Simon hit hard as Tigers drop fifth straight
Detroit — This time it was Alfredo Simon's turn to make a Tigers audience wonder why it hasn't, in these sorry final weeks of a 2015 baseball season, joined a book club or enrolled in a class or done something that might divert it from Comerica Park's pain.
Tuesday night's act was especially cruel. After the Los Angeles Angels got four first-inning runs against Simon, the Tigers crawled back to tie the game at 4 before Simon's ugly pitching line finally hung them with an 8-7 loss.
"Kind of a 180 from his last start," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, referring to Simon, who five days earlier had mauled the Rangers with a one-hit, complete game shutout. "He had trouble throwing strikes. Trouble getting ahead of guys."
Did he ever.
Simon's wounds were self-inflicted and even historic. He allowed three Angels to score on wild pitches, a stunt that had been matched by only two other big-league pitchers in the past 41 years, according to research from Twitter.com/STATS_MLB. He allowed nine hits and all eight runs in 4⅓ innings. He walked four, hit a batter, and got himself into instant trouble when he coughed up a three-run homer in the first to Albert Pujols.
He threw 102 pitches in 4⅓ innings that, as ordeals go, might have been as tough on anyone watching Tuesday's 3-hour, 27-minute misadventure as it was on Simon.
"He and McCann were having trouble getting on the same page," Ausmus said, making clear the 34-year-old Simon and rookie catcher McCann weren't always in harmony.
The Tigers, to their credit, didn't seem all that bothered by Simon's communication issues, or the conflagration that so often left them playing a long night of catch-up.
They had 12 hits, among them a two-run homer by McCann, as well as a three-run double by Miguel Cabrera, which was part of a three-hit night for Detroit's astonishing star (.537 batting average in his last 10 games).
None of it was enough to beat a wheezing Angels team that had won only three of its last 10 games. But that's the way August has gone for the Tigers during a losing streak that now sits at five games.
Simon, on the heels of his one-hitter, was bad from the get-go.
He allowed a walk and a single to the first two Angels batters before slinging a 93-mph fastball to Albert Pujols on a 3-2 count that Pujols drove on a long line into the left-field seats for his 34th homer of the year.
The Tigers were down, 4-0, in the third but had their own four-run surge against Angels starter and long-time Tigers irritant Jered Weaver.
A single by McCann, a double from Anthony Gose, and Weaver's plunking of Jose Iglesias set up Cabrera, who ripped a rifle-shot down the third-base line that cleared the bases and cut Los Angeles' lead to 4-3.
J.D. Martinez followed with a single to right to drive in Cabrera and make it 4-4.
But even after the Tigers had tunneled their way into a tie, Simon was such a mess he couldn't begin to hold the Angels.
They got two runs in the fourth, then pushed across two more in the fifth, which made it an 8-4 game and left the Tigers slogging through a comeback swamp.
They almost made it. And credit for the near-miss was due in part to some crisp relief pitching from Drew VerHagen, Blaine Hardy, and Alex Wilson, who shut down L.A. over the final 4⅔ innings.
"The bullpen did a nice job," Ausmus said. "I'd like to put it all on the same day where the starter does a good job, the bullpen has a good night, and we hit.
"But right now, none of that is synching up."
The offense got gold stars, as well, if for no other reason than they seemed to dismiss Simon's blow-ups.
McCann's sixth homer of the year was a two-run drive in the sixth beyond the left-center field fence that made it a ballgame again, 8-6.
In the seventh, Nick Castellanos, who had an early double against the left-field fence, drove home Cabrera with the run that made it 8-7.
The Tigers had a shot at tying it in the eighth after two-out singles by Jose Iglesias and Cabrera stuck runners at first and third ahead of Victor Martinez waltzing to the plate.
But the Angels have a good one in Huston Street. And the Tiger have a designated hitter stuck in low gear in Martinez.
Martinez poked a ground ball to first to end the best shot Detroit was going to get in overtaking an Angels team that was treated to too many leads.
Tyler Collins had a two-out single in the ninth, but that was it for the Tigers as a quiet crowd (33,649 tickets bought) headed into a crisp August evening, perhaps thinking of fireplaces and nights ahead, minus baseball's occasional, and relative, anguish.