'Not going our way': Tigers rally to tie, lose in 10
Seattle — From the bottom of the barrel to the top of the mountain in three pitches. And an inning later, right back to the bottom.
The emotional roller-coaster that is baseball doesn’t have gradual slopes.
“Things clearly are not going our way right now,” said Justin Upton after the Tigers endured a fourth straight loss. “But that’s part of it. We need to find a way to reverse it.”
After an improbable rally to tie the score in the eighth inning, the Tigers walked off losers in the bottom of the 10th.
Kyle Seager ripped a walk-off double off Justin Wilson, scoring pinch runner Tyler Smith to give the Seattle Mariners a 5-4 win.
“Guys in here are frustrated,” said Jordan Zimmermann, who gutted out 6 2/3 innings for his fourth straight quality start. “They expect themselves to hit better and they expect themselves to pitch better. This is a really good team and everybody in here knows that.
“It’s a matter of getting on a run. Once we do that, we’ll be fine. We’re just in a tough spot right now — when he hit we don’t pitch and when we pitch, we don’t hit.”
Time is ticking. The Tigers are now six games under .500 and are on pace to finish 74-88.
“We still have plenty of time,” Zimmermann said. “We’re not that far back. It’s not like we are 15 games out of it. We’re in striking distance. Do I think we can be in first place by the trade deadline? I don’t know.
“But I think we can get close enough where we don’t need to sell. But we’ve got to start playing better baseball. And everybody in here knows that.”
First the rally. The Tigers trailed 4-2 in the eighth inning and their offense had been dormant since the second.
And, after Ian Kinsler walked to lead off the inning, both Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera were called out on strikes against Mariners reliever Dan Altavilla. It looked like another dead inning.
Kinsler, who had already stolen second base, broke for third and kept coming, all the way home, when the ball bounced away from catcher Mike Zunino — 4-3.
Two pitches later, J.D. Martinez belted his 12th home run, deep into the right-center field seats, and the score was tied.
“I felt like the momentum was in our favor at that point,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
It was not.
With Alex Wilson unavailable, the Tigers had to go a little deeper in their bullpen. Shane Greene got the last out of the seventh, and survived a two-walk eighth — striking out Jarrod Dyson with two runners on.
Warwick Saupold began the ninth inning, but, after a leadoff single by Mike Zunino, he hit Mitch Haniger with two outs. Ausmus then summoned closer Justin Wilson.
Wilson got the final out of the ninth, but he walked Nelson Cruz to lead off the 10th. He also fell behind Seager — a left-handed hitter who had struggled against Zimmermann — 3-1.
Ausmus was asked if he considered walking Seager at that point, even though right-handed hitting Danny Valencia was on deck.
“No,” he said. “We hoped he could get Seager. I would rather he get Seager, then we could walk Valencia and face (left-handed hitting) Jarrod Dyson and then Carlos Ruiz.”
It didn’t get that far. Seager laced a double in the gap, scoring pinch-runner Tyler Smith easily.
It looked like the Tigers’ offense might ignite. Against uncelebrated, Cuban left-hander Ariel Miranda, Kinsler hit the third pitch of the game into the upper deck in left field. It was his 44th career lead-off homer, tying Brady Anderson for fifth-most in major league history.
Upton led off the second inning with a 411-foot blast to left-center field, his team-leading 14th, and it looked like the Tigers were going to go on a romp against Miranda.
Not so much.
The offense again went suddenly and collectively quiet. The Tigers mustered just two singles and a walk after Upton’s homer through the seventh inning.
Miranda dispatched 11 hitters in a row between the last out of the third through the first out in the seventh. And he did so quickly. The Tigers’ at-bats in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings couldn’t have lasted 10 combined minutes.
“We did hit some balls hard,” Ausmus said. “But it seems to be the same old story offensively.”
The sleepy bats wasted another quality start by Zimmermann.
In his last four starts, he has allowed one, two, two and three runs and the Tigers have lost three of those games.
“I really didn’t have command of anything, to be honest,” Zimmermann said. “It took me the first inning to basically get punched in the mouth to tell myself, ‘We need to get going here or it’s going to be a long night.’
“It was a battle for me, but I got through 6 2/3 innings.”
All the significant damage against him was done in the first two innings. He gave up a two-run double to Cruz in the first and a solo home run to Taylor Motter with two outs in the second.
The Motter home run was a head-scratcher. The ball left his bat at 92 mph. It was struck on the label of the bat and had, according to StatCast, a 20-percent hit probability. Yet, it flew over the left-field fence.
Zimmermann struck out seven. He got 12 called strikes with his four-seam fastball and eight swings and misses with his slider.
He left after getting the first two outs in the seventh inning. He was at 106 pitches and left-handed hitting Ben Gamel, who had doubled and singled, was up. Zimmermann had told the bench he was running on fumes.
“The whole game I had to battle and work out of trouble,” he said. “Toward the end I was pretty gassed. My velocity was down and I was doing all I could to hang in there.”
Ausmus called on left-hander Daniel Stumpf to get one left-handed hitter. Didn’t happen. Gamel won a nine-pitch battle, lashing a long home run to center field to put the Mariners up 4-2.
Like Upton said, things are not going the Tigers' way right now.