For the struggling Detroit Tigers, the trend of injuries to pitchers and poor offense continued Sunday.
Right-handed starter Rony García exited in the third inning with what seemed to be a familiar ailment — right shoulder soreness — while Minnesota Twins right-handed starter Sonny Gray delivered six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts.
“It’s not the same (injury) as before,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “This is a bicep issue that radiates down his bicep. It’s a separate injury from what he had, which he reported on the last two pitches of his outing.”
That’s two injured starters in two days.
Also, the Tigers lost, 9-1, in the series finale against the Twins at Comerica Park, as the offense scored one run or less for the 29th time in 96 games this season.
“I don’t like losing today’s game,” Hinch said. “I don’t get caught up in the narratives, but I don’t like losing today’s game. We had a chance to beat a team that has really turned a corner in the last two days. We got beat by them. That’s pretty much how I feel.”
Shortstop Javier Báez departed in the sixth inning due to a left upper arm contusion, which he suffered on a hit-by-pitch in the fourth. Báez, who took the pitch off his radial nerve on his elbow, is considered day-to-day.
“It shut down the sensation in his hand,” Hinch said. “I felt like he couldn’t grip the bat. He could play defense, which is why he kept going back out for defense. I’ll have him in the lineup tomorrow. If I have to scratch him, then you’ll know it’s because of the same issue with his hand.”
MORE INJURY WOES: Tigers pitcher García leaves game with right shoulder soreness
The Tigers (38-58), averaging 3.13 runs per game, scored their lone run in the fourth inning and finished with a measly three hits and one walk. Gray retired the first 10 batters he faced, until Báez reached on his hit-by-pitch in the fourth inning.
Báez scored on Eric Haase’s two-out RBI single to cut the deficit to 3-1.
A two-out double from Harold Castro off Gray in the sixth inning and a leadoff double from Haase off right-handed reliever Griffin Jax in the seventh accounted for the other hits. Both runners were stranded on the bases.
“We’re just not stringing anything together,” Haase said. “A lot of these games, we’re getting eight, nine, 10 hits but only scoring two or three runs. In this ballpark, it’s going to be tough to hit homers. We know that. We have to push as many (runs) across as we can without waiting for the three-run homer. We’re getting hits. We just got to make them count better.”
Rookie center fielder Riley Greene went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. In the eighth, he drove the ball 367 feet, but left fielder Nick Gordon make a leaping catch at the wall to rob the 21-year-old of a solo home run.
Gray allowed one run on two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over six innings, throwing 55 of 84 pitches for strikes. The 32-year-old also dominated the Tigers on May 24 with seven scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts.
In Sunday’s matchup, Gray recorded nine swings and misses and 22 called strikes. Of those 22 called strikes, 13 came on a four-seam fastball and seven on a curveball.
“He’s unpredictable,” Hinch said. “That’s why he’s a really good pitcher.”
The loss was the Tigers’ 11th in 13 games and dropped them to 20 games under .500 for the first time this season. Combined with the Royals’ victory over Tampa Bay, the Tigers dropped into the American League Central cellar, half a game behind the Kansas City Royals.
“Have you seen our record?” Hinch said. “That’s really the bottom line. That’s why we’re here, to play and win games. We’re not doing enough. We’re beat up as a team physically. We’re not winning games. Put that combo together, and it’s pretty miserable.”
No relief in the 7th
The Tigers trimmed Minnesota’s lead to two runs in the fourth, but right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer squandered any chance for a comeback. He entered in the seventh with the score at 3-1 and allowed three runs.
Fulmer, likely to be traded before the Aug. 2 deadline, matched up with eight batters and threw 24 pitches before getting three outs. The Twins picked up their three runs off Fulmer with an RBI double from Gio Urshela, an RBI single from Luis Arraez and an RBI double from Jorge Polanco.
“The whole first half, we’ve been crushing it down in the bullpen,” Fulmer said. “All the guys down there are doing extremely well. I’m proud of those guys. We just have to step up the later it gets into the season now. There’s no excuse for what happened today, for myself or anybody. We got to make better pitches.”
Before Fulmer, the Tigers received 10 straight outs from right-handed relievers Angel De Jesus and José Cisnero.
De Jesus replaced García and recorded the final out in the third on four pitches, then retuned for a scoreless fourth and fifth. The 25-year-old struck out Arraez, who has an elite 7.9% strikeout rate, on three pitches to begin the fifth.
Cisnero retired the side in the sixth.
Right-hander Alex Lange gave up two runs in the eighth inning on three straight one-out hits: Jose Miranda (single), Urshela (single) and Gary Sanchez (two-RBI double). Left-hander Gregory Soto got the final out in the eighth
Losing 8-1, position player Kody Clemens pitched the ninth for his third outing this season. He allowed a two-out RBI single to Miranda.
“I hate it just as much as I did the first time,” Hinch said. “But it’s a necessity. We got 17 straight games and a really good team in San Diego coming in. Then we go to Toronto, go to Minnesota and come home to face the Rays. There’s no easy lineup here in the next 17 games.”
Falling behind early
Before the injury, García dealt with a messy first inning.
Carlos Correa, batting second, started the scoring opportunity with a two-strike single to center. Two pitches later, Polanco put two runners in scoring position with a double to right field.
That’s when mistakes, once again, haunted the Tigers.
Max Kepler reached base on a fielder’s choice, scoring Correa to put the Twins ahead, 1-0. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop fielded the ball and tried to throw out Correa at the plate, but he was unsuccessful.
“We played the infield in,” Hinch said. “With our offense not scoring a ton, it doesn’t feel like we could really give anything away. He missed the throw. If it’s a foot over, or if Jonathan throws the ball when he spins to the glove side on Haase, he’s probably out.”
A fielding error by first baseman Harold Castro left Alex Kirilloff safe at first base, and on the play, Polanco scored for a 2-0 advantage. García loaded the bases by hitting Gordon with a slider then hit Miranda with a sinker to make it 3-0.
García also hit Kepler with a pitch in the third inning.