate of food on his lap. And Michael Fulmer slowly slipped on pair of cowboy boots.
Manager A.J. Hinch sounded ticked — and rightfully so — after the Tigers’ 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
“I gotta figure out how to beat the Orioles tomorrow,” Hinch said, tersely. “We’re tired of losing.”
You think you are tired?
Think about Tigers fans who have endured a rebuild that seems like it has stretched into a second lifetime now.
“You take the good with the bad, obviously,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “It’s just been a lot of bad lately, which obviously sucks. But you know, it’s gotta turn at some point.”
Yes, that’s what they’ve been saying now.
Will anything go right?
Former Tigers manager Sparky Anderson used to caution against making snap judgments about any team: “You can’t tell anything about a baseball team until 40 games have been played.”
Call me crazy, I’m going to go out on a limb here, eight games shy of that mark and say this: The Tigers have perfected the art of wasting opportunities.
When the Tigers haven gotten strong starting pitching, they haven’t gotten any offense, losing 16 of their last 19 games.
When they get great performances from their bullpen, they can’t figure out how to score — yes, offensive problems have turned into a recurring theme.
So on Thursday afternoon, a day the Tigers showed a glimmer of life offensively, coming from behind and actually scoring three runs — cue the parade down Woodward, the Tigers actually scored! — the bullpen crumbled.
If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.
“Just a different way to lose,” Hinch said.
The Tigers are now 14-games under .500, and they have lost nine of their last 10.
You wanna know what’s worse?
No offense to the Athletics but the Tigers have been playing the freakin’ Athletics. Oakland came into this series in the same state as the Tigers, having lost 12 of 14.
This was a crucial five-game series to get a burst of momentum. To right the ship.
And that’s exactly what happened.
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And a rookie shall lead them
As odd as it sounds, there were actually some signs of life for the Tigers on Thursday.
Some of the bats came alive — although briefly.
Barnhart hit a sharp double to right field and then had a nice single in the seventh. Jeimer Candelario crushed a triple in right-center. Then, Cabrera blasted a double — his 601st of his career, tying Barry Bonds on the career all-time list.
The fountain was spraying; and suddenly, the Tigers were tied, 3-3.
“I felt good about the game when we battled back,” Hinch said. “We needed a spark and we got a couple of good hits. Miggy got the double and then after Miggy’s hit, we had one positive at bat in last 13 or 14 plate appearances.”
That’s been the biggest problem. They can’t seem to string a lot of good together and the bad keeps piling up. From injuries to slumps.
But there was one other positive to take from this game. Beau Brieske, the rookie pitcher, continues to impress
After giving up three runs in the first inning, he hung in there. He kept battling, refused to give up and gave the Tigers a chance to win this game.
“Pitched like an adult,” Barnhart said.
At a time when three of the Tigers starting pitchers are injured, Brieske and Alex Faedo have been so encouraging.
Not just because of how they have pitched, but how they have handled themselves.
And Brieske is starting to figure out that he belongs here.
“Super impressive,” Barnhart said. “Faced with adversity in most of his starts so far and found a way to give us a chance to win the game. It says a lot about a young guy when he’s able to kind of take one on the chin early, and then kind of hold down the fort.”
Yes, it is impressive.
So I asked Brieske how he does it. How he never gets rattled.
“You can’t get rattled out there,” Brieske said. “If you shy away from these hitters, they can absolutely jump on you. So if I back down, I’m beating myself. That’s one thing I can control is to never back down.”
What wise words from a rookie.
On a day when the Tigers lost again, that’s the thing I will take from this game. Brieske’s attitude. I love it. Being aggressive. Refusing to give in. Refusing to back down. And believing in himself, even when things start out shaky.
The rest of this team could learn a lot from him.
Contact Jeff Seidel: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.