Tigers offense still stuck in low gear
Detroit — On the plus side, if there was one for the Tigers Wednesday at Comerica Park, Justin Verlander pitched marvelously.
And a certain slugger named Miguel Cabrera had two hits, albeit singles.
Otherwise, there was more of the same in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, who despite having the worst record in the American League managed to take two of three games from a Detroit club that can’t seem to catch fire, particularly on offense.
“I don’t think we’re the only ones,” said Victor Martinez, one of the suddenly troubled Tigers hitters who was asked where the Tigers’ alleged hitting had gone. “Watch around the league.”
Martinez was 0-for-4, although one of his outs came in the eighth inning when, with two on and two gone, he drove a ball deep to left-center that could have busted up what then was a 1-1 game. It was snared in front of the fence, 400 feet away, and the Tigers were all but cooked.
Martinez is batting .150 in July, while Cabrera is at .200 for the month. Cabrera has not hit a home run since June 29 and has one extra-base hit, a double, since then.
“We squared up a few, but they just ran ’em down,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team outhit the Twins, 9-4, but couldn’t match Minnesota’s muscle.
The Twins got a home run from Joe Mauer in the first — one of two hits Verlander allowed in eight innings — then added two bombs in the ninth against, of all people, faithful closer Francisco Rodriguez, who had arrived with the score still knotted at 1.
Ian Kinsler owned the Tigers’ only run Wednesday. He had another of his specialties, a leadoff home run, which came on the first pitch from Twins starter Ervin Santana. It was Kinsler’s fourth leadoff homer of the season and 36th of his career.
But that was it for the Tigers despite chances in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.
“We hit the ball pretty good but just didn’t score any runs,” said Ausmus, whose team got four runs in three games against the less-than-intimidating Twins. “We’ll keep plugging away. There’s not much you can do. Ultimately, they’ve just got to come out of it (slump) on their own.”
He pitched eight innings and nearly was excused after a two-out walk in the eighth. Ausmus stepped to the mound and checked on his ace, Verlander, just to make sure all was well and the fuel supply was ample.
Of course it was.
“He just asked me if I was all right, and I said I was fine,” said Verlander, who hung on for one more batter, getting Mauer on a ground out that ended the eighth and a terrific piece of pitching by the Tigers starter: eight innings, two hits, nine strikeouts, two walks.
It was another sparkling stretch of pitching by Verlander and another no-decision as a 1-1 game gave way to three bullpen runs in the ninth and a 4-1 Twins victory.
“As the game went on I got better,” said Verlander, whose only run allowed came when Mauer slammed a homer to left-center in the first.
Verlander lowered his season ERA to 3.74.
Quite a stretch of baseball Francisco Rodriguez had stitched together entering Wednesday’s game: No runs in his last 10 appearances, and only five runs allowed in his last 29 games.
And then came Wednesday’s ninth inning.
After getting the first two batters, K-Rod tried to throw his change-up past Max Kepler, who instead battered it halfway up the right-field seats. Rodriguez’s fielding error on a topper in front of the plate put another batter aboard ahead of Eddie Rosario drilling a curveball beyond the right-center field scoreboard.
It was 4-1 and Rodriguez’s pristine pitching string was history.
“Everyone’s gonna have an off-day,” said Ausmus, who brought on Shane Greene to get the final Twins out.
Daniel Norris will make another rehabilitation start ahead of any move that might restore him to the Tigers rotation, which means, Ausmus confirmed Wednesday, that Anibal Sanchez will start Sunday against the White Sox in Chicago.
Jordan Zimmermann is also moving closer to a rehab start at some Tigers farm outpost. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday in Chicago ahead of possible deployment and a rehab tune-up in the Tigers system.