Anaheim, Calif. — When you’re not hitting, it’s like inviting your opponent to dinner. Something delectable is coming their way, and probably for free.
The Tigers set the table and served up a juicy run in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, which saw the Tigers lose the last three of a four-game series, mostly because they scored all of two total runs in those three defeats.
The Angels had their appetizer in the fifth, when the Tigers were leading, 1-0. Erick Aybar led off with a single against Tigers starter Rick Porcello and moved to second on Howie Kendrick’s bunt single.
Porcello, aware that Aybar likes to run and probably had ideas of thieving third, opted for a pickoff attempt on Aybar, who had danced a fair distance from second.
But the throw missed shortstop Eugenio Suarez and bounced into center field. Austin Jackson retrieved the ball but, for a moment, held it when Kendrick feigned sprinting for second.
Jackson then casually threw to relay man Suarez. Aybar, though, never stopped and raced home as the ball softly sailed toward Suarez.
“I came up and I was looking to throw the ball to third base,” Jackson said, “and then I looked and saw he (Kendrick) was going to second base, and I kind of got caught in between.
“Aybar made a heads-up play. He saw it and stayed in stride. A heads-up play by him, a (mistake) by me.”
Porcello blamed himself for beginning a sequence that tied the game, 1-1, and set up David Freese’s game-winning homer against Joba Chamberlain in the eighth.
“That kind of thing can happen on that play,” said Porcello, who again was sterling Sunday, allowing no earned runs and getting a no-decision.
“I knew the runner was sliding into Suarez. I yanked the throw and pulled it, and it ended up being a big play.”
7 and out
Porcello, who is still sitting on 12 victories, saw his ERA drop to 3.24, following his seven-inning stint Sunday. He allowed only five hits, walked none, and struck out six in a 99-pitch shift that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus believed was sufficient on a hot day (80s and humid) in southern California.
“You send him back out and a couple of guys get on and now you’re at 110 pitches, and now you’ve got to bring someone in mid-inning,” Ausmus said. “I just didn’t want to take that risk.”
He also had Joba Chamberlain ready to pitch his customary eighth inning, which for Ausmus and the Tigers has been gold in 2014 (1.63 ERA in his last 30 games entering Sunday).
Chamberlain got leadoff batter Efren Navarro on a swing-and-miss slider to begin the Angels eighth. But he hung a slider to David Freese that Freese blasted on a long line over the left-center field wall.
“I was trying to read his swing,” said Chamberlain, who took Sunday’s loss. “I just didn’t execute the pitch and he put a good swing on it.”
The strike zone was no more an issue for Chamberlain during his one-inning cameo than it was for Porcello. Neither pitcher allowed a walk, the first game since June 2, 2010 that Tigers pitchers did not allow a base on balls.
The Tigers’ bats turned soft in the Angels series, which wasn’t expected from a team that had scored runs against the Diamondbacks earlier in the road trip and had begun with a six-run burst in Thursday’s series-opening victory against the Angels.
They scored a single run Friday, were shut out Saturday, and managed only one run Sunday, which came in the first on Ian Kinsler’s single, and a RBI double against the right-center field fence by Victor Martinez.
“You never know when one’s going to start, when you’re gonna have trouble scoring runs,” Ausmus said of a team slump that Sunday saw his team get only one hit after the first inning, a single in the sixth from Austin Jackson. “It’s just the way it happens.”
Nick Castellanos, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout Sunday, said the Angels did nothing but beat the Tigers bats with pitching a statistically good-hitting club didn’t handle.
“I missed too many good pitches to hit,” Castellanos said. “Even pitches I was looking for, I was fouling off.”
Take a break
The Tigers have a rarity today, an off-day, their only free time during a string of 54 games in 55 days.
They will be back at work Tuesday against the White Sox in the first game of a three-game set at Comerica Park.