Anaheim, Calif. — Third straight loss to a struggling team with a sub-.500 record. Another stretch of impotent offense. And another stellar performance by a starting pitcher blown up in one meltdown inning.
“It’s frustrating,” catcher James McCann said in the aftermath of a dispiriting, 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels Monday night. “Regardless of what you’ve gone through this year. When you have a guy pitch like he did and as an offense you can’t muster anything for him — yeah, it’s frustrating.”
Justin Verlander and Angels starter Jhoulys Chacin were locked into an unrelenti
ng pitchers’ duel — both piling up feeble swings and weak contact and putting zeros on the board through seven innings.
They each set down the first 12 hitters they faced. For four innings, 24 batters, it was dueling perfection. They were one inning, six outs, from tying the record to 30 straight hitters retired set July 28, 1991, by the Expos and Dodgers — Dennis Martinez (who threw a perfect game) and Mike Morgan.
But the Angels, limited to one measly single through seven innings, broke open a scoreless game with five runs in the eighth.
“It’s tough, tough for everybody,” said Verlander. “Obviously you want to do all you can to help your team win. I’m frustrated, whether I pitch well or not. When your team doesn’t win, it’s frustrating.
“I’m not going to get caught up in the personal things. Just go out and pitch as well as I can. The rest is out of my control. I take pride in giving my team a chance to win night in and night out.”
Verlander allowed only a fifth inning single to C.J. Cron through seven innings. He struck out seven with no walks. The Tigers, meanwhile, didn’t get their first hit off Chacin until a two-out single by Andrew Romine in the sixth.
While the Angels didn’t get a runner to second base, the Tigers stranded runners at third base in the sixth and seventh.
Then came the eighth.
Johnny Giavotella, Rafael Ortega and Cliff Pennington opened the eighth with three straight singles off Verlander. Ortega showed bunt on the first pitch, then slapped the second pitch, a center-cut fastball, for a single.
“They did a good job,” Verlander said. “(Manager Mike) Scioscia called the bunt then had him swing away. I had a feeling they might be doing that, but I still didn’t execute the fastball, either way. If I know he's swinging, then I can't throw a fastball there. I'm kicking myself for that one.”
Pennington lashed a 0-2 fastball clocked at 95 mph into left field to score the first run of the game.
Then the implosion.
With runners on second and third with one out, Gregorio Petit, after barely staying alive on a two-strike foul ball, hit a liner up the middle against a drawn-in infield. Shortstop Romine made a sensational play to dive and snag the ball. His throw home was late to get Ortega.
But catcher James McCann tried to hurry a throw to first base. The throw was into the runner’s feet and Miguel Cabrera couldn’t make a play on it. The ball wound up going into right field. Two runs scored.
“Really, Mac’s got to hold the ball if he doesn’t have a clear lane to throw,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
Said McCann: “Yeah, hold on to it or make a good throw. If I put it on Miggy’s chest and that guy is out. Obviously, hindsight is 20-20. I didn’t make a good throw. But if I did, that’s an out and maybe we’re talking about a two- or three-run deficit instead of a five-run deficit.”
The error was the first error of McCann’s career in his 140th game. The 139 game errorless streak to start a career is a major league record.
“I hope I have a long enough career to make at least one more error,” McCann said.
That was it for Verlander. Albert Pujols and Cron ripped RBI singles off Buck Farmer, as the Angels batted around in the five-run eighth.
The Tigers scored their run in the ninth. Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly scored J.D. Martinez, who had doubled.
But it was, again, far too little from an offense as productive as the Tigers are capable of being.
“When we don’t do anything offensively, it seems like it’s a lineup epidemic,” Ausmus said. “When we do hit, everyone pitches in. … It seems like everyone hits at the same time or struggles at the same time.”
Chacin in his last two starts had been tagged for seven runs, 11 hits and five walks in 10 1/3 innings. But against the Tigers he didn’t allow a baserunner until Romine slapped a two-out single to left in the sixth inning.
Ian Kinsler followed with a blooper to center that sent Romine to third. But Chacin struck out J.D. Martinez on a 2-2 off-speed pitch to end the threat.
The Tigers threatened again in the seventh. Cabrera singled and went to second on a balk. But Victor Martinez popped to shortstop and failed to move him to third. The Angels walked Nick Castellanos intentionally.
Chacin then got Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin to ground out to second.
“There’s no answer for it,” McCann said of the inconsistent offense. “You look at this lineup on paper and it’s an extremely good lineup. I don’t have any words for it. If there was a magic button I could press to make it all click, I’d be doing it.”
This was the fifth straight strong start from Verlander, but the Tigers only managed to win two of them.