Candelario the sweet spot in frustrating loss 

Detroit Tigers

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tigers came into Tuesday’s game at Tropicana Field with their spirits high, riding a season-high four-game winning streak and in the early stages of a nine-game road trip. Detroit then ran into one of the best young pitchers in the game: Shane McClanahan.

The southpaw, who has the second-most strikeouts in MLB, tossed seven innings of one-run ball, allowed just four hits and struck out seven, frustrating the Tigers all night during an 8-1 loss to the Rays. The lone bright spot for Detroit came in the fifth, when Jeimer Candelario blasted a 430-foot homer to lead off the inning, his team-high-tying third home run of the season.

“[McClanahan is] a good young arm, and his track record has been to generate a lot of swing and miss,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Once he established that he was going to throw strikes, he got a few chases, and he did what he did. I’ve never seen him bad, but I imagine this is what he looks like when he’s good.”

From nearly the beginning, things just didn’t seem to go the Tigers’ way.

In the first inning, a chopper to first baseman Spencer Torkelson with one on and one out came slowly enough that the runner reached first on a fielder’s choice and the runner on third scored the game’s first run.

Detroit starter Beau Brieske, making his fifth Major League start and coming off of his best outing yet, had success getting ahead in counts but struggled to finish off batters.

A Kevin Kiermaier solo homer in the second came on an 0-2 count; a hanging curveball that Brieske admitted he should have bounced ended up in the right-field seats. Brett Phillips hit his second solo homer in as many nights, a two-run shot on an 0-1 count in the fifth. Ji-Man Choi singled on an 0-1 count in the same frame, and Randy Arozarena produced a sacrifice fly off an 0-2 count to push the Rays’ lead to 6-1.

“We were pretty much ahead all night in good counts with a chance to finish them off, we just didn’t,” Tigers catcher Eric Haase said.

Haase and Brieske admitted the breaking ball was the pitch that just didn’t get it done tonight. The Tigers had game-planned for the Rays to be an aggressive team hitting the fastball, as they have been all year.

“Just as a whole tonight as a staff, we had trouble spinning the baseball in a lineup like this that can hunt the heater with the best of them,” Haase said. “That was kind of the difference-maker.”

Brieske, who said his fastball and changeup felt the best they have all season, worked 5 1/3 innings, allowed nine hits, six earned runs, one walk, and struck out four while taking the loss. The outing pushed his ERA to 5.13.

“I made a few mistakes as far as where I threw fastballs when I had leverage in the count, but I think most of the mistakes were made with breaking balls,” Brieske said. “[The breaking ball is] something I don’t want to shy away from, even if I’m not locating. I can’t back down from that challenge, and I can’t pigeonhole myself as being a two-pitch guy.”

Haase added: “If we land some of that spin, they respect the heater a little bit more — opens up his changeup. He only got burned on one heater [to Phillips]. The big difference was landing that secondary pitch. When you’re ahead in the count and you’ve got a chance to finish a team like this, you got to take advantage of it, and we just didn’t tonight.”

A disheartening series of events played out in the top half of the eighth when Torkelson, Daz Cameron (recalled from Triple-A Toledo on Monday) and Robbie Grossman put together three singles to start the inning. Down 6-1 at the time, there was a glimmer of a comeback possibility. That glimmer was quickly erased when Willi Castro dribbled one out a few feet in front of home plate; Rays’ catcher Mike Zunino corralled it and stepped on home for the forceout. Javier Báez then hit a hard grounder to Vidal Bruján, who stepped on second and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.

“That’s the only way we were going to make it a game, is [to] get a big hit, put up a crooked number, try to inch back,” Hinch said. “And then they come back and score two right after that, and that was the finishing blow. I do like [that] we put up a little bit of fight and had an opportunity, but I’d like to see some runs pushed across.”

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