ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, signed to a five-year, $77 million contract in November, departed with one out in the first inning, sidelined by a left-side injury.
The Tigers couldn’t catch a break in Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, despite a valiant effort from six pitchers out of the bullpen. After dropping the finale at Tropicana Field, the Tigers (13-25) have lost 10 of 12 series this season.
Detroit scored five runs in the three-game series, with three coming in the opener.
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We got to play better. We got to hit better. We got to play with a little bit more up-tempo. We got to get in the strike zone. I could go on for a while on what we got to do to do better.”
Tampa Bay attacked Rodriguez from the beginning, opening its half of the first with three singles in a row. The first run scored on a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk to Randy Arozarena.
The Rays tacked on two more runs for a 3-0 lead before Rodriguez’s departure with one out. He left the bases loaded for right-handed reliever Rony Garcia, who struck out Taylor Walls and Brett Phillips to escape the jam.
Walls struck out swinging at a 79.9 mph curveball, while Phillips went down looking at an 81.1 mph curveball.
Rodriguez threw 23 pitches (11 strikes). His four-seam fastball averaged 89.5 mph, despite having a season average of 91.9 mph. He tossed eight changeups, eight cutters, six four-seamers and one sinker.
The Tigers’ offense totaled five hits, one walk and 11 strikeouts.
“It’s tough,” Hinch said. “Starter comes out injured against an offense that was going to be aggressive. Our bullpen did a pretty good job of hanging in there, a couple balls that got away from us. Losing the series hurts, but losing it with your guys going down is bad.”
Detroit’s first scoring chance occurred in the fifth, when Spencer Torkelson led off with a double to left field — his first extra-base hit since April 23. The next three batters were retired, stranding Torkelson at third base.
Rays starter Drew Rasmussen, a right-hander, tossed five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
In the seventh inning, Torkelson hit a two-out solo home run to left-center off righty reliever Matt Wisler’s second-pitch slider. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick has four homers this season.
“It takes a little weight off my back,” Torkelson said. “But at the end of the day, we lost. That’s what I’m here for, so you forget about the home run and the double pretty fast.”
Torkelson finished Wednesday’s game 2-for-3 with one RBI.
“It’s time for him to start warming up,” Hinch said.
Hello, old friend
After Garcia flawlessly escaped Rodriguez’s disaster, the 24-year-old posted a scoreless second inning.
Wander Franco drew a one-out walk on nine pitches, but Garcia — like in the first frame — recorded consecutive strikeouts to end the inning. He got Harold Ramirez swinging with a full-count sinker and Arozarena on a foul tip into the catcher’s glove with a four-seam fastball.
“He was good,” Hinch said. “Coming in and kind of getting ambushed, getting up in the first, you never expect that, especially on Eduardo’s day. But he had nice pitches. … He’s a valuable guy, especially on a day like today.”
In the third, former Tiger Isaac Paredes pulled Garcia’s 93.8 mph fastball into the left-field seats. His first home run for the Rays, and the third in his 66-game MLB career, made the score 4-0.
The ball traveled 411 feet with a 104.6 mph exit velocity.
“He got into leverage counts, got good pitches, didn’t miss them and hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Hinch said. “He’s a good player. We knew that. We got a good player in return.”
Paredes walked slowly out of the batter’s box, lightly flipped his bat and pulled his necklace out from underneath his jersey before jogging around the bases in front of his former teammates.
The Tigers traded Paredes on April 5 in a package for outfielder Austin Meadows, currently on the 10-day injured list with vertigo.
Garcia allowed one run on one hit and one walk with six strikeouts in 2⅔ innings, throwing 31 of 54 pitches for strikes. He used 24 four-seamers (44%), 20 curveball (37%), eight changeups (15%) and two sinkers (4%).
His curveball produced three of his six swings and misses and five of his eight called strikes.
The rest of the bullpen
Following Paredes’ homer, the Tigers’ bullpen kept the Rays to one run — until Paredes blasted his second home run of the game, and the fourth of his career.
“That ex-team thing is real at this level,” Hinch said.
Right-hander Jacob Barnes pitched the fourth inning, followed by righty Will Vest in the fifth, righty Alex Lange in the sixth, righty Michael Fulmer in the seventh and Wily Peralta in the eighth.
Vest led the way with two strikeouts.
In the seventh, an RBI single from Ji-Man Choi put the Rays up 5-1. The ball bounced off the glove of a sliding Robbie Grossman in right field, though center fielder Derek Hill chased it down and threw to third to get Yandy Diaz, who overslid the base.
Paredes took Peralta deep to left field in the eighth for a 6-1 lead.
This time, the ball traveled 404 feet with a 104.6 mph exit velocity.