New York — It's not technically the low point of the season. It only feels like it.
The New York Yankees, after hitting three homers off Justin Verlander Friday night, whacked five more Saturday in a 14-3 romp over the listless Tigers.
After the game, manager Brad Ausmus cleared the clubhouse and held a brief team meeting.
"If I wanted you to know what it was about I would have invited you in," he said. "But I talked to the team. That's been done."
It was the Tigers' fourth loss in a row and their fifth in six games against the Yankees this season. They are at the .500 mark (34-34) for the second time this season — the last time was on June 5 after they lost eight straight. They are 6-1/2 games and eight losses behind the Royals in the AL Central and have just two fewer losses than fourth-place Cleveland.
"We have 90-some games left," Victor Martinez said. "Anything can happen. We need to play better baseball."
The last time they were this far out of first place was June of 2012 when they were six back. There is no panic, but the urgency needs to be heightened.
"We need something to get going," Martinez said. "If we keep playing like this, we're going nowhere. That is no secret. We are going nowhere. We have to go out and put better effort, have better at-bats and make better pitches. That's the only way we are going to win ballgames."
None of that happened Saturday.
Alfredo Simon, who had been the Tigers' most consistent starter, didn't make it through the third inning. He gave up home runs to Didi Gregorius and Carlos Beltran and was charged with seven runs.
Ian Krol came on and was greeted with a long three-run home run by Alex Rodriguez. An inning later, he gave up another to Beltran. It was the 12th time in Beltran's career that he's hit home runs left-handed and right-handed in the same game.
Brett Gardner, who had four hits Friday, nearly hit for the cycle by the fourth inning. He tripled in the first, doubled in the second and singled in the third. Alas, he hit into a double play in the fourth.
The Yankees pounded out 18 hits.
"It's just one of those blowout games that you have a handful of every year, just the timing of it is less than ideal," Ausmus said. "It's easier to handle a blowout if you've won a few in a row and then get blown out. After you lose a few in a row and get blown out, the bitterness is more biting."
The Tigers offense remains dormant. After being limited to two runs Friday, they were stymied on three hits over six innings by Nathan Eovaldi.
The Tigers pushed three runs across in the seventh after they were down 13-0. J.D. Martinez, who had hit the ball hard all series with only a single to show for it, doubled in one of the runs. James McCann singled in another. Rajai Davis' double started the inning.
Still, they have scored just 11 runs in the last 40 innings.
Asked if he thought the Tigers were grinding or competing enough at the plate, Ausmus said, after a pause, "At times."
The Tigers didn't seem to be in this one, mentally or physically, from the start. Gardner tripled in the first. With one out, Rodriguez hit a ground ball to Andrew Romine at third. Romine tried to throw home to get Gardner but his throw hit Gardner in the helmet.
Also in the first, McCann tried to throw behind Rodriguez at second base but Simon, unaware, tried to catch the throw and deflected it away. Later in the game, Ian Kinsler, though he had a long run, dropped a pop fly off the bat of Stephen Drew.
The score was 3-0 after two, still a manageable game, and Ausmus opted to leave a struggling Simon in to start the third. Beltran led off with a home run and the Yankees went on to score five times.
Why leave Simon in?
"He was always on the cusp of getting out of it with two outs," Ausmus said. Four of the five runs in the third came after two were out. "We also have a game (Sunday) and there's concern about the bullpen. There were multiple reasons."
Ausmus pulled Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes after the fifth.
Infielder Josh Wilson wound up pitching the eighth, the fourth time he's pitched in a major league game. He gave up a leadoff homer to Chris Young and an infield single to Brendan Ryan when he forgot to cover first on a ground ball to first. But he got a double play ball to end the inning.
"This is something we have been through before," Martinez said. "We never give up. It doesn't matter the situation, we never give up. There is a lot of season left. It's like everybody says, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. We have to keep our heads up and keep playing baseball."
Alex Avila, who is on the disabled list, sat in front of his locker afterward. Like Martinez and the other Tigers veterans, he's ridden this rollercoaster before.
"This game, it happens quick," he said. "One week you look like the worst team in baseball, the next week you are the hottest team in baseball. You just have to keep grinding, keep working every single day and it starts falling your way. You have to trust your talent."
As for the sense of urgency, Avila put it this way:
"Our season starts tomorrow, basically. We are .500. We can go one way or the other."