Scuffling Tigers drop fourth straight, fall below .500

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer tries to warm his hand after a walk in the first inning.

Detroit – There are no moral victories, no bonus points for late rallies that fall short.

The Tigers are in the throes of another four-game losing streak, their second such skid in the span of two weeks, and have fallen below .500 for the first time this season.

“It was a real good baseball game,” Alex Avila said after the Tigers dropped their second straight to the White Sox, 6-4, in 10 innings on Saturday. “It’s just when you are scuffling a little like we are right now, those are the games you end up losing.

“When it turns around and we’re playing better, we will end up winning games like this.”

BOX SCORE: White Sox 6, Tigers 4 (10 inn.)

The Tigers appeared dead in the water coming to bat in the ninth inning. They were down 4-2 and facing White Sox closer David Robertson, who hadn’t blown a save all year and had allowed only one run.

Making a comeback more unlikely, the Tigers had been limited to one hit over six innings in two games by the White Sox bullpen.

“We never give up,” said Victor Martinez, whose first-pitch leadoff home run got the rally started in the ninth. “This game comes with 27 outs. You just never know what's going to happen. We just went out there to be tough outs. We were able to put up a good ninth inning.”

After Martinez hit his first home run of the year, John Hicks doubled off Robertson with one out. Pinch-hitter Avila, who has a long history with Robertson going back to their days at Alabama, lined a single through the shift to tie the game.

“James McCann (who Avila hit for) had struck out four of the last six times he faced Robertson,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Avila had faced him and caught him (last year in Chicago). I thought he might have a little better shot.”

He did. But the euphoria didn’t last.

Melky Cabrera led off the 10th inning with a solo home run to left field off reliever Justin Wilson – who hadn’t allowed a run or a hit in his previous 9.2 innings.

“He wasn’t going to be perfect all year,” Ausmus said. “Just unfortunate timing.”

Wilson also gave up an RBI triple to Avisail Garcia in the 10th.

“Real unfortunate time for it,” Wilson said. “Good job of hitting by Melky. Bad pitch to Avisail. It is what it is. Start another streak tomorrow.”

The Tigers didn't have a second rally in them. Robertson, though he walked Tyler Collins with one out, struck out Nick Castellanos and got Martinez to line out to left to end it.

“Unfortunately, we end up on the wrong side,” said Martinez, who also had an RBI single. “We'll come back tomorrow and be ready to play another game.”

It is the first home series loss to the White Sox since 2014, and as the losses mount, eight in the last 12, the absence of sluggers Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez is become more conspicuous.

In the three previous losses before Saturday, the Tigers produced just four runs in the previous three games, hitting .156 with a .188 slugging percentage. They had just five hits until the ninth on Saturday.

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Ausmus said. “The longer you’re without them, the more it’s going to take its toll on your offense. We’ve been without J.D. for all season, we’ve been without Miggy for seven days.

“The longer they’re not around, the more you notice their absence.”

The White Sox had been without slugger Jose Abreu (hip flexor) for a spell, too. But he returned with a vengeance, hitting a pair of solo home runs. They were his first home runs since last September.

Twitter: @cmccosky