Flailing Tigers strand nine, lose finale to Twins
Detroit — Miguel Cabrera wants Tigers fans to stay positive.
Never mind the Tigers, in position to get back to the postseason after a one-year hiatus, looked at times like they sleepwalked through a four-game split with the lowly Twins.
Never mind Hector Santiago was the latest mediocre, soft-tossing starting pitcher to shut down a supposedly loaded lineup.
Never mind that Detroit went 3-4 on its homestand.
And never mind the AL Central-leading Indians — 11-1 against the Tigers this season — are up next, throwing three certifiable gunslingers the next three days.
Cabrera couldn’t even heed his own advice Thursday, when in the fifth inning he smashed a ball he could have sworn would be a three-run home run to get the Tigers back in the game. It settled harmlessly in center fielder Byron Buxton's glove at the wall in left-center, leaving Cabrera to throw up his arms in disgust.
That was one of several close calls for the Tigers, who came up short on every one and lost 5-1, wasting another shot to draw closer in the wild-card race.
“We’re in a situation where we need to just try and win every single game,” said manager Brad Ausmus, whose Tigers have 16 games remaining. “Whether it’s the Twins, or the ’27 Yankees.”
The loss leaves the Tigers six games behind the Indians — who lost to the White Sox on Thursday — in the Central, and 1 1/2 games, and tied with the Mariners, behind the Blue Jays for the second wild card.
While it’s not over — the Tigers get the Indians seven more times, the Twins six and the Braves three — the margin for error is slim.
“We had an opportunity, and it passed us by,” Ian Kinsler said. “Gotta get ready for Cleveland. ... They’re the team that’s ahead of us. We need to win every game.”
Thursday, that wasn't the case.
Mike Pelfrey, making his first appearance since July 31, started with a nifty 1-2-3 first inning. But he didn’t survive the second.
The Twins opened with four consecutive hits to score two. Then, with first base open, two outs and two on, the Tigers opted to pitch to Brian Dozier, who lined a two-run single to left to make it 4-0.
And that was all for Pelfrey (4-10).
Asked why he didn’t walk Dozier — the most consistent Twins hitter and biggest threat — Ausmus said he didn’t want the next better, Jorge Polanco, batting right-handed with the bases loaded with Blaine Hardy set to enter the game.
“Generally, you don’t want the main guy to beat you,” Ausmus said. “That early in the game, I’m not overly concerned about it. He grounds out to third, you don’t even ask the question.”
Pelfrey fell behind Dozier 2-0 on two sliders, then got him to chase a splitter and fastball to get even.
He then left a splitter over the plate, and Dozier drove it to left to make it 4-0.
“Maybe I should’ve been a little more careful and walked him,” said Pelfrey, whose ERA is at 5.00. “Obviously 4-0 compared to 2-0 is obviously a bigger deficit. Maybe I should’ve been a little smarter.”
The crowd of 26,932 booed the Dozier hit, then cheered when Ausmus signaled to the bullpen, then booed as Pelfrey departed.
As for Santiago, he allowed plenty of runners and lots of long fly balls — the Tigers hit at least five to the warning track for outs — but he survived. The Tigers flew out 12 times and didn’t have a ground-ball out until Justin Upton’s in the sixth inning.
The Tigers' 2-3-4 hitters — Jose Iglesias, Cabrera and Victor Martinez — were 1-for-12 with an infield single.
A two-out RBI double by James McCann in the sixth inning was all the Tigers could muster, despite nine hits and three walks. They left nine runners on base.
“It’s frustrating,” McCann said. “It doesn’t matter who’s in that opposing dugout. Where we are in the standings, any loss is gonna be frustrating.”
The Tigers bullpen gave the offense every chance to get back in it, with Hardy, Kyle Ryan and Justin Wilson combining to allow four hits and striking out six in 6 1/3 innings.
The Twins scratched across a final run in the ninth off Joe Mantiply.