‘It’s tough’: Tigers’ losing skid hits 8 as Guardians take Game 1 of doubleheader

Detroit News

Cleveland — As a manager, you can push the right buttons and the pull the right strings and still get punched in the mouth.

It happened to the Tigers and AJ Hinch as the Guardians broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning to take Game 1 of the doubleheader 4-1 at Progressive Field Monday.

Hinch had left-hander Andrew Chafin warm and ready for the pocket of hitters he’d planned to use him against. Namely switch-hitter Jose Ramirez, less dangerous hitting right-handed, and left-handed hitting Andres Gimenez.

BOX SCORE: Guardians 4, Tigers 1

With runners at first and third and one out, Chafin struck out Ramirez. But he threw a first-pitch slider that was up and out of the strike zone inside to Gimenez, who turned on it and blasted it into the right field seats — three-run home run.

Incredible. Chafin allowed just one home run in his first 42 appearances this season, covering 154 batters. He’s allowed one in each of his last two — a home run Saturday night to AJ Pollock of the White Sox (four-seam fastball) and this one to Gimenez.

Before that swing by Gimenez hitters were 3 for 53 against Chafin’s slider.

It was the Tigers’ eighth straight loss.

“It’s tough,” said Tigers’ starter Drew Hutchison, the only player the Tigers made available to the media between games. “Everybody is battling. Everybody is doing what they can do. We have another game here and we’re going to continue to battle.”

Few battled harder than Hutchison.

He doesn’t have one pitch that would be considered elite at the big-league level. Every start, it seems, is a test of his survival skills. And he just keeps surviving.

Changing speeds, nibbling on the edges of all four quadrants of the plate, in turns floating pitches away from hitters and then busting them in, he ends up making it as much a grind for the hitters as it may seem to be for him.

“I made some pitches when I had to,” he said. “I needed to make one more good pitch. But it’s a loss and losing sucks. There’s not anything more to say.”

Hutchison allowed only a run over 5.1 innings — survive and advance.

First and second, nobody out in the second inning, Hutchison got a double-play grounder from Owen Miller and got out of trouble.

Bases loaded, one out in the fourth inning, he struck out left-handed hitting Nolan Jones with a slider and got Austin Hedges to ground out to first.

In the fifth, he and the Tigers faced a dilemma. With two outs and speedy Myles Straw at second after stealing his second base of the day, Hutchison had a choice — pitch around or intentionally walk the ever-dangerous Ramirez and face Gimenez, who had already hit him hard twice (double and single).

Or take his chances with Ramirez.

Rock and a hard place.

He went with the latter and Ramirez lined an RBI single to tie the game.

Hutchison ended up working into the sixth inning and was over 100 pitches (101) with one out and a runner at second. He was startled to see Hinch walking to the mound, but it was the first time he’d thrown that many pitches in a game since 2015.

Reliever Will Vest came in and got the last two outs of the inning and preserved the 1-1 tie.

The Guardians were 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position against Hutchison. Clutchison.

“I was able to bear down when I had to,” Hutchison said.

The offensive story remained the same. A lot of swing-and-miss, a lot of strikeouts. Just three hits.

Right-hander Aaron Civale is 7-0 with a 2.11 ERA against the Tigers. And even though he has scuffled most of the season (ERA over 6.00), he continued his mastery, striking out a career-high 10 and allowing only a first-inning run in six innings.

The Tigers just got out of two series where they were beaten up by fastballs. They struck out 39 times in three games against the Guardians in Comerica Park and then 39 times in three games against the White Sox in Chicago.

Civale flipped the script. He threw 33 curveballs. The Tigers swung at 16, whiffed on 11 of them and took 12 called strikes. They only put one in play.

Javier Báez’s doubled and scored Riley Greene from first base in the first inning. The Tigers didn’t put another runner into scoring position.

The Tigers, who struck out 13 times in Game 1, have struck out 100 times during this eight-game losing streak. In the last 10 games against division opponents, they’ve struck out 132 times.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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