Detroit — That one went off-script in a hurry.
The first pitch Eduardo Rodriguez threw since he ruptured the pulley in the index finger of his left hand on May 28 was bunted between the mound and first base.
It was probably, judging from the way he reacted to it, the last thing he expected. Well, second to last. The last, last thing he expected was to give up five runs in four innings to the worst team in baseball in his first game back off the injured list.
Surprise. The Tigers lost their second straight game to the 63-loss Athletics, this one was a pummeling − 12-3 at Comerica Park Wednesday night.
Rodriguez, who struggled with his command, gave up a two-run home run to left-handed hitting rookie Ryan Noda in the first inning on a 3-0 pitch and a solo homer to catcher Shea Langeliers leading off the fourth.
Esteury Ruiz pushed Rodriguez’s first pitch of the game toward first base. Both Rodriguez and first baseman Spencer Torkelson charged it. Second baseman Zack Short couldn’t get to the bag at first in time to beat the speedy Ruiz.
One pitch later, Ruiz stole second − his Oakland rookie-record 43rd stolen base – and Rodriguez was immediately in the soup. Jordan Diaz singled Ruiz home and with two outs, Noda smashed the 3-0 fastball deep into the right-field seats.
Rodriguez yielded a two-out, RBI double to Aledmys Diaz in the third.
Not the return he or the Tigers were looking for, but it certainly wasn’t all bad. Rodriguez struck out seven, including four called third strikes with his four-seam fastball. He got nine called strikes total with his four-seamer.
It got much worse after he left. The Athletics roughed up lefty reliever Zach Logue for a total of six runs on six hits in 2.2 innings. Jordan Diaz capped it off with a two-run homer in the eighth. He had three hits, scored three runs and knocked in four.
The bigger issue was the continued slumber of the Tigers’ offense.
Facing an Athletics pitching staff that came in the highest ERA and the most earned runs allowed in the American League, the Tigers were shutout in 10 innings Tuesday night and then didn’t score until the eigth inning Wednesday. Add the scoreless ninth on Sunday in Denver and they went 18 straight innings without scoring a run.
Worse, until the eighth, they’d mustered just one hit – a fourth-inning single by Zach McKinstry.
This is the same team that scored 23 runs in three games against the Rockies, bashing five homers on Sunday.
The Athletics, as they have often this season, deployed an opener, right-hander Austin Pruitt. Over his last 11 games, working mostly out of the bullpen, he’s allowed just four earned runs in 15 innings. And he set down nine straight Tigers to start the game.
By the time the A’s switched to left-handed bulk-inning pitcher Ken Waldichuk, the Tigers were down 5-0.
And even though Waldichuk has been hit around a fair bit this season (6.78 ERA), the Tigers couldn’t string anything together until the eighth inning. Walks to Jonathan Schoop and Tyler Nevin — both inserted into the game in the seventh — set the table for Miguel Cabrera.
He ripped a line drive into the corner in right field scoring Schoop. Cabrera has the Tigers’ hottest hitter since May 30. He came into the game Wednesday slashing .348/.416/.485 in his last 21 games.
Nevin scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Marisnick.
Torkelson led off the ninth with a triple and scored on Schoop’s double.
Maybe the late runs will provide some juice going into the finale Thursday afternoon. Because whatever momentum they might have built coming home off a winning road trip and getting two of their front-line starters back (Tarik Skubal and Rodriguez), well, that didn’t materialize.