Detroit — It’s never as dark as it seems. Light is always just one win away.
But it sure feels like the light is pretty far down the track right now for the Tigers.
They were beaten by a depleted Chicago White Sox team, 9-5 on a rainy Monday night at Comerica Park — a loss bookended by a pair of two-run homers by Jose Abreu — a 411-footer in the first and a 444-footer into the second row of shrubs in the ninth — and that wasn’t even the worst news of the day.
Earlier, the club announced that left-handed starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, signed for five years at $77 million, was placed on the restricted list and is essentially off the roster indefinitely. Other than saying it was a personal matter, there were no other details.
That came on the heels of the news this weekend that another starting pitcher, Casey Mize, the first overall pick in the draft in 2018, would have Tommy John surgery and will be lost until 2024.
Mixed in with that is the ongoing struggles of the team’s other first-overall pick — Spencer Torkelson (2020). He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Monday. He’s hitting .181 and is 3-for-35 with 11 strikeouts this month.
If it’s not at a crisis point now, it’s close. Manager AJ Hinch said Torkelson would have a day off Tuesday to clear his head.
“It’s been a tough stretch for him again,” Hinch said. “We seen him come out of it before and kind of taper back into some frustrating at-bats. He hasn’t taken it out onto the field, he’s still playing well there. But we need to see him pick it up a little bit and staying more consistently in the at-bats.
“It’s easy to pile on a guy when he has a bad night and I don’t want to do that. But we’re aware he’s not performing quite to the level he’s going to or that he has. We’d like to see him come out of it.”
After the game, the Tigers optioned outfielder Derek Hill to Toledo and kept Kody Clemens. If the Tigers do end up sending Torkelson back to Toledo to reset, Clemens would likely play more regularly at second base while Jonathan Schoop moved over to first.
The Tigers also designated reliever Jacob Barnes for assignment after the game. They will activated lefty reliever Tyler Alexander off the injured list and purchase the contract of right-hander Drew Hutchison from Toledo before the game Tuesday.
Hutchison will be the first pitcher used in a bullpen game against the White Sox.
Amidst the gloom Monday, there were a couple of sparks from the long-dormant offense.
“We had many good at-bats,” Hinch said. “I was happy with the offense today. We pieced together some good at-bats and Willi (Castro) kickstarted the game with a homer. They just had more at-bats and bigger swings.”
Perhaps the sparks started with a sacrificial fire.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart went home Sunday night and burned a bat. A sacrifice to the baseball gods after the Tigers were shut out for the eighth time this season, managing just two singles against the Blue Jays.
Somebody pulled the Macho Man WWE championship belt out of storage, too – the one Derek Holland bought last year to honor the pitcher of the game – and the Tigers decided to award it after home runs.
When you are the lowest scoring team in baseball and haven’t hit a home run in eight straight games, you pull out all the stops, right?
And the mojo was good early.
Willi Castro hit the first pitch delivered by White Sox starter Lance Lynn into the right-field seats, ending the home-run drought and proudly wearing the Macho Man belt upon his return to the dugout.
It was the first pitch Lynn threw this season after recovering from knee surgery and it was Castro’s first-ever leadoff homer.
Rookie Kody Clemens had gone 0-for-17 to start his career before driving a single through the shift against Lynn in the second inning.
“It was a relief,” said Clemens, who singled again in the fourth and also drew a walk. “I got the first one out of the way and it felt good. Between innings Tork said, ‘Don’t you just feel 100 pounds lighter?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ It was a great moment. I’m super excited to get it out of the way.
“Now just try to get in a rhythm and keep going.”
Harold Castro had three hits, including a pair of two-out RBIs. He and Miguel Cabrera (two hits) drove in runs in the sixth, cutting the White Sox lead to 7-5.
But that was as close as they’d get against a White Sox team playing without injured shortstop Tim Anderson and catcher Yasmani Grandal and an overworked bullpen.
Key play in the game came in the sixth. With the White Sox up 4-3, Yoan Moncada and Leury Garcia both singled off reliever Andrew Chafin. Both scored when Chafin fielded a bunt by McGuire and threw errantly past third baseman Harold Castro.
“I thought he had a play right from the beginning of the bunt,” Hinch said. “Tuck called it and Chafin threw it low. I think a chest-high throw gets him, though I don’t know that for sure. I’d have to look at the video. But I liked the aggressive call by Tuck.
“If we complete that play, maybe the inning goes differently.”
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