Tigers welcome change of scenery to Minneapolis
St. Petersburg, Fla. — Not that they expect any favors from the Minnesota Twins, but the Tigers were ready Thursday to go anywhere.
Anywhere but back to Tropicana Field, the scene of a three-game sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays that, following Thursday’s 8-1 loss, left a once-exhilarated baseball team feeling as if it had been mugged.
“Glad to be getting out of here,” said Al Avila, the Tigers general manager, as he traipsed across the clubhouse floor, as blind-sided as manager Brad Ausmus, or Tigers players, had been in losing three mostly ugly games to Tampa Bay.
Ausmus spent most of his postgame address beating on his team for some embarrassing defensive gaffes, while also reminding folks that this is a sport in which 162 games generally treat teams each year to streaks, good and bad.
“This is baseball,” Ausmus said. “It’s a roller-coaster ride. Strap your seat belts on. Because this is what’s going to happen.
“You’re going to lose 60 games.”
Or, a whole bunch more if the Tigers don’t realign some out-of-synch elements.
“I’ve never seen what I’ve seen the last two days,” said Ausmus, who had plenty of grievances after the Tigers saw their record dip to 8-7.
The Tigers were disjointed, it seemed, by Tropicana Field’s trappings that can conceal fly balls and lead to wild bounces off the field’s fake turf.
But they needed, above all they agreed, to get back into a mode of baseball they had featured in winning some April series, including last weekend’s against the accomplished Indians.
“We were playing well, and they (the Rays) came in struggling off their road trip,” said Alex Avila, who played first base Thursday. “And we kind of flip-flopped.
“And we played sloppily, defensively.”
The Tigers had another reason to feel better about escaping to Minneapolis.
Their ace, Justin Velander, who through the years has specialized in reversing a team’s bad swings, is slated to start tonight’s series opener against the Twins.
Tyler Collins plays right field for the Tigers. Therefore, he was one of those defenders feeling the wrath from a three-game series in which Tigers outfielders had a miserable time dealing with Tropicana Field’s ceiling background and its high-bounce artificial turf.
“Everybody’s playing in it,” Collins said, dismissing notions the Tigers had challenges somehow unique to Tropicana’s visitors. “No excuses.”
Ian Kinsler has this tendency.
He likes to hit leadoff home runs. He got the 41st of his career Thursday, swatting an 0-and-2 pitch from Erasmo Ramirez just inside the left-field foul pole as the Tigers got the earliest 1-0 lead a team can post.
Among active players, only one-time Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, with 42, has more leadoff homers than Kinsler.
Warwick Saupold allowed three hits in his 3 1/3 innings of mop-up work following starter Daniel Norris’ exit.
All were home runs.
It was the first time a Tigers reliever has allowed three home runs since it happened to Joba Chamberlain on July 1, 2015, in a game against the Pirates.
The Rays had lost their last six games to the Tigers ahead of this week’s series sweep.
Tigers pitchers have allowed eight or more runs five times this season, tied for the most by any big-league team headed into Thursday night’s games.
The Tigers were swept for the first time since the Royals pulled it off during an Aug. 15-17 series last summer.