Detroit — If nothing else, this loss was a little bit different from the rest.
The issue for the Detroit Tigers this season hasn’t been closing out games with the lead. In fact, prior to Friday night, the team was 34-3 when leading after seven innings.
That trend got bucked against the Tampa Bay Rays, as the visitors scored three runs in the eighth to come back and defeat the Tigers 5-3 at Comerica Park. Brandon Lowe gave the Rays the lead with a two-RBI double, and ex-Tiger Isaac Paredes added some insurance with a single to right field that scored Lowe that same inning.
After squandering the lead, the Tigers went down 1-2-3 in the eighth inning. They were able to make some noise in the ninth with the winning run at the plate, but Tampa’s Colin Poche put the Tigers to bed before any runs could be scored.
“We had the lead. Eighth inning. We had Joe Jiménez in the game. So, we absolutely had every opportunity (to win),” manager AJ Hinch said. “We needed to be a little more perfect at the end due to how the whole game set up.
“When you have the lead, and with our bullpen, we always feel like we’re going to win when we have the lead.”
Before that, right-handed pitcher Bryan Garcia started the game for Detroit and had a historic outing in a nontraditional sense.
Garcia, who was optioned down after the game, is the first Tiger pitcher since Jefferson “Tommy” Bridges in 1932 to pitch four or fewer innings, walk six and allow zero runs. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but effective nevertheless.
In the second inning, Garcia worked his way into a jam by walking the bases loaded. With the count full and two away, he was able to induce a foul out from Lowe to get out of danger.
He followed that up with a 10-pitch third inning and a 14-pitch fourth before being pulled ahead of the fifth, keeping the Rays scoreless and maintaining Detroit’s lead.
“I told him in my office after the game, I’ve seen him have some troubles and then implode, so that is a takeaway for him,” Hinch said. “Obviously, you can’t take the walks back, but being able to get out of it and pitch out of it — whether he’s squeezing the ball too hard or whether he’s just trying to make perfect pitches and nibbling — he was able to compete. That’s a nice takeaway.”
Of the 72 pitches Garcia threw, just 36 were strikes. Lack of control was a trend for Tigers pitchers all night, as Tampa logged a team-record 13 walks before the game was over.
“I don’t even really know how to describe it because it’s unusual in the game (and) it’s certainly unusual for our staff,” Hinch said of all the walks his team gave out. “We had a hard time from the get-go. Brian couldn’t quite find it and then was able to escape, and you feel pretty good about yourself when you escape, except you’re rolling the lineup time after time after time and giving them more at-bats.
“Eventually, the game won’t let you make that many mistakes. Especially with the fastball. That was a bad night on the mound.”
The run support for Garcia came early via a single to left field by Jeimer Candelario in the first inning, scoring Victor Reyes from third base. It was Candelario’s ninth RBI since coming back from the All-Star break.
One inning later, with Akil Baddoo on first base, Riley Greene cranked a 382-foot, two-run blast to left-center field. It was an 87.4 mph sinker down and away that cost Rays righty Corey Kluber, who pitched seven innings and allowed three runs.
Greene’s homer was the third of his career and his first since July 15.
“Kluber’s good,” Hinch said. “He might’ve been throwing too many strikes, you know? He was around the zone so much and we were able to put some balls in play. Candy had the big hit and then Riley with the oppo homer.
“And then after that, I think there was a hit or two, but until we gave ourselves a chance in the ninth inning, it was pretty quiet and their guys did a good job of getting some quick outs.”