Tigers limp into break after losing to Jays
Toronto — They headed for the team charter to Detroit and to various points afterward, intent on enjoying a four-day break from baseball.
The Tigers needed one.
They lost again Sunday at Rogers Centre, scraping up but six hits in a 6-1 tumble that saw the Blue Jays bash Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez for five runs in four innings.
With the exception of Miguel Cabrera, who is headed for Tuesday’s All-Star Game at San Diego, the Tigers will take a breather as they mull a 46-43 record, and their second-place niche in the American League Central, 6½ games behind front-running Cleveland, a half-game in front of the White Sox and Royals.
The Tigers started an 11-game road trip smartly, winning four straight at Tampa Bay before losing two of three at Cleveland and three of four to the Blue Jays.
It was a common event for the Tigers during the season’s first half. They tended to beat up on middling competition but had their problems with more muscular teams.
The grind of a long season, not helped by injured starters and by pitching that too often wilted, appeared to catch up with the Tigers, and particularly with hitters such as Cabrera (3-for-16 in the Jays series), Victor Martinez (1-for-15), and Ian Kinsler (3-for-15).
“I think those guys are getting a little tired,” manager Brad Ausmus said on a day when 47,747 jammed Rogers Centre, powered by a Blue Jays team that seems headed in a different direction from the stop-and-start Tigers. “They could use a rest.”
The Tigers’ only run came in the fifth when Mike Aviles tripled against Jays starter R.A. Dickey and scored on a bounce-out to second base by James McCann.
On the plus side, he struck out six batters in a four-inning start.
On the downside, Sanchez had more issues, primarily with that old pitcher’s lament, command. He allowed eight hits, five Jays runs, and walked two. His biggest mistake Sunday: a 91-mph fastball that Josh Donaldson knocked beyond the left-center field wall for a three-run homer.
Sanchez, of course, was not the Tigers’ first choice Sunday. The start would have gone to one of the Tigers starters on July’s disabled list — Jordan Zimmermann or Daniel Norris.
For a 32-year-old pitcher whose ugly 2016 season has been tantamount to a nightmare, Sunday was simply another day for bewilderment.
“He left some pitches up,” Ausmus said afterward in what could be an epitaph for Sanchez’s first half, which has left him with a hideous 6.75 ERA. “He’s a guy who would probably have gotten some more swings and misses, but some of those pitches now are leaving the yard.
"He’s going to have to rely on his command and control.”
Sanchez is just as confused.
“I keep waiting for everything to turn around,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep my faith in God and get better location on my breaking ball — on everything, even my fastball. But I think I’m going to be fine in the second half.”
Tigers pitchers were swatted for 14 hits by the Jays. Kyle Ryan, who allowed three hits in two-thirds of an inning, was popped for the sixth Jays' run.
Right-hander Dustin Molleken pitched well in a stint that lasted 2⅔ innings: three hits, no runs, with three strikeouts as his fastball hit 96 — and even 97 mph.
Mark Lowe pitched a clean two-thirds of an inning as Ausmus’ fourth and final choice Sunday.
Ausmus will head for Cape Cod, Mass., during the All-Star respite, where he’ll relax with his wife, two daughters, father and sister.
Tigers players have plans that vary. Kinsler will remain in Birmingham or will seek some leisure at a lake. Justin Upton and his family will stick in Birmingham.
Tigers assistant general manager David Chadd, whose family lives in Wichita, Kan., was hoping to join his wife and kids in Kansas.
“But there aren’t a lot of easy flights from Toronto to Wichita,” Chadd said, with a pained smile.