Anaheim, Calif. — On a night their starting pitcher was part of some hideous history, the Tigers tried to craft some happier headlines.
After their starter, Shane Greene, became the first pitcher in 101 years to allow five home runs in fewer than three innings, the Tigers crept back from a 7-1 hole before losing, 8-6, to the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
That's three consecutive losses for a Tigers team that now rests at 28-23, three games behind the Royals, and 2-1/2 to the rear of second-place Minnesota.
"I thought we were gonna tie it up," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team out-hit the Angels, 13-9, and scalded at least a half-dozen other pitches as their hitting hiatus might, finally, have ended. "I really did, I felt like we'd tie it up, just the way we were hitting the ball."
The problem, of course, was Greene's historically ugly start, and the 7-1 hole in which it dumped the Tigers two outs into the second.
Greene's fastballs were so hitting-zone happy he was tattooed for two quick bombs in the first by Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun that put the Angels on top, 2-0.
Yoenis Cespedes got one back for the Tigers in the second when he rocketed a Jered Weaver pitch over the left-field fence. But in the Angels half of the second, Greene became part of some dark Tigers lore as the third Tigers pitcher to allow five home runs in a game, joining Don Mossi (1961) and Jeff Weaver, Jared's brother, who did it in 1999.
One-time Tigers property Matt Joyce opened with a drive over the center-field wall, a feat matched a batter later by Carlos Perez. An infield single, and two Angels outs, followed by a walk, teed up another Greene fastball that Albert Pujols sent a mile or so beyond the left-field barrier.
"Sometimes there are pop-ups, and sometimes there are home runs — tonight they were home runs," Greene said as he did the postmortem on a game that saw his ERA soar from 4.27 to 5.19.
"Homers are going to happen, but I've got to do a better job of separating those."
Ausmus take on Greene's gruesome night:
"Just up in the middle," the skipper said of Greene's fastball location. "He's a sinker-baller who generally keeps the ball low and in the park. Today wasn't the case."
Ausmus acknowledged that he might have yanked Greene earlier. But other realities applied Saturday, beginning with a bullpen that has been working overtime.
"I don't want to say we were short in the bullpen," he explained, "but we were running low on fuel. I was just hoping Greenie could get through there and maybe go another few innings."
In fact, ahead of Pujols' blast, Greene had put away back-to-back Angels on a strikeout and fly to center. But he walked Trout ahead of Pujols finishing matters for Greene and pretty much for the Tigers.
They made a contest of it, a surprisingly entertaining one, thanks to Alex Wilson (he put away 11 consecutive Angels batters) and his friends in the Tigers bullpen, and also to the credit of a batting order that might finally have shaken its May virus.
Following the homer by Cespedes, the Tigers scored in the third on Miguel Cabrera's RBI double, and again in the fourth on a double by Martinez, a Tyler Collins single, and Nick Castellanos' sacrifice fly.
They got two more in the eighth on a Cespedes single, Martinez's second double of the night, an RBI grounder by Tyler Collins, and a follow-up double from James McCann.
Ian Kinsler's first homer of the season, a bomb to left-center against Angels reliever Huston Street, came with two out in the ninth to end matters at 8-6.
Martinez, who has just missed a handful of home runs during the past week, said he wasn't surprised by Saturday's fireworks.
"My buddy (a California native) told me before the game to watch out, the ball was going to be flying tonight," Martinez recounted.
"I said, 'What?' And he said, yeah, that the marine layer (ocean air along the California coast) had burned off.
"And all of a sudden, there are balls flying out of here."
Wilson, whose ERA is now 1.71, starred in relief on a night the once-indicted Tigers bullpen continued its steadily effective work.
Blaine Hardy and Al Alburquerque finished off what stood to be a shutout for the relievers until Alburquerque was clipped for a run in the eighth.
The Tigers will try tonight to win at least one of their four games against the Angels, with David Price hoping for a far better experience than Greene endured Saturday.
Of course, comebacks against the Angels are always rough in Anaheim, where the home team has now assaulted the Tigers to the tune of a 46-16 record since 2001.