Tigers point finger of blame inward
Baltimore – When you are losing games at the rate the Tigers are, you hear a lot of noise, a lot of external noise and it grates like static.
It’s 11 losses in 12 games now after the Orioles put a 9-3 hurt on them. They erupted for four home runs, two by Jonathan Schoop including a grand slam, and scored nine runs in the final three innings.
“It’s one of those things, like, whatever can go wrong is going wrong,” said J.D. Martinez. “You want to put it behind you but it’s hard. You get to the point in the dugout where you’re going, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’ But in the back of your mind it’s like, ‘All right, make sure nothing goes wrong.’
“You want everything to go smoothly then the minute something goes wrong, you are like, ‘Oh, crap, here we go again.’”
With every loss comes daily speculation about manager Brad Ausmus’ job security. His public approval rating may be at an all-time low, but the players were quick to have his back.
“The manager’s not the one who plays,” James McCann said. “It’s the players. The manager is not throwing balls over the plate. He’s not the one fielding. He’s not the one hitting it. There is only so much blame you can throw that way.
“We are not hitting good enough. We’re not pitching good enough. Bottom line…Right now we’re not putting it all together. I wouldn’t put any blame on the coaching staff or Brad as the manager. Put it back on the players.”
Martinez said he never understood, even when rumors were swirling around Ausmus last season, why the first bullets seem to be fired at the manager when a team struggles.
“We’re not out there questioning his decisions,” Martinez said. “I think it’s more on us than anyone else. We’re the ones out there playing. We’re the ones not hitting. We’re the ones not scoring runs or not getting guys out.
“He can come in here and try to hooray us all he can. But we have to find it within ourselves to get the job done.”
Ian Kinsler, when asked about the fairness of Ausmus taking the blame for this skid, stayed pragmatic.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” he said. “I’m worried about winning a game. We’ve lost 11 of 12. So, I am not concerned about that. I am focused on winning tomorrow. That’s all the worries I have. We need to win a game.”
The ‘Oh crap, here we go again” moment that Martinez spoke of came in the sixth inning Saturday night.
After 17 scoreless innings going back to Thursday, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run home run in the top half of the inning to stake the Tigers and Anibal Sanchez to a 2-0 lead Saturday night.
Sanchez, who had pitched five scoreless, two-hit innings, gave it right back, plus one, in the bottom of the sixth.
He gave up a one-out double to Adam Jones then got Chris Davis to fly out to right for the second out.
Mark Trumbo then hit a line drive to left field. Steven Moya, who played exclusively in right field at Toledo this season, seemed to freeze on it and couldn’t recover. Trumbo had an RBI double.
“It’s a tough play,” Ausmus said. “That ball was scalded right at him. It’s a play that gets made sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. I wouldn’t call it a misplay. It was hit hard and he hasn’t played a ton of left field.”
Matt Wieters, the next hitter, hit a 3-2 sinker over the wall in right-center field to put the Orioles up 3-2.
Sudden blowups, it’s been a familiar pattern for Sanchez. Two starts ago against the Indians he sandwiched five no-hit innings around a four-run fourth. In his last start against the Nationals, he gave up a pivotal two-run home run to Daniel Murphy in the sixth.
“It’s almost like the sixth inning is a wall he’s hitting,” Ausmus said. “But his pitch count was down (58). He wasn’t tired. His strength was good. His velocity was good. There was no sign of deterioration.”
But, he didn’t get another out. He gave up a leadoff homer to Schoop in the seventh before departing.
The Tigers cut it to 4-3 in the eighth off reliever Brad Brach. Kinsler doubled and scored on a two-single by Victor Martinez.
But the Orioles put a pounding on the Tigers bullpen and blew it open.
Adam Jones homered off Drew VerHagen. VerHagen put another two runners on before getting the hook in the eighth. Mark Lowe came on, loaded the bases and gave up a grand slam home run to Schoop.
Lowe has allowed three home runs and two grand slams in his last four outings.
“Of course you hear stuff,” McCann said of the external noise regarding Ausmus. “But I will keep emphasizing, no one’s expectations are higher for this team than those of the guys in this clubhouse. You can see it on the guys’ faces after stuff happens — it’s mind-boggling.
“It’s something we have to battle through. You get knocked down, you have to find a way to get back up.”