Tigers bats fairly silent in loss to Rays
St. Petersburg, Fla. — This is no way to stave off July's summer shoppers, this stretch of baseball the Tigers are putting together ahead of Friday's trade deadline.
Although their front-office chief, Dave Dombrowski, insisted earlier Monday the Tigers are determined to "qualify for the postseason," the Tigers continued to look like anything but a playoff-grade team as they were conked by the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2, Monday night at Tropicana Field.
The Tigers are 48-51 heading into their 100th game of the season Tuesday at Tropicana. They are 12-1/2 games behind first-place Kansas City. They are 4-1/2 games behind one of their wild-card playoff targets, the Twins.
They also were part of the longest delay in memory ahead of the postgame clubhouse being opened to media. What is required to be no more than a 10-minute wait approached 25 minutes.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus gave no explanation for the overtime lockout. And he didn't appreciate suggestions his team might be conceding the 2015 season.
"I'm not throwing in the towel, and they aren't either," Ausmus said, responding to a question about the Tigers and possible white flags.
Alex Avila had similar thoughts when asked about a team that needed a July burst and instead is 4-7 since the All-Star break.
"Obviously, it's a different position than we're used to," said Avila, who has been part of Tigers rosters that have won the past four division titles. "You'd like to say that every single year you'll be in first place. But this year's one where we'll have to dig a little deeper."
The Rays had not scored more than four runs against any team in their last 16 games. But the Tigers have been charitable of late and Tampa Bay's troubles disappeared Monday, with big help coming from a onetime Tigers prospect.
Curt Casali, a catcher who was dealt to the Rays in a 2013 trade for pitcher Kyle Lobstein, walloped a pair of home runs beyond Tropicana's left-field wall.
Casali's second homer was a two-run blast in the eighth. It came on a 98-mph, 2-and-0 fastball against Bruce Rondon and turned a tight 3-2 game the Tigers might have had ideas of winning into a 5-2 affair that pretty much buried the men from Motown.
The Tigers managed only two runs on five hits, with Yoenis Cespedes delivering both courtesy of a an RBI single and a mammoth seventh-inning blast into the left-field runway, his 16th homer of the season.
Those runs came back-to-back, in the seventh and eighth, after the Rays had taken a 3-0 lead. Rondon's slip-up against Casali, which followed a leadoff walk, left the Tigers in a three-run hole they didn't much contest in a hitless ninth against Rays closer Brad Boxberger.
The Rays, meanwhile, decided if the Tigers consider themselves a potential playoff team, then all the more reason to beat the visitors.
The Tigers weren't impressing many people Monday. They continued their peek-a-boo ways, playing the role of contender even if their 48-51 record implies they might be something quite different.
Other than Cespedes' single and long-range rocket beyond the bleacher seats in left, they got only three more hits — a pair of singles from Victor Martinez and another from Ian Kinsler.
That wasn't going to do it on a night Anibal Sanchez was, well, the Anibal Sanchez who on certain nights is something of an elevator operator, cruising up and down, from penthouse to lobby.
On the plus side, Sanchez had six strikeouts in 5-1/3 innings and threw his share of quality pitches. But he had another of those confounding evenings when location doesn't quite click and too many pitches get tattooed.
"He was pretty wild tonight," Avila said.
"He was behind in the count quite a bit," Ausmus said. "His pitch count was way up (plus-80 in the fourth). You're not going to have your best stuff every night. But he battled and kept us in the game."
Sanchez's first wounds arrived courtesy of Casali, who autographed a third-inning slider and sent it soaring into the left-field seats to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
They got another run in the fourth on a double and bloop single, and added a third on three fifth-inning singles.
The Tigers could have written a different ending, thanks to those late-inning scoring frames when they might have done better.
In the seventh, after Cespedes had attempted to knock the left-field bleachers from their moorings, they put a pair of runners aboard following a single, a fielder's choice force-out, and a two-out walk to Alex Avila.
Jose Iglesias and his .300-plus batting average seemed like a good fit, but he hit a high fly-out to left and the Rays escaped.
In the eighth, Kinsler swatted a two-out hit and moved to second on a wild pitch. He scored on Cespedes' hot single to center, bringing to bat Martinez, who already had a pair of hits.
But on a 3-2 pitch, a 97-mph fastball, Jake McGee got Martinez to foul-tip a third strike.
The Tigers will try again Tuesday to regain their playoff-chasing credentials. David Price will start for the Tigers, three days before the trade deadline's closing bell rings.
What transpires between now and then no doubt depends upon the standings — and the degree to which Dombrowski's phone brings interesting thoughts from fellow GMs.