Detroit — On the heels of a six-game win streak, the Tigers have lost five of their last six games in the past week and are in a bit of a tailspin. The skid has dampened some of the enthusiasm after they streaked out to the best record in the majors.
Still, the Tigers are pacing the American League and maintain a five-game lead in the Central Division as they prepare to head out on a West Coast road trip, where they’ll face the A’s and Mariners.
The Tigers are 28-17 (.622) heading into Sunday’s game against the Rangers -- second only to the Giants (31-18, .633)
Manager Brad Ausmus isn’t worried about the recent swoon, as the Tigers are just passing the quarter mark of the season and their longest losing streak of the year has been just four games. After being swept in Cleveland, the Tigers have lost two of three to the Rangers at Comerica Park, with the starting rotation struggling for the first time this season.
“It’s just baseball. We won six in a row but we weren’t going to win the rest of them — that’s just how it goes,” Ausmus said Sunday morning. “We hit a little bit of a skid, starting with Cleveland, and we’re hoping to turn it around today.”
It’s anything but a rarity to have a tough stretch of games; last season, the Tigers had five such spans of five losses in six games, including one in the last series of the regular season and into the first three games of the playoffs -- in the Division Series against the A’s.
Ausmus said dropping a few games just happens from time to time but it’s how teams react to them that defines them.
“You never enjoy losing but I’ve been through enough losing streaks to know that it’s part of the game. It’s going to happen to every team at least once,” Ausmus said Saturday. “The part that nags at you a little bit is that we were in all of them.
“One was 10 innings, one was 13 and had the lead a couple times. That gets a little bit irritating, but it happens. It’s better than being blown out four straight games. We got blown out in the game that Darvish pitched but the first three were all close and we were in them, despite the fact that our starters struggled a little bit. The hitters never gave up.”
Having a veteran clubhouse and experienced players helped ease some of the concern about the losses. Even the defending World Series champion Red Sox — whom the Tigers swept last weekend — are on a nine-game skid.
As the Tigers have been winning more in recent years, they’ve raised expectations and fans aren’t accustomed to longer skids.
“The success we’ve had over the last few years and the type of organization we’ve built where we expect to win every single year, that’s the mindset to where even when you lose a few games in a row, there’s no reason to panic,” Alex Avila said. “You understand it’s part of the game and eventually the talent of the team takes over and you’re able to get on the right track.”
But Ausmus sees the effort and fight in the Tigers, who aren’t giving up, despite a few lopsided scores against the Rangers and some less-than-stellar outings by the starting rotation.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort; the only time a manager or coaching staff would get upset is if it’s a lack of effort or lack of concentration,” Ausmus said. “I wasn’t overly stressed or overly concerned it wasn’t going to end. I still felt very good about the team every time we took the field.”