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Tigers shelled by Red Sox as struggle continues

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Boston — Still no traction.

The Tigers haven’t won two games in a row in 17 days. They’ve won two games in a row just twice this month. They’ve won three in a row twice since March 23. They haven’t won four in a row since starting the season 6-0.

Since the All-Star break they lost a series to the Orioles, split with the downtrodden Mariners and, after getting drubbed 11-1 Sunday night, lost two of three to a Red Sox team that was 12 games under .500 and had lost eight straight.

“For 140 years they’ve been saying pitching and defense wins baseball games,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “When you are giving up this many runs, it’s hard to win.”

The Tigers have allowed 129 runs this month, by far the most in the American League. The Red Sox had scored 16 runs in their previous nine games — they rang up 11 runs and 20 hits Sunday.

“It’s frustrating, for sure,” catcher James McCann said. “But if the pitchers give up 11 runs, the offense better put up 12. If the offense can only put up two runs, then the pitchers have to give up one run. It’s a team game and you don’t point fingers.

“We only put up three hits. Three hits and one run isn’t going to win a lot of baseball games.”

BOX SCORE: Red Sox 11, Tigers 1

Had they been able to win Sunday, the Tigers would have trimmed the distance behind the Twins and the last wild-card spot to three games. Never had a fighting chance.

Shane Greene, in what could be his final start for the Tigers this season, was shelled for five runs and 11 hits in 4-1/3 innings. He worked out of trouble in the first three innings, inducing seven ground ball outs, but the only ground ball he got after that was a sacrifice bunt. He gave up one run in the fourth and four in the fifth.

“What changed?” Greene said, repeating the question. “Nothing changed. I made a mistake to one of the best left-handed hitters in the game and I paid for it."

David Ortiz hit a long, three-run home run to right field in the fourth. He would add a long, three-run blast off Neftali Feliz in the seventh and knock in a career-best seven runs.

“He started leaving balls up and they took advantage of it,” McCann said of Greene. “Early on he was down in the zone and making pitches. In that inning his stuff started leaking out over the middle of the plate and elevated. Good hitters take advantage of that.”

Greene seemed to be laboring, even through the first three innings. His velocity was down. His four-seam fastball was barely hitting 90 mph. His cutter was effective early, but by the fourth inning the Red Sox were hitting it hard.

He also seemed to be shaking his arm out after just about every pitch and taking a long time between pitches. He was asked afterward if he was experiencing any physical discomfort.

"No,” he said. “I was bouncing my shoulders. I wasn't really shaking my arm. I was just trying to get myself to relax.”

As for the velocity decrease?

“Going into this game I thought my last few starts I was overthrowing,” he said. “So going into this one I told myself to take it a couple of gears down and try to make my pitches."

The Tigers have a decision to make in terms of whether or not Greene will stay in the rotation. In his last seven starts, Greene has allowed 37 earned runs. Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones indicated this was a pivotal start for Greene.

“That’s something we will decide outside of your (media) participation,” Ausmus said.

The problem is, and has been, who do the Tigers have to replace him? Lefty Kyle Ryan was recalled from Toledo — partly to add a fresh arm for the bullpen, but also potentially to step in if Greene faltered.

Ryan didn’t do much to curry favor. He stopped the bleeding in the fifth, but got attacked himself in the sixth. He gave up three runs on five singles.

“There’s just not much to say,” Ausmus said. “They beat the crap out of us. We didn’t pitch. We didn’t hit. That’s a recipe for a loss.”

The Tigers run came on a 425-foot home run by Nick Castellanos.