Detroit – Statistically, the Tigers are the best offensive team in the American League. They have a higher team batting average and have scored more runs than A.L. Central-leading Kansas City.
But, as witnessed this weekend and throughout this frustrating season, none of those statistics are producing victories.
“In baseball you always want to find a reason to explain something,” manager Brad Ausmus said after the Tigers lost to the Rangers 4-2 Sunday. “Sometimes there’s no reason. It’s just the way it is.”
The Tigers followed up a semi-encouraging three-game winning streak by dropping three straight to the Rangers, one of the teams they are trying to catch for the second wild-card spot.
“It just stinks that the days when we get good pitching we can’t seem to manufacture enough runs,” Nick Castellanos said.
The Tigers were shutout 2-0 on Friday, were losing 5-0 Saturday until Ian Kinsler’s two-out, three-run homer in the ninth Saturday and scratched out just two runs off Cole Hamels Sunday.
“When teams struggle, they either don’t get hits or they scatter hits, and when you have an opportunity for a big inning you don’t get the big hit,” Ausmus said. “Today we got some hits, but not the big hit to put up a crooked number or sustain a rally.”
They had plenty of traffic on the bases against Hamels, but most of it between first and third base. They stranded eight runners in the first six innings, four of them in scoring position.
The first run came in the first. Kinsler scored from first base on a single to right by Miguel Cabrera after Shin-Soo Choo’s throw to third sailed into the Tigers dugout.
In the fourth, James McCann tripled and scored on a single by Jose Iglesias. It was McCann’s fourth triple this season.
But that was it. Thirteen of the last 14 Tigers were dispatched by three Rangers’ relievers – Keone Kela, Sam Dyson and closer Shawn Tolleson.
“It’s a tough game,” McCann said. “The toughest thing to do in all of sports is to hit. It’s not an easy thing. No doubt we need to have better at-bats in big situations.”
Rookie left-hander Matt Boyd was cruising through five innings. The only blemish was a home run by catcher Chris Gimenez in the third. But his margin for error was small.
“It just came down to executing pitches,” Boyd said. “You need to focus on one pitch at a time and I just didn’t do that. Unfortunately, they were a few pitches better than me today.”
Leading 2-1 in the sixth, Boyd hit leadoff hitter Choo on a 1-2 pitch and Elvis Andrus followed with a bunt single. Boyd got ahead of left-handed hitting Mitch Moreland 1-2, but he left a slider over the plate. Moreland smacked it down the line in right for a two-run double.
“There’s two that I’d like to have back -- the one-two pitch to Choo and the 1-2 to Moreland,” Boyd said. “It was the right pitch. Mac (McCann) called a good game. I just didn’t get it down. Didn’t throw it where I wanted to and it cost us the game.”
The Rangers added another run in the eighth. Mike Napoli hit a home run off reliever Bruce Hardy. Hardy hadn’t allowed a home run since June 27, 2014 – 84.2 innings, which was the longest streak of homer-less innings in the Major Leagues.
It was just the second career home run allowed by Hardy.
“You look at the numbers, and we’re tops in the league in hitting, slugging percentage is good, OPS is good -- I mean, pretty much every statistic could stand on its own and it looks good against the competition,” Ausmus said. “But for whatever reason, we can’t seem to get that fly ball with a runner on third, at times, or that double with runners on first and second, at times. It happens.
“But other than the occasional double play, and the inopportune strikeout, I couldn’t tell you why it’s happened like that.”