The Detroit Tigers nearly escaped the fifth inning without allowing more than one run.
Instead, the Chicago White Sox took the lead.
A grounder from Andrew Vaughn to shortstop Javier Báez should have been an inning-ending double play, but first baseman Kody Clemens couldn’t hold onto the relay throw from second baseman Willi Castro.
Eloy Jimenez scored on the play.
“I think he stretched a little early,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “The ball tailed on him, and it never got into the webbing.”
The Tigers lost Sunday, 5-3, and were swept in three games at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, as the offense tallied eight hits, zero walks and 14 strikeouts. The Tigers (43-73) have dropped seven games in a row and carry a 7-26 record since July 9.
“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror,” Hinch told reporters in Chicago. “This is reality. This is where we’re at. We’re going to keep fighting, pushing. These guys are going to get some at-bats, but contact is your friend. You got to make contact. … This week, certainly in the middle of all this mess, has illustrated exactly where the adjustments need to come from.”
Left-hander Tyler Alexander, who allowed his first run in the third inning, gave up both runs in the fifth. AJ Pollock opened the inning with a full-count double, and an ensuing one-out double from Jimenez drove him in for a 2-2 tie.
Jose Abreu kept the inning alive with a single to left field, putting runners on the corners and sparking a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter. Alexander tossed two sinkers to Vaughn, and the second one bounced to Báez.
But the Tigers failed to turn the double play and fell behind 3-2.
Alexander allowed three runs on six hits and three walks with two strikeouts in five innings, throwing 62 of 97 pitches for strikes. He got nine swings and misses. Vaughn hit a solo home run in the third on an 0-2 four-seam fastball at the top of the strike zone.
“He used a lot of pitches per plate appearance,” Hinch said. “He was battling himself. He was a little more erratic than he normally is. He was in and around the strike zone and using a lot resources pretty early.
“He wanted to stay in there and get past 100 pitches and save some of the bullpen arms for the doubleheader tomorrow, but I think it was a grind for him today. Making pitches, he wasn’t at his best, but he was competing fine.”
In the eighth, right-handed reliever Wily Peralta hung a splitter and Vaughn smashed it to left-center field for a solo home run and a 4-2 lead for the White Sox. Seby Zavala chipped in an RBI double to make it 5-2. Righties Jason Foley and Alex Lange pitched scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, respectively.
Harold Castro hit a solo home run off right-hander Kendall Graveman in the ninth inning.
Swing … and a miss
The Tigers scored their first two runs in the third inning.
Back-to-back one-out singles from Akil Baddoo and Riley Greene applied pressure to right-hander Lance Lynn, and with Victor Reyes in the batter’s box and runners on the corners, the veteran pitcher made a mistake.
A wild pitch scored Baddoo for a 1-0 lead.
Although Reyes flied out for the second out, Báez cranked a curveball below the strike zone for a two-out, two-strike double that plated Greene for a 2-0 margin. His 23rd double this season traveled to right field with a 97 mph exit velocity.
Lynn allowed two runs on five hits — without a walk — and struck out seven batters over six innings. He threw 63 of 88 pitches for strikes and used four-seam fastballs more than any pitch in his arsenal.
“It’s much of the same,” Hinch said. “We’ve had a hard time adjusting throughout the game. He continued to pound fastballs up. You know what you’re going to get with Lance Lynn, and he threw it right past us a lot. … We didn’t have a good offensive day, and that’s been going on for a while.”
For his 88 pitches, Lynn tossed 47 four-seamers (53%), 19 cutters (22%), 10 curveballs (11%), eight sinkers (9%), three changeups (3%) and one slider (1%). He generated 20 swings and misses, including 11 from his fastball. The Tigers posted a 71.8 mph average exit velocity on seven balls in play against his fastball.
Two White Sox relievers — righty Jimmy Lambert and lefty Jake Diekman — recorded six outs on six strikeouts to complete the seventh and eighth innings. Graveman got through the ninth despite Castro’s homer.
The Tigers struck out 78 times over the past six games.
“It’s tough,” Hinch said. “I stand out here and answer questions. I mean, we’re trying to encourage these guys. We’d like to do a lot better than we are, but we’re wearing it. We’ve earned that.”
Next up: Guardians
Matchup: Tigers (43-73) at Cleveland (61-53), series-opening doubleheader.
First pitch: Game 1 — 3:10 p.m. Monday, Game 2 — about 30 minutes after Game 1 ends; Progressive Field, Cleveland.
TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).
Probable pitchers: Game 1: Tigers — RHP Drew Hutchison (1-6, 4.45 ERA); Guardians — RHP Aaron Civale (2-5, 6.05). Game 2: Tigers — RHP Bryan Garcia (0-0, 2.35); Guardians — TBA.