Detroit — Leave it to the Tigers to score a season-high 12 runs and walk out of Comerica Park feeling empty.
This slump is not over even though the Tigers held on to beat the Minnesota Twins, 12-9, Saturday at Comerica Park.
The Tigers tried to blow a 10-run lead by allowing eight runs during a three-inning stretch. You could tell by the look on manager Brad Ausmus’ face that he was not happy with the ending, although in professional sports you take any victory you can.
“It certainly didn’t go the way we wanted,” Ausmus said. “We got to find a way to get through that game with a 10-run lead. And not have to burn all those guys in the bullpen.
“So it was a day we could afford to give up a few runs, but we did not want to give up those runs.”
Here is the gripe. This game was going so smoothly. The Tigers scored seven runs in the third inning. The last time that happened, closer Joe Nathan was actually retiring batters in the ninth inning.
This offensive explosion unfortunately is a blip on the radar and this is no indication that the Tigers are back after padding their record to 8-17 over the last 25 games.
That is a 32 percent winning clip. Andre Drummond has a better chance of hitting a free throw than the Tigers have of winning a game these days.
It does not mean the offense is humming again.
For much of the afternoon no one talked about Nathan’s 18.00 earned-run average the last five games. No one was talking about Justin Verlander’s declining velocity or lack of command. No one was talking about bad defense, the Tigers getting outscored, 137-87, the last 24 games or Torii Hunter turning a bloop single into a triple with yet another error.
But the bullpen came in and put up another stinker and a perfect afternoon turned into a boo fest even though the Tigers won. Anibal Sanchez was good again, giving up three earned runs in 61⁄3 innings. It was a perfect day under blue skies, something we thought we would see more of these past few weeks, when Sanchez left the game to a nice ovation in the seventh.
Bullpen horrible again
The Tigers bullpen faced 19 batters and gave up eight hits, three walks and six runs. Stop for a moment and think about this: More Twins got on base than made outs. That is ridiculous and uncalled for. Tigers fans grew restless and edgy — again.
“Guess what,” Victor Martinez said. “It is over. We turn the page and come back ready to play baseball tomorrow.”
Martinez is excused from any angst here. He was just a few feet from hitting four home runs at spacious Comerica Park. Instead, he settled for three hits, including a double and home run, and two RBIs.
Ausmus called it focus. I call it out of this world. You even marvel at V-Mart’s outs these days.
He is a man dialed in and he has dialed things up like no other right now.
Miguel Cabrera has done the same thing. If it were not for the pitching brilliance of the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (10-1, 2.02 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) we’d hear more MVP talk about one of these two players.
OK. Let me be a party pooper. When we look back at this day, we cannot simply view it as an offensive explosion. We must view it as a beginning. It is not important for the Tigers to score 12 runs a game. It is important for them to not go back to scoring two or fewer.
Fans deserve better
It is important for them to start and finish the fight rather than sputtering down the stretch.
Yes, it was a wonderful beginning but the Tigers continue to show us that they remain a team in trouble. This funk remains. And you can see it even in victory.
The Tigers must change. They must become that team that burned up the league earlier in the season. This fan base deserves it.
And here is the sad thing. The Tigers, as presently constructed, are not a World Series team. And that is a shame.
They’ve enjoyed a nice run the past eight years. They’ve won division titles, been to two World Series and are automatic locks for the playoffs. Sadly, they could go through this stretch without a title. That is bad for the fan base and it is bad for owner Mike Ilitch, who has put his heart, soul and money into this franchise.