Tigers limp to break at .500 after beatdown by Twins

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Manager Brad Ausmus heads to the mound to pull Shane Greene on Sunday.

Minneapolis — Victor Martinez didn't mince words.

"Play better," he said, when asked what the Tigers need to do after the All-Star break to get back into the race. "Simple. Play better. Hit better, pitch better, play better defense. If there is going to be anything for us to win, especially another (division) championship, we have to play better. We can't win the way we are playing now."

There is no question about that.

The Tigers limp into the break on a three-game losing streak after a 7-1 loss to the Twins Sunday.

BOX SCORE: Twins 7, Tigers 1

The Tigers are once again a .500 team (44-44) and the distance between them and the top of the AL Central is vast. They will start the so-called second half 10 losses behind first-place Kansas City and four losses behind Minnesota.

"You can't focus on all that space in front of you, you have to focus on yourself," Martinez said. "We can't think about Kansas City when we are behind somebody else. We have to take care of ourselves."

Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski was asked before the game if the Tigers needed to get another proven starter at the trade deadline. He refused to speculate on what the plans were, but he did offer this:

"Let's see how Shane Greene pitches today," he said. "We like Greene a lot. He pitched well early, didn't pitch well after that but it looks like he got back on track in Toledo. We do like him. Let's see what he does."

Well, if Sunday was an audition for Greene, in terms of remaining in the Tigers rotation after the All-Star break, it went poorly.

Greene, in his first start after a five-game stint at Triple A Toledo, couldn't survive the fifth inning

"I felt really good, but I couldn't avoid the big inning," Greene said. "I made some mistakes and I paid for them."

Greene lasted 4.2 innings. He gave up seven runs and seven hits, including home runs to Miguel Sano and Trevor Plouffe and triples to Eddie Rosario and Danny Santana.

He didn't look appreciably different than he did before he was sent down. His fastball, which was averaging 94 mph in his first few starts of the season, was registering mostly between 90-92, though he did hit 93 a few times.

His fastball velocity has been down since he suffered a pinched nerve in his arm on May 15.

"A couple times I couldn't put guys away when I was ahead in the count (Sano hit an 0-2 hanging off-speed pitch), and a couple of times I fell behind early and they put good swings on them," Greene said.

Again, Dombrowski wouldn't tip his hand as to what, if anything, he'd be looking to acquire at the trade deadline, but the back end of the Tigers rotation is a mess right now. Greene and Alfredo Simon have both allowed four-plus runs in five straight starts.

The Tigers are the only team in the major leagues with the distinction of having that streak of futility with two starters.

"It's tough when you are in a hole early like we've been the last two games," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I think Simon is going to be fine. But we need somebody to step up in the No. 5 spot."

The Tigers have played long stretches without some of their best players — Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Alex Avila and presently Miguel Cabrera. But even with those injuries, the Tigers are bewildered about being a .500 team at the break.

"You never know what's going to happen," Martinez said. "I learned pretty early in my career to take nothing for granted. These kinds of things can happen to every team, it doesn't matter if you have all superstars on the team.

"You still have to go out and play the game and execute. Right now, I guess we are having the break at the right time. We just need to catch our breath, recharge the batteries and come back ready to finish strong."

Ausmus believes there is plenty of fight left in this team.

"I feel like we should have played a lot better," he said. "But I think we will play really good baseball after the break. I've said it before, over 162 games, good teams end up with good records. I firmly believe this is a good team."

Twitter @cmccosky