Sweep by Angels compounds Tigers' misery
Anaheim, Calif. — It's southern California and the Tigers know what that means on the American League schedule.
Here comes a frightful trek to Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The Angels' lair. Their playpen. Their torture chamber in which they coax the Tigers to think, for a moment, they might actually win a baseball game at this death trap that for so long has done in Detroit.
It happened again Sunday night, with an ESPN audience witnessing just how sadistic the not-so-angelic Angels can be to their Motown visitors as they scored a pair of runs in the eighth to do in the Tigers, 4-2, and of course sweep their four-game series.
"It was bad," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said as he surveyed the weekend's wreckage. "You lose four games in a four-game series and it's always bad."
It made no difference that the Tigers twice led, 1-0 and 2-1. Nor did it bother the Angels that staff ace David Price, one of baseball's more imposing artists, was working on behalf of the Tigers.
The Angels won, giving them a 47-16 record over the Tigers since 2001, and running their scorecard to 17-3 against Detroit in their last 20 games.
Price was allowed to pitch the eighth, all because he was at a manageable 99 pitches after seven.
But there was trouble just as quickly as he walked leadoff batter David Freese. Chris Iannetta's bounding chopper to third, an infield single, created more turmoil. They were sacrificed to third base and second on a pretty bunt by Kole Calhoun.
After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Alfredo Marte nearly rescued Detroit when he popped up a 3-1 pitch.
But the reprieve ended when Price was dismissed for Joba Chamberlain, after 121 pitches, and Johnny Giavotella slapped a slider through the middle that Ian Kinsler fielded just a few feet past the infield dirt. Kinsler flipped to Jose Iglesias at second, hoping to force the runner, Grant Green, at second.
The throw wasn't in time. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, pinch running for Freese, scored from third and, as Iglesias stretched to keep his foot on second, Iannetta scored to make it 4-2.
"A weak ball off the end of the bat that barely leaves the field, perfectly placed," Ausmus said, retracing another of a week's bitter scenes.
Even if the Tigers bullpen has behaved itself the past month, Ausmus wasn't taking chances with Price at 99 pitches and a tough eighth inning ahead.
He chose to keep him in the game, even after the leadoff walk to Freese. It looked like winning strategy, particularly after Price got Marte to pop up the 3-1 pitch to Miguel Cabrera.
But he wasn't going to be pushed past pitch No. 121.
"I don't know how he could have kept going," Ausmus said. "I'm sure he would have told me he could, but I thought he was done."
Price said afterward he was fine as he worked the eighth. He also said the Tigers were indeed "going through a stretch of baseball" that isn't to be recommended.
"We know we're a better team," Price said. "Everybody in here knows that."
Of course, all the should-haves, could-haves that became part of the Ausmus-Price focus wouldn't have been pivotal had the Tigers put a few runs on the board.
As has been their habit of late, a team couldn't coordinate hitting and pitching Sunday. And that led to a seventh loss in their last nine games.
Sunday, the Tigers amassed all of five hits. All but Tyler Collins' double were singles. And that's really no way to beat anybody, let alone a team that at home dares — dares — the Tigers to win a game.
Neither is it a recipe for escaping third place in the American League Central. Nor is it making an early case for Detroit's postseason profile, at least until some important people (Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, etc.) return.
"We've got to find a way to score runs" Ausmus said. "That's it. We've got to find a way to score runs."
Preferably, earned runs. The Tigers managed only one of those Sunday, in the second inning, on a single from J.D. Martinez, Collins' double, and James McCann's sacrifice fly. They got an unearned run in the sixth, when Giavotella's throwing error allowed Cabrera to score.
The Tigers are now 28-24 and fading like a sun that disappeared Sunday over the Pacific. Fittingly, it was in plain sight of all who had gathered at Angel Stadium for an annual funeral rite known as burying the Tigers.