Tigers under the gun to shake off blowout defeat in a hurry
Minneapolis — The Tigers were embarrassed on Friday night in a 20-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
All teams get embarrassed at times.
Even teams that win World Series can look back over the course of a 162-game regular season and point to when they played the worst, felt the worst, and filed into the clubhouse with the painful awareness they’d just played a rotten game.
Baseball being the everyday game that it is, however, one loss equals another. In the standings, there’s no difference between David Price allowing one hit and losing 1-0 to the Rays on Thursday and the Tigers allowing 20 runs to the Twins on Friday night.
It’s all about putting games behind you and coming back to the ballpark the next day in the best possible frame of mind.
Sometimes, though, that takes a while to achieve.
This was a loss that manager Brad Ausmus didn’t duck from calling what it was: Embarrassing.
The Tigers used eight pitchers, including a position player, Andrew Romine, who gave up two home runs in the eighth.
After the game, facing a split doubleheader on Saturday as they are, the Tigers made roster moves involving four players: Sent out were left-handers Ian Krol and Robby Ray, the latter of whom started Friday night’s debacle.
Brought up from Toledo were left-handers Kyle Lobstein and Patrick McCoy.
The Twins enjoyed two huge innings, a six-run second and a nine-run sixth, while scoring the most runs any major-league team has scored in a game this season.
By allowing 14 runs in the last three innings, the upbeat way the game began for the Tigers, including Ian Kinsler’s leadoff home run in the first, was masked — not to mention the four runs they scored in the fifth to pull to within a run.
It was either team’s game to win after 5½ ½ innings.
But not after six innings.
And while enduring the ignominy of the Twins scoring their most runs in more five years, the Tigers still had to face a Saturday as daunting as their Friday.
All because of the doubleheader they will play today.
Now, make no mistake: Whether or not they can actually do it, the Tigers will say that Friday night’s embarrassment was history as soon as it was over — and ancient history by the time they dress for Saturday’s opener.
But guess what: They can’t just say it. They have to prove it.
And they can only prove it by playing a lot better than they did in this game, and by ceasing to perplex those who watch them on a daily basis far less than they continue to do.
Trailing Kansas City by 2½ games on Aug. 23 after leading them by five on Aug. 3? What a slide.
Then again, what better time to start recovering than a day on which you play two games?
But again, to look forward, one must stop looking back — and in the immediate moments following the fiasco, Ausmus uncomfortably had to look back while recapping the game.
“The scoreboard speaks for itself,” he said. “We got our butts kicked. We didn’t pitch well. The bats looked good early, but then we got down by so much, there was nothing to be done.
“This was a bad game, an embarrassing game, really. There’s really not much to say about it.”
But there is.
Because the size of the defeat serves as an elephant in the room that the Tigers can’t let squashed them — while facing a doubleheader.
“With two games, and a young pitcher starting the first (of the two), we were being careful with every pitcher that went out there,” Ausmus said.
It’s the reason no Tigers relief pitcher was allowed to last more than 12/3 innings or to throw more than 34 pitches.
In the end, Ausmus turned to Romine in the eighth inning as part of the preservation process.
“We were just trying to save arms,” Ausmus said. “Romine picked us up. It didn’t matter how he pitched; we were just hoping he’d get through three outs without an injury or without overextending himself.”
It mattered more that the Twins scored 20 runs than how they scored them. But the performance of one Minnesota player should be mentioned.
Shortstop Eduardo Escobar went 5-for-6, contributing a home run, triple and three singles. However, his erratic fielding (two errors and a third play that could have been called an error) played a big role in the Tigers getting back into the game — albeit briefly.
Out of it, into it, and way, way, way out was the ride they took on Friday — still heading in a direction that urgently needs to be reversed.