Listless Tigers shut out by Angels

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Anaheim, Calif. — They again went quietly, almost meekly, this Tigers team that was supposed to be loaded with stars whose bats were like billy clubs.

But that's a reputation under review after the Tigers Friday lost another game in which their offense was AWOL, this time dissolving, 2-0, against the Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

"Nothing's really happening," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who has tried everything legal that might coax his team out of its funk. "We're struggling to score runs, and there's no secret solution."

The Tigers got five hits in Thursday's series-opening disaster against the Angels, a 12-2 wipeout. Friday they followed with four more.

Four hits. Zero runs. And now another losing streak (two games) from a Tigers team that in six of its past seven games has scored 2, 0, 1, 3, 2, and 0 runs.

BOX SCORE: Angels 2, Tigers 0

Rajai Davis, who was so intent on changing the Tigers' mojo that he tried stealing third base — and failed — in the sixth, said he and his teammates are fresh out of answers for why a lineup so regularly falls flat.

"I'd make a lot of money if I did," Davis said when asked if he or his cohorts had any theories. "I don't know what it is, I don't know what it could be."

The Tigers tried mightily a couple of times Friday to change the script.

In the seventh, with a man on base, J.D. Martinez hit a moon shot so deep to left-center field Kirk Niewenhuis was pressed against the wall as he reached high and hauled in what was within a foot or two of tying the game.

"Seems like when we hit one on the screws, it's caught," Martinez said, explaining that he knew his home-run bid likely was dead even as it arced high and deep toward the 390-foot mark.

"Here, you've got to hit 'em, especially at night," he said, speaking of California's heavy coastal air.

Another door opened in the eighth, after the Tigers had whacked back-to-back one-out singles by Jose Iglesias and Rajai Davis — their third and fourth hits of the night.

Ian Kinsler moved both runners ahead with a ground-out to first, ensuring that Miguel Cabrera would draw a two-out intentional walk to load the bases for Yoenis Cespedes.

But in another sign that the Tigers need to get square with baseball's gods, Cespedes went down swinging against Huston Street, who was the second reliever Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought on in the eighth once starter Hector Santiago had been excused.

Otherwise, more of the same for a Tigers team that has all but stopped scaring anyone at the plate

They didn't get their first hit until the fifth, when Martinez drove a single to center.

Cabrera got hit No. 2, a single leading off the seventh, and would have scored had Martinez's bomb to left-center had a couple of more feet on its flight plan.

Cabrera's seventh-inning at-bat arrived when he was denied an at-bat — or another intentional walk — in the sixth, all because of Davis' aggression.

Davis had drawn a one-out walk and then stole second during No. 2 hitter Ian Kinsler's at-bat. Perhaps aware that Kinsler, as well as his team, have been in an awful slide of late, Davis decided to try to swipe third.

But he was thrown out by Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, and there went the man whom the Tigers were hoping to bring home in a game the Angels then led, 1-0.

"He (Iannetta) made a great throw," said Davis, who had been safe on 90 of 99 career attempts at stealing third. "It was a tough play. He might have made it look easy, but it was a great throw."

Ausmus, who has been trying to run his team into rallies the Tigers haven't otherwise been crafting, was fine with Davis' plan.

"We've got to find a way to score," he said, a bit heatedly. "We're not getting hits. We've got to try something."

The Angels decided if the Tigers weren't going to score, they would.

Albert Pujols, 24 hours removed from a home run in the series opener, this time bored into an Anibal Sanchez change-up and drove it well beyond the fence in left for a 2-0 Angels lead.

Sanchez had been pitching well until the Pujols blast, getting nicked for a run in the fourth when, with the bases loaded, Ian Kinsler dropped what easily could have been a double-play grounder from the bat of Matt Joyce.

Sanchez could relate to all the Tigers pitchers of late who've wondered what happened to those old bashing brothers who so often arrived for the rescue.

Sanchez went seven innings, allowed six hits and the two runs, and once again had a cupboard full of strikeouts: nine.

It was a solid pitching effort, the kind big league teams crave when their hitters are expected to score at least a handful of runs.

But the Tigers batters aren't getting handfuls of anything these days, except, perhaps, questions on why they've stopped being the Tigers of old.