Cleveland — The Tigers’ clubhouse Saturday was as quiet as it has been all season – no music, hushed conversation, the only noise the tinkling of forks on dinner plates. It was almost tomb-like.
They won’t say it and they certainly won’t quit the fight, but this loss put their playoff hopes on a respirator.
“I don’t think about pressing,” Victor Martinez said after the 1-0, 10-inning loss to the Indians. “We’re just running out of time. And losing won’t help anything…Every loss is tough, but this one is a little tougher.”
This one was galling. The Tigers are now the first team since Major League Baseball started keeping records in 1913 to be shut out by nine different pitchers – all of them relievers – in nine or more innings.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Martinez said. “When they’ve got to use their bullpen from the beginning of the game and we’re not able to score a single run – that’s bad. What can I say?”
The loss, the Tigers’ 13th in 14 games against the Indians, puts them eight back in the Central Division and 3.5 back in the wild-card race. And it wasted a brilliant performance by Justin Verlander, who allowed one single and struck out seven in seven shutout innings.
“It’s a tough team loss,” Verlander said. “Especially this late in the season when every game counts as much as it does. It hurts.”
The Indians pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the 10th off Justin Wilson. He walked Carlos Santana to start the 10th, but Santana was erased on a force out at second on a bunt attempt by Jason Kipnis.
A wild pitch put Kipnis on second. Then he got a running jump on Wilson and stole third base without a throw. Wilson then walked Francisco Lindor. Upon instruction from the bench, he also walked Mike Napoli intentionally to load the bases and set up a force at home.
Jose Ramirez, on his 24th birthday, foiled the strategy by slapping the winning single up the middle.
Manager Brad Ausmus had right-hander Shane Greene warm in the bullpen, but Ramirez, a switch-hitter, hits roughly the same from both sides of the plate.
“Yeah, and Wilson with a cutter can get ground balls, which he got,” Ausmus said. “He got a ground ball, which is exactly what we were looking for. It was just in a spot where no one was standing.
“I just walked Napoli because he’s killed us.”
What killed the Tigers this day was their maddeningly futile offense.
It took two pitches to knock Indians’ starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco out of the game. Ian Kinsler lined one off his pitching hand. Carrasco was removed from the game and taken to hospital for X-rays.
Later the Indians announced Carrasco has a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his right hand. It’s the exact same injury that Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos suffered. He will likely be out the remainder of the regular season.
One would think that would be helpful for the Tigers. Carrasco had already beaten them three times this season and manager Terry Francona was tasked with emptying his bullpen for nine innings.
Didn’t quite work out in the Tigers’ favor.
“We’ve got to find a way to score there,” Ausmus said. “It’s pretty simple. We didn’t find a way to score. We didn’t do much offensively. Did we get a guy past second? One guy? We just got to find a way to score.”
A parade of eight relievers – Joe Manship, Kyle Crockett, Cody Anderson, Zach McAllister, Perci Garner, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller – did what Carrasco typically does against the Tigers – shut them down.
The Tigers managed just three hits off those relievers in 10 innings. The Tigers only had five baserunners after the first and only one got into scoring position.
After Kinsler’s hit off Carrasco, he was erased in a double play. Miguel Cabrera followed with a double, but after Victor Martinez walked, J.D. Martinez grounded out to end the first inning.
The Tigers wouldn’t threaten again until the sixth, and even then they couldn’t manage a hit. Garner hit Jose Iglesias, who then stole second and went to third on a ground out by Kinsler.
But Cameron Maybin flew out to shallow right, and after Cabrera was walked intentionally, Victor Martinez struck out.
“We weren’t able to put any runs on the board against their bullpen,” Martinez said, shaking his head. “But you know what, we have some games left. We can’t get the time back. So just let it go. Come back, keep playing baseball – keep playing hard.”