Detroit — Told the Tigers have been described as being discombobulated in recent weeks, outfielder Rajai Davis got a quizzical look on his face.
“I don’t even know what that means,” he said.
It means out of sorts, confused and in disarray, which would be a fitting way to describe the team’s 8-1 loss Sunday to the Mariners.
“I suppose (it does) from the outside looking in,” Davis said. “All I know is, we’re playing hard. Unfortunately it’s not working for us. But we have a positive mind-set and we’re going to keep a positive attitude.”
The Tigers are becoming almost enigmatically inconsistent. The day after beating Cy Young Award candidate Felix Hernandez, they looked helpless, even feeble, against soft-tossing Chris Young. A day after playing solid defense behind David Price, they make three errors and allow four unearned runs.
“It was a bad day all the way around,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We didn’t have good at-bats, generally speaking, we didn’t pitch well and we didn’t play good defense. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
This was hardly an isolated incident of listless and sloppy play. Losing two out of three at home to the Mariners, the team they now chase for the second wild-card spot in the American League, they have lost seven of 10 series since the All-Star break.
They are 1½ games behind the Royals in the AL Central.
“We need to play better,” Ausmus said. “We’re a better team than this — period.”
Ausmus said he could feel the frustration level beginning to rise, especially regarding this prolonged offensive malaise.
“Nobody likes to lose, especially on this team,” catcher Alex Avila said. “We’ve gotten really used to winning in this organization. Losing is not something that comes easy or is something any of us enjoy. You lose and it’s always frustrating, whether it’s now or in April.”
Both Ausmus and Avila said there is only one cure — keep battling.
“In baseball you train yourself to keep working through it, knowing that you are better than what’s been shown,” Ausmus said. “If the numbers return to their norm, then there should be some type of offensive explosion for an extended period of time.”
Ausmus warned the Tigers about Young (12-6) before the game, but it went unheeded.
“He’s a fly-ball pitcher,” Ausmus said before the game. “They talk about spin rates and he’s got a real high spin rate on his pitches and the ball tends to stay up. Guys tend to get under it and hit a lot of fly balls and pop ups.”
Exactly what the Tigers did. Through six innings, Young recorded 12 fly-ball outs, most of them soft and routine.
Tigers’ starter Robbie Ray (1-3), another fly\-ball pitcher, didn’t fare nearly as well. He was tagged for four runs (three earned) and seven hits in five innings.
“He was up (in the strike zone) early and he never had his breaking ball,” Ausmus said. “It was just spinning out of his hand. But he’s developing and we’re asking him to compete in a pennant race. … It’s not always going to be roses when you have a young pitcher come up in that situation.”
If the pitching was bad, the defense was worse. A two-out error by first baseman Victor Martinez and a wild pitch by Ray led to a run in the third, then things got real ugly in the sixth.
Veteran reliever Jim Johnson, making his Tigers debut, was touched for three runs, but two were unearned after Davis dropped Kendrys Morales’ two-out fly ball.
“I’m a major league outfielder,” Davis said. “I have to make that catch.”
The ball was hit high into the air down the left field line. Davis and shortstop Andrew Romine were both in position to catch the ball. Romine gave way to Davis at the last second and Davis wound up juggling and then dropping it.
Davis, who had stolen three bases in the game, was pulled after that inning. The Tigers said he had a left thumb bruise. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
“You are going to have good games and bad games,” Avila said. “You just have to keep pounding. There is no magic formula; just keep playing.”
The Tigers said a lot of the same things during their 9-22 skid in May and June and they did fight their way out of it. But, they have gone 13-18 since the All-Star break and all told, 39-44 since the 27-12 start. There is now a larger sample size of bad baseball than good baseball from this team.
“It’s been bad but this isn’t a determining factor for the season,” Ausmus said. “We can play great baseball from here on out and do extremely well.”
Better get cracking; only six weeks left.