Tigers clubbed by Rays, ending 'crappy home stand'
Detroit — Dad's Day was Dud Day for Detroit.
Buck Farmer was lit up for a second consecutive start and the Rays pounded out five majestic home runs in crushing the Tigers, 9-1, at Comerica Park on Sunday. The teams split the four-game series, despite the Tigers winning the first two contests.
Farmer, working with a flat slider, allowed three of the homers, including two on pitcher-friendly 1-2 counts, plus a long, crowd-crushing grand slam by Steven Souza Jr. He was demoted after the game, with Anibal Sanchez joining the team to pitch Monday's series opener in Seattle.
"Frustrating would be an understatement," catcher James McCann said, after a home stand that saw Detroit go 2-4. "But at the end of the day, you've gotta look in the mirror. It's no one else's problem except for our own.
"Everyone in this clubhouse has gotta look in the mirror and figure out what each individual person can do to help this team win."
Following a half-hour rain delay, the Tigers lost for the seventh time in their last 10 games, as owner Chris Ilitch and general manager Al Avila inch closer to decision time when it comes to the franchise's future.
The Tigers are back to four games under .500, their low-water mark which they've been at twice before.
And they now head West, terrain which generally has been a struggle for the Tigers in recent years, with beleaguered starter Sanchez getting another shot to find himself. The Tigers have four games there, then three in San Diego.
"Crappy. It was a crappy home stand, quite frankly," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We've gotta play better than this. We're not going to make any strides if we keep playing like this."
The Tigers, much like last year, have been treading water practically all season.
They haven't won more than four games in a row; of course, they haven't lost more than four games in a row. And fortunately for them, nobody's run away with the American League Central.
Although it sure looks like the defending AL-champion Cleveland Indians are about to take off.
"At some point, those teams will go on a run," said Alex Avila, who played the role of DH on Sunday, and had two of the team's six hits — all singles — plus a walk. "And we'll have to, as well."
This was the clunker of all clunkers for the Tigers, and was a bad look — given the team was about to get on a plane and go to Seattle. The famous Jim Leyland blow up early in 2006 came after a similarly awful game before a West Coast trip.
Ausmus wasn't throwing over tables in the Comerica Park clubhouse, though he clearly was annoyed.
He would've been more annoyed had someone fired this stat at him, provided by Twitter user @TomOmalley942 and double-checked. On "getaway" days when the Tigers play the following day in a new city, they are 0-9 and have lost those games by an average of 5.66667 runs.
Farmer (2-2) had a 0.00 ERA with 16 strikeouts in his first two starts, but a 25.07 ERA and six strikeouts in his last two starts.
In each of the debacles, he went just 2⅓ innings, but stuck around until after the game to meet the media following his latest demotion.
"It's always difficult getting sent down, but it's probably for the the best," Farmer said. "The past two outings, that's not who I am. That's not how I pitch."
Logan Morrison homered in the first, his 20th of the season, and Derek Norris opened the third with a homer. Later that inning, after a bout of wildness, including a hit batter and a walk to load the bases, Souza absolutely teed off on another flat-lined slider. And that was that.
Farmer threw up his arms in disbelief, his day over.
Morrison hit his 21st homer in the seventh off lefty reliever Chad Bell, going back-to-back with Evan Longoria. The five homers are the most the Tigers have allowed in a game since the Texas Rangers hit five May 7, 2016. And there weren't many cheapies, either.
"This is a team that hits home runs," said Ausmus, "and they hit home runs."
Meanwhile, Tigers did next to nothing against Rays right-hander Jacob Faria (3-0), who went seven mostly sterling innings and struck out nine. He was tagged for a run in the first after Avila singled and later scored on a two-out Justin Upton single.
Dixon Machado and Avila each had two hits, and that was basically it. Between Machado's singles in the second and fifth innings, Faria set down all eight Tigers, including five strikeouts in a row at one point.
Faria has made three big-league starts, and been brilliant in all three.
"He had some good stuff," McCann said in a funeral-parlor-quiet clubhouse. "But I don't think anyone in this locker room feels like we should've been blown out of the water like we were."
About the only bright spot for the Tigers was, oddly, the team's defense, which makes ESPN's highlight reel about as often as the Cornhole World Championships (it's real, we swear).
Machado made a couple nice plays at shortstop, including barreling into the fence in foul territory beyond third to make a nifty catch. Bell showed some athleticism of his own in the fourth, hurdling high over first baseman Miguel Cabrera, sliding feet-first into the bag for an unassisted putout of Morrison. Cabrera made a great diving catch, as well.
There's your positive spin on a pretty brutal day, which Ausmus might appreciate.
"The best way to go about it is to be positive," he said. "Not have much of a rear-view mirror."