Chicago – History repeats.
It was in May last year, albeit earlier in the month, that the Detroit Tigers threatened to fall off the grid. They lost 11 of 12 and it took them until the first week of June to climb back to .500.
It’s starting to feel like some bad déjà vu.
Clobbered by the White Sox 7-3 on Sunday, the Tigers have lost six of eight on this road trip and have fallen four games under .500 (23-27).
“You know why this feels familiar,” Alex Avila said. “Because you go through it every year, every team goes through bad stretches every year. That’s why it’s familiar. The White Sox went through a bad stretch earlier – everybody does.”
Still, with second baseman Ian Kinsler and catcher James McCann on the disabled list, with J.D. Martinez still dealing with residual soreness in his right foot, with the center field position still unsettled and unproductive, with three-fifths of the starting rotation struggling, with the offense as anemic as it’s been in recent memory – somehow this stretch feels worse.
“It’s easy to point at those things,” Avila said. “It’s easy to point at the schedule. It’s easy to point at the injuries and a lot of other things. The reality is, over the course of six months you are going to have bad stretches.
“It’s coming on a road trip where we’ve had crazy weather and a crazy schedule and that adds to the frustration. But there is nothing you can do about that. As a player, you’ve got to realize there is going to be failure at times and you have to be able to move past it.”
White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez, who coming in was 0-4 with a 6.45 ERA and a 1.7 WHIP in May, pitched six innings of perfect baseball against the Tigers.
By the time Andrew Romine reached on what was first scored an error and later changed to a single, Avila singled and Miguel Cabrera singled home Romine to avoid the perfect game, no-hitter and shutout, the Tigers were fighting out of a 7-0 hole.
“Same story,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We didn’t swing the bats well. (Gonzalez) mixed pitches well and he had good movement on all four pitches. He kept it down and got a lot of ground balls.
“Obviously, he had his location. But we are not swinging the bats well, all up and down the lineup.”
The Tigers struck out 49 times in this series – the most by a team in a four-game series since 1913.
“Whether we are having trouble picking up the ball or it’s a mechanical issue or we’re just hitting into some bad luck – we are not swinging the bat well,” Ausmus said.
The seven-run hole was dug on the strength of three home runs off Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann in five innings. Melky Cabrera hit a solo shot in the third, Matt Davidson another in the fourth and Todd Frazier whacked a two-run shot in the fifth.
That’s 16 home runs allowed by Zimmermann in 55 innings this year. Only two pitchers in baseball have given up more this season. He gave up 14 in 105 innings last year.
“He’s got to stay away from the home-run ball; the home-run ball is killing him,” Ausmus said. “He can’t continue to pitch and give up home runs like that. He has to find a way to minimize that.”
The seven runs off him, and seven of the eight hits, came in three innings, after he retired six of the first seven he faced.
The Tigers’ defense was spotty, too.
In the three-run third inning, Willy Garcia knocked an RBI triple to the wall in right-center, then continued home when Jose Iglesias’ throw to third skipped past Nick Castellanos.
Castellanos day went from bad to worse. He booted a slow topper by Jose Abreu in the fifth. It was scored a single and Abreu scored on Frazier’s home run.
In the sixth, he circled and dropped a foul pop-up by Omar Narvaez.
It was Castellanos’ 11th error, two more than he made last year.
“It was a tough series,” Avila said. “We did have a couple of good outings and we probably should have come away with two wins. But for four games we really couldn’t get anything going. A lot of guys are in a funk at the same time and runs have been at a premium.”
Alex Presley, whose contract was purchased from Toledo earlier in the day to replace Tyler Collins (designated for assignment), ripped an RBI double to the gap in right-center in the eighth and then scored on a triple in the same spot by Andrew Romine.
That two-run burst chased Gonzalez.
“We got a little something going late,” Ausmus said. “But it was too late.”
Ausmus agreed that this rough patch the Tigers are trying to climb out of feels vaguely familiar.
“A little bit,” he said. “Every year I’ve been here we’ve going through something like this, going back to 2014. We’ve always gone through this. Every team does. But we’ve got to find a way to get out of it.”