Detroit – Who lost 11-4 to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night at Comerica Park?
The second-place Tigers did.
So, you can no longer console yourself with this thought, if you’re looking to console yourself: “They’re still in first, at least.”
Because they’re not. The Royals are.
A stunning 9-19 skid after a 27-12 start has landed the Tigers in second place for the first time since July 2 of last year.
There’ve been times (though not recently) the Tigers have been tied for first this season, but they’ve never been in a position of looking up at another team.
As they are now at the surging Royals, who have won nine in a row.
“Quite frankly,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “I stopped saying every team goes through this a week ago. Teams go through losing streaks and slumps, but this has been more than it should have been.
“And the question is, ‘How do you fix it?’ But the only option is to fix it.”
Frustrated? You bet they are.
“They’re getting sick of it, for sure,” Ausmus said. “I’m sick of it, they’re sick of it, fans are sick of it. We’re just sick of it.”
Tigers catcher Alex Avila agreed.
“It reached that point a week ago,” Avila said. “The thing is, you can’t let it affect you. I’m not going to show it or pout, or feel sorry for myself. That’s not the way to go about it.”
Strange events continue to befall this Tigers team, however.
Who would have thought back in mid-May, for instance, that Justin Verlander would have a 7.83 ERA over his next seven starts?
And after the seventh of those seven bad starts for Verlander, who would have thought that Max Scherzer — coming off the first complete game of his career — would experience the worst inning of his career?
If the 51-pitch, seven-run second he endured against the Royals wasn’t the worst for Scherzer, he probably doesn’t want to recall whatever was.
Simply said, it was a mess of an inning in a mess of a game in a season that no longer is looking all that attractive for the Tigers.
And won’t be if the unimaginable keeps happening.
Verlander must bounce back, of course, and while Scherzer can’t be faulted for his 8-3 record, his ERA has bounced all over the place lately.
It’s at 3.84 now — because of the 10 runs charged to him in his four innings against the Royals.
“I didn’t pitch well,” Scherzer said. “There’s no other way to put it.”
But as recently as six starts ago — his ERA was at 1.83 and he’d won six starts in a row.
In the six starts since, Scherzer has had a 6.86 ERA.
And while you might think that ballooned only because of his ugly pitching line in this loss, his ERA for his first four starts after May 16, when he was 6-1 with a 1.83 ERA, was 6.84.
To put it mildly, apart from the three-hit masterpiece he threw last week in Chicago, he’s not been Mr. Consistency.
“They are human,” Victor Martinez said of Verlander and Scherzer. “They are not going to throw nine zeroes every time. Sometimes people forget they are facing big league hitters, too.”
Scherzer’s second inning was a nightmare.
Nothing but a 51-pitch, seven-run, royal nightmare. But Avila couldn’t say why.
“I have no idea what happened,” he said. “Basically, it was like shell shock. For an inning there, they couldn’t miss.”
The game was scoreless when the nightmare began. Kansas City’s starter Yordano Ventura would go on to pitch a good game (three runs allowed on eight hits in seven innings), but Scherzer wouldn’t.
“I got beat because I left pitches up,” he said. “But we’ve always thought of (the Royals) as a challenge. Nothing’s changed.”
The second-inning onslaught began with a Billy Butler single to right that J.D. Martinez bungled into an extra base for Butler.
At the plate, Martinez would have a three-hit night for the Tigers, raising his batting average to .290, but his offensive contributions didn’t matter much considering the lopsided score.
With Butler on second, Alex Gordon hit his eighth home run to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. But they were just getting started.
Before the second inning ended, Mike Moustakas also had hit a two-run home run. Former Tiger Omar Infante would chip in with a two-run single.
In two games against the Tigers, Infante has six RBIs.
Another Royals’ run would score on a ground out.
It was 7-0, but the Tigers countered with two in their half of the second, only to find themselves down 10-2 in the fifth when they threatened again.
A bases-loaded walk to Miguel Cabrera made it 10-3, but any hope of the Tigers making the fifth a bigger inning ended when a wild pitch — or what looked like a wild pitch with the bases loaded — caromed off the backstop to Royals catcher Salvador Perez, whose throw to third was in time to get a retreating Eugenio Suarez.
By the end of the fifth, the Tigers again trailed by seven runs — so it was pretty much game, set, match at that point.
Game, set, match — and first place, too.