Detroit — Maybe the string of lopsided Tigers losses isn’t so bad after all — especially if it means that Danny Worth gets a few more appearances because of a depleted bullpen.
Worth, a shortstop by trade, made another splash as a ninth-inning relief pitcher.
On Thursday, Worth tossed a scoreless inning — with two strikeouts — in the Tigers’ loss to the Rangers. With a 10-run deficit Saturday, Worth again entered in a relief role, finishing off a 12-2 loss to Texas before the remnants of a sellout crowd of 43,447 at Comerica Park.
After giving up two groundouts, Worth gave up a run on three straight hits, including an RBI double by Michael Choice. He got Mitch Moreland to ground out to first to end the inning.
“You don’t want to turn it into turn it into a carnival sideshow by bringing in position players, but we have to find a way to save some arms down in the bullpen,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We’ve had a rough stretch with the three games in Cleveland and then these two out of three games against Texas.”
The Tigers have lost five of their last six games, giving up an uncharacteristic 45 runs, with many coming against their starting pitchers. Saturday’s starter, Rick Porcello, continued the trend, allowing season highs in runs (eight) and hits (12) in 5.1 innings.
Porcello (7-2) gave up just three hits in the first three innings, but the trouble started in the fourth. Chris Gimenez had an RBI double and Leonys Martin added an RBI single. After Donnie Murphy walked, Rougned Odor added a two-run triple to make it 4-1. In the fifth, Adrian Beltre had his fifth home run for a 5-1 advantage.
“After the third inning, I really struggled the rest of the game; in the fourth inning, I gave up those hits, all with two outs. That’s what bothers me the most — make one pitch and we can get out of there and maybe they score one or two, but not three,” said Porcello, who had won six straight starts before Saturday. “I was never able to regroup after that; I don’t know why. After the fourth inning, I just couldn’t get it going.”
Porcello’s start Saturday was pushed back two days because of some aches in his left side in his last two starts — a condition Ausmus chose to treat with “an overabundance of caution.” Though the start wasn’t as good as the previous two, Porcello dismissed any talk of an injury as an excuse.
“There’s no injury, first of all. My side was bothering me a little bit, but it’s fine and obviously I can pitch through it. That’s not an excuse at all,” Porcello said. “It’s baseball and this is the big leagues — if you’re not on top of your game every time out, you’re going to your butt kicked every once in a while. That’s what happened today.”
In the sixth, the Rangers added two more runs off Porcello, with a single by Martin and a two-run home run by Murphy, extending the lead to 8-1.
After Porcello’s departure, rookie Corey Knebel made his major-league debut, throwing an inning and giving up three runs on a bases-loaded triple by Odor in the seventh.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, after Andrew Romine singled and scored on Rajai Davis’ RBI double. But the Rangers dominated from that point. The Tigers added another run in the ninth, as Davis had a leadoff double and scoring on an RBI single by Ian Kinsler, who stretched his hitting streak to 10 games.
Phil Coke pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief, setting the stage for Worth to make his second appearance in three days.
Ausmus said he hoped to stay away from using Worth except in emergency situations, like when the bullpen was taxed this week and could benefit from some rest.
“I don’t think if you had asked me when I was hired if I would have a position player pitch two out of three games, I don’t think I would have said yes. But we have to do what we have to do,” Ausmus said. “We have some guys’ arms that need rest down there and the chances of us coming back from a 10-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth are slim.
“Fortunately, Danny can throw strikes with his knuckleball — his ERA went up a little bit (to 4.50) — but he still helped us out.”
Worth entered to cheers from Tigers fans. The outing turned to folly, after one of his knuckleball pitches went behind Murphy, which drew a laugh from the hitter.
“I was just laughing; it was just slipping out my fingers,” Worth said. “I couldn’t get (the feel) going so I didn’t know where (the pitch) was going.”
After two appearances in three days, Worth said he probably won’t throw for a few days because of pain in his fingers. He doesn’t look forward to an appearance any time soon.
“I hope I don’t have to showcase it for the rest of the year,” Worth said.
“Let’s win some ballgames.”