Tigers bats silenced, West trip finishes on a dud
Anaheim, Calif. — It was all set up for them.
The Tigers put themselves in a position to not only win a four-game series in Anaheim for the first time since 1994, but also survive this nine-game West trip with a winning record.
And with ace Justin Verlander on the mound against Alex Meyer, an interim member of the Angels’ rotation filling in for Tyler Skaggs, you liked their chances.
Except this is Angel Stadium, and for the Tigers pulling victories out of this place is like pulling slippery fish out of the water with your hands.
And this one slipped clear away. The Tigers lost the finale to the Angels Sunday, 4-1. They will settle for a 4-5 road trip after enduring back-to-back walk-off losses in Oakland.
BOX SCORE: Angels 4, Tigers 1
“It would have been real nice to win today and come home with a winning record from this trip,” Verlander said. “Traditionally, though, I think we did a lot better on this trip than we typically do on these West Coast road trips.”
It’s a low bar, but it’s true. The Tigers continue to do the .500 dance. They come home 18-18. But with Ian Kinsler back playing and J.D. Martinez off the disabled list, there is a sense the club is whole for the first time this season.
“I feel good about us right now,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We haven’t hit our stride yet, especially offensively. We’ve won a couple, lost a couple, but I am not really concerned.
“I just think we will get hot, we will get hot offensively. We have too good an offensive club to struggle for long periods of time.”
Meyer, whom the Tigers saw briefly last year when he pitched for the Twins, gave up a leadoff double to Kinsler and an RBI single to Nick Castellanos in the first inning. He then proceeded to go through the next 19 hitters without allowing another hit.
The Tigers managed just two baserunners from the second through the sixth inning, both reaching on walks.
“It’s tough to win when you only score a run,” Ausmus said. “We haven’t swung the bats real well the last three days. It’s kind of been a team-wide slump, except for J.D. yesterday and Justin Upton. We’re a much better offensive team than we’ve showed the last couple of games.”
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Meanwhile, Verlander was grinding. Until the seventh inning he allowed two hits — a pair of two-out solo home runs to Mike Trout in the first and Danny Espinoza in the fourth. But, his command was spotty.
He walked five batters and hit another. Also, the Angels were running on him. They stole four bases while he was pitching (and five on the day).
“The last few starts, my body has been working great and everything feels good,” Verlander said. “It’s just a matter of reining it in and finding a consistent release point within my mechanics.
“Hey, at least I know what I need to work on.”
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Verlander looked at the video after he came out of the game in the seventh and he thinks he found something that will remedy the situation. This is the third straight start he’s fought to find consistency (12 walks in the last 19 innings).
“I’ve been kind of biding my time, changing a couple of little things and feeling like it would come,” he said. “But today I was still out of whack. So, I am not going back to the drawing board by any means — I like where I’m at physically, especially from my lower body through my core.
“But I have to find a consistent release point.”
Until the seventh, the homers were the only damage. In the seventh, he gave up a broken bat single, a hit-and-run single through the vacated shortstop position and a roller to right field that just eluded Kinsler — resulting in two add-on runs.
As Verlander said, a crappy ending to a crappy day.
“Overall, Ver gave us a chance to win,” catcher James McCann said. “We just couldn’t come up with any offense ourselves.”
Meyer, with a fastball popping at 96-97 and using a slider effectively off of it, had the Tigers flailing at the plate. He struck out seven and didn’t allow another hard-hit ball until with one out in the top of the seventh, Victor Martinez laced a double to the gap in left-center.
That ended Meyer’s day, and the Tigers’ offensive output.
Right-hander Blake Parker struck out Justin Upton on a disputed called third strike. J.D. Martinez followed with a long fly ball to the wall in left-center that Trout got back and caught to end the seventh.
The Tigers mustered five runs in the last three games of this series.
“This happens over the course of a season,” Ausmus said. “It happens to every team, even the good offensive teams. It happened to us last year and we were one of the better offensive teams in the league.
“This team is going to hit. I am not even slightly worried about it.”