‘He’s obviously struggling’: K-Rod gives up grand slam, Tigers lose again
Seattle — A look of utter incredulity swept across manager Brad Ausmus’ face.
The Tigers had just been swept out of Seattle Thursday night, losing the finale 9-6. It was their sixth straight loss, their longest skid since May of 2016, and 11th of the last 14. They’ve fallen eight games under .500.
Ausmus was asked if it felt like the season was teetering on the brink.
“The season is over and we’ve got 90 games left,” he said. “That’s almost funny. No one is cashing in their chips.”
That seems to be the prevailing sentiment in the clubhouse.
“You don’t want to lose games,” said Ian Kinsler, who homered and knocked in a pair of runs. “But you’re not going to go through a baseball season without facing some adversity. That’s just the way it is. I have never been part of a season where I didn’t face some type of adversity.
“Baseball is a tough game. You don’t want to be in a hole like this, but you have to find a way to get out of it.”
There are 90 games left on the schedule, but with the trade deadline looming at the end of July, the time frame seems compressed.
“That’s on the general manager, that’s not on us,” Kinsler said. “We’re part of this team right now and we’re trying to win games. The trade deadline has nothing to do with us. There is nothing we can do to control any of that.
“Everyone here wants to be here. No one is thinking about the trade deadline. Everyone is thinking about tomorrow and trying to win a game.”
Forty losses on June 22. It’s been a season of inconceivable and inexplicable ignominies thus far. Not the least of which is the ever-growing list of rookie pitchers who have baffled and beaten the Tigers.
“It’s been a bit of a theme,” Ausmus said.
The list includes Zack Godley, Tyler Danish, Eric Skoglund, and Jacob Faria. And now, you can add the Mariners' Andrew Moore to the list.
Making his big-league debut Thursday, Moore, with a low-90s fastball and an assortment of off-speed pitches, checked the Tigers on three runs and six hits over seven innings.
By the time they started to hit back, they were in a 5-1 hole, then a 9-3 hole.
“We fought the whole game,” Kinsler said. “It’s not like we’re playing bad baseball. We’re not throwing the ball around the field. We’ve been producing runs. It’s not like we’re playing bad baseball, we’re just losing games.”
Daniel Norris, coming off a pair of quality-start wins, didn’t quite get it going on time in this one. He couldn’t find the strike zone in the second inning. The two batters he walked in the inning scored on a ringing double, on a 2-0 fastball, by Ben Gamel.
Guillermo Heredia plated Gamel with a single three pitches later.
“It was just one of those days when I didn't have it,” Norris said. “They say sometimes in the bullpen you feel great, then you go out there and feel awful, and other times you feel awful in the bullpen and go out and feel great. Today was one of those days where I felt great in the bullpen, but when I went out there in the first inning, I didn't have anything.”
With a runner on first in the third inning, Norris fell behind Robinson Cano and threw him a get-me-over, 91-mph fastball. Cano deposited that one into batter’s eye in center field, a two-run shot.
Norris, to his credit, soldiered through six innings and kept the Tigers within striking range. He only allowed one more hit after Cano’s home run and left a 5-3 game.
“I gave up the five runs in three innings and I still wasn't feeling it,” he said. “But in my head, I had to find a way to get through. And the way I finished is the positive I am going to take out of it.
“But at the same time, obviously, you want to give the team a better chance to win. It was a grind, for sure."
While we are on the subject of ignominies, how about Francisco Rodriguez?
The game’s fourth all-time saves leader lost his closer’s role earlier this season and now might have pitched his last meaningful inning for the Tigers.
He loaded the bases with a single, walk and hit batsman in the seventh. They were cleared swiftly when Cano hit a 1-0 fastball into the seats in right-center field — grand slam, a two-home run, six-RBI night for Cano.
“He’s obviously struggling,” Ausmus said of Rodriguez. “He’s not throwing the ball the way he wants to or like we want him to. There’s no way around it.”
Rodriguez, who publicly complained about pitching in mop-up roles on June 13, has since allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, including two home runs while pitching in higher-leverage situations. He has allowed nine home runs in 25 1/3 innings this season.
“We’re not finger-pointers here,” Ausmus said. “I don’t blame people here. We’re a team. We win and lose as a team. Obviously, individual performance impacts that. But you are not going to get me to point fingers at any particular person.”
The Tigers did manage to ruin one major league debut Thursday, though. Max Povse, a tall right-hander just called up from Triple-A, relieved Moore in the eighth and was treated rudely.
With two outs, Alex Avila doubled, Miguel Cabrera whacked his eighth home run, J.D. Martinez doubled and Justin Upton knocked him in with a single. But it was an empty rally.
“We’re upset we got swept this series,” Avila said. “But we’ve got to move on. We’re going to get into San Diego late. And we’re going to have to get our butts up tomorrow and figure out a way to win a game.”