The Detroit Tigers had their chance — bases loaded, no outs — in the second inning against Texas Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, one of the best pitchers in the month of May.
But the Tigers stranded the runners and lost to the Rangers, 5-0, in Monday’s series opener at Comerica Park. Eovaldi walked a season-high three batters, but he pitched five scoreless innings and owns a 0.77 ERA over 46⅔ innings in his past six starts, dating back to April 29.
“When you get a guy like Eovaldi on the ropes, you want to push across something,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s always hard to put a big inning together without a big hit. We couldn’t find that one.”
The Tigers (25-27) have been plagued by missed opportunities for virtually the entire season. This time, they finished 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base.
In the second inning, the Tigers loaded the bases with Spencer Torkelson’s walk, Nick Maton’s walk and Akil Baddoo’s single. Those three batters forced Eovaldi to throw 14 pitches.
He needed six pitches to escape the jam without damage. Eric Haase grounded into a force out (at home plate) on four pitches, and Andy Ibáñez grounded into an inning-ending double play on two pitches.
“Not getting the big hit is tough,” Haase said. “We had him on the ropes. Not scoring there kind of changes the whole dynamic of the game. But I felt like we kept pressure on him the whole time, had good at-bats and made him work.”
Ibáñez finished 0-for-4 with one strikeout in Monday’s loss and has one hit in his last 40 at-bats. The Tigers received their five hits from Baddoo, Riley Greene (two hits), Zach McKinstry and Javier Báez and had five walks from Baddoo, McKinstry, Torkelson, Maton and Haase.
In the third inning, the Tigers stranded runners on the corners when Torkelson grounded out. Báez struck out swinging on a curveball in the opposite batter’s box between singles from McKinstry and Greene.
Eovaldi, a 12-year MLB veteran, allowed four hits and three walks and added four strikeouts. He walked three batters in an outing for the first time this season and failed to strike out at least five batters for the first time this season.
But he did enough to beat the Tigers.
“We’re trying to stay disciplined to hitting pitches that we can handle,” Hinch said. “We did a good job getting Eovaldi out of the game after five (innings). We made him work. We drew some walks. We didn’t come up with the big hit. In a couple of the other games where we drew a bunch of walks, we did come up with the big. I like our selectiveness, and today, it didn’t work out for us.”
Boyd stumbles again
Left-hander Matthew Boyd dominated through three innings, worked around two base runners and crumbled in the fifth inning.
“He was cruising,” Hinch said. “He came out as hot as he’s come out against the top of that order, which is really good. He established his fastball pretty good. He threw some really good changeups. He threw a few sliders. And then he had the walks.”
He walked ex-Tiger Robbie Grossman to start the fifth and recorded back-to-back outs before walking Marcus Semien.
Corey Seager, one of the most aggressive hitters in baseball, made Boyd pay for his walks by crushing a three-run home run for a 3-0 lead. He hit a first-pitch curveball, which hung over the heart of the plate, over the wall in right-center field.
“I probably should have gone slider instead of curveball, but I missed with it,” Boyd said. “But honestly, it’s the walks that killed me. I walked four and three of them scored. That’s the difference maker in it all.”
Boyd bounced back with a scoreless sixth inning but wasn’t sharp in the seventh. Once again, he walked Grossman to start the inning. Right-handed reliever Mason Englert replaced Boyd after an ensuing single from Leody Taveras.
The Rangers tacked on two more runs, taking a 5-0 lead, with Englert on the mound in the seventh. Semien’s sacrifice fly and Seager’s single drove in the runs, both charged to Boyd’s final line.
Boyd allowed five runs on five hits and four walks with five strikeouts across six innings, throwing 50 of 87 pitches for strikes. He threw more sliders (29) than four-seam fastballs (22).
“Just being aggressive in the (strike) zone,” Boyd said. “That’s my game, to be aggressive in the zone with all my pitches. We were aggressive today, but it was the four walks. That was the difference maker.”
The 32-year-old, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract in the offseason, has a 5.96 ERA in 10 starts this season.
Another missed opportunity
Trailing 5-0, the Tigers had their best chance at a comeback in the eighth inning against right-handed reliever Jonathan Hernández. McKinstry walked on four pitches to start the inning, and Greene hit a first-pitch fastball for a single with one out.
The next two batters stranded the runners: Torkelson struck out swinging and Jonathan Schoop popped out.
The Tigers were sent down in order in the sixth and seventh innings by members of the Rangers’ bullpen. In the ninth, Baddoo drew a walk to start the inning before Haase grounded into a double play.
“Good pitching from them all around today,” Haase said.
As for the Tigers’ bullpen, Englert threw 34 pitches across the seventh and eighth innings, while Alexander tossed nine pitches in the ninth.
Next up: Rangers
Matchup: Tigers (25-27) vs. Texas (34-19).
First pitch: 6:40 p.m. Tuesday; Comerica Park, Detroit.
TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).
Probable pitchers: Tigers — RHP Alex Faedo (1-2, 4.15 ERA); Rangers — LHP Martin Perez (6-1, 3.83).