Woes mount for 'frustrated' Norris, Tigers fall
Detroit — It’s just not happening right now for Daniel Norris. He’s mired in the baseball equivalent of quicksand — the harder he tries to extricate himself, the deeper he sinks.
“For me, the most frustrating thing is I want to help this team, I want to go out and win and I am doing just the opposite,” Norris said after giving up all five runs in the Tigers’ 5-4 loss to the Giants Wednesday night. “They are frustrated and I am frustrated. I want to do something to help the team win.
“And it hurts more when you care.”
Whether the Tigers think a get-well stint at Triple-A Toledo is the answer remains to be seen. In any case, he won’t pitch again until after the All-Star break, which will also give him time to nurse a tight groin, which hampered him against the Giants.
BOX SCORE: Giants 5, Tigers 4
“Clearly, we need better results,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “For a number of reasons. It doesn’t help us win games and it puts extra stress on the bullpen, as well.”
It was the third straight start where Norris allowed five runs. His primary issue has been commanding his pitches. He’s too often working behind in counts and too often not able to make a quality pitch in a key situation.
“I felt pretty good (for the first two innings) and then it was the same story,” Norris said. “I hit a bit of a wall between innings. I’ve got to do a better job of going back out there and continuing what I started.
“Mentally, physically, whatever, I’ve got to be able to over that hump and make pitches when I have to.”
Of his 70 pitches Wednesday, only 44 were strikes. He walked two (plus two intentional walks), but he was consistently behind hitters. Four of the five runs came on two-out hits.
“At some point pitchers have to mature and get past it and find a way to calm themselves when situations get tight,” Ausmus said. “They have to be able to get through it. People that succeed in this game, pitchers, are the ones who learn to get through it.”
Norris also contributed to his demise with a couple of defensive misplays. In a two-run third inning, he fielded a bunt from former Tigers’ prospect Gorkys Hernandez and held the ball. Nobody covered first — so he had no play there — but he may have had one at second base.
Then, after a wild pitch and a stolen base, Hunter Pence hit a liner back up the middle. Norris flagged it, but couldn’t hang on. He picked it up and checked the runner at third — but not long enough.
As soon as he threw to first, the runner (Kelby Tomlinson) broke for home and scored.
“It sped up on me,” Norris said. “That ball was hit hard right back at me and hit off my glove. I bobbled it and then I just wanted to get the sure out.”
Jae-Gyun Hwang singled home the second run, on a 2-2 pitch after Norris thought he had thrown strike three.
In the fourth, Nick Hundley spanked a 3-0 pitch for double. After a walk to Tomlinson, Norris got Hernandez for the second out. But a single by Brandon Belt (on a 2-1 pitch) scored one run and a triple by Pence (1-0 fastball) scored two more.
“Every day that I wake up I am going to work hard to get better,” Norris said. “That’s what I am going to do.”
Whether it will be in Detroit or Toledo for a spell. When asked if he expected a demotion, Norris went Old Testament, sharing the story of Nebuchadnezzar and the Fiery Furnace.
“It takes the most impossible scenario to give Him the glory and show His mighty power,” he said.
The Tigers very nearly took him off the hook, though.
Trailing 5-0, and after being stymied for six innings by Giants soft-tossing lefty Ty Blach — limited to three well-spaced singles — they broke out for four runs in the seventh inning.
Miguel Cabrera led off with his second single of the game and went to third on a double by J.D. Martinez.
Victor Martinez brought them both home, bouncing the 1,998th hit of his career up the middle. That ended Blach’s night.
Next came a parade of three Giants relievers. A bases-loaded, infield single by Ian Kinsler scored the third run and a sacrifice fly by Nick Castellanos the fourth. Reliever Cory Gearrin that struck out Justin Upton with two on to end the inning.
It also ended the Tigers scoring.
Victor Martinez laced a double with two outs in the eighth — he’s one hit shy of 2,000 — but right-hander Hunter Strickland struck out Mikie Mahtook to end the inning.
In the ninth, closer Sam Dyson dispatched Alex Avila, Jose Iglesias and Kinsler on seven pitches.