Cleveland — Justin Verlander had a colorful way of describing his feeling on the first half of his season.
“It’s kind of like whip cream on (crap),” he said after his strong outing against the Indians Saturday night. “This is a good time for the whole team to have a break. This was a bounce-back start for me, going against a team that’s really got the best of me recently. You take Cleveland out of the equation and I’ve pitched OK.
“With them in the equation, I’ve pitched horribly. That’s what I mean by whip cream on (crap).”
The Tigers haven’t quit on the season, but their resolve is running headlong with a grim reality.
“You are what your record shows,” Ian Kinsler said. “That’s the bottom line. There is no way around it. There are no excuses. You can point your finger. You can talk about the pitching, the offense the base running, whatever you want.
“At the end of the day, we are what our record shows.”
The Tigers entered play Sunday night with an abysmal 38-48 record, nine games behind the Indians in the Central Division.
Verlander said it Saturday night, “I do believe we can turn it around, but it’s not looking great.”
Kinsler echoed Verlander's words.
“We need to win games, we’re in last place, or next to last place,” he said. “There’s a lot of time left, but it’s tough to catch good teams. Good teams aren’t going to lose a bunch of games in a row.”
It’s been a confluence of factors that have conspired to sink the Tigers in the first half — oddly, injuries have been the least of their problems. Four-fifths of the starting rotation has sputtered, the bullpen was wildly inconsistent, and the offense has been shut out seven times.
“It’s been frustrating,” J.D. Martinez said. “I feel like we are playing under our ability. I feel like we have under-achieved. We definitely have underachieved. We’re a good team, but for some reason, we are not finding ways to win games.”
The underperformance has been both a cause of their fall and, to manager Brad Ausmus, a cause for hope.
“We have guys who are performing a little below what their track record says,” Ausmus said. “Which is also why I expect a correction. The offense has been part of the story. And I hate to say it, but we’ve hit a lot of balls hard, significantly more than any other team, that have gone for outs.
“That can change a game. A potential big hit becomes an out. Our offense hasn’t hit the ball as poorly as the numbers show.”
The end result, the Tigers go into the break a frustrated and beleaguered bunch, wondering how much longer the core group will remain together.
“It’s disappointing,” Miguel Cabrera said. “We’ve lost a lot of games. We’ve got to keep believing. Anything can happen.”
Asked if he thought there was still time to turn it around, Cabrera said, “I hope so. There is still time, still a lot of games left. You can do a lot of things. But we’ve got to start winning some games before we can start thinking about that.”
Rotation not set
Ausmus hasn’t set the rotation for the start of the second half beyond the first three games — Verlander, Michael Fulmer and Anibal Sanchez.
The club won’t decide the other two spots until they get back to work. Jordan Zimmermann will likely be the fourth. Daniel Norris, who is recovering from a mild groin strain, and Matthew Boyd could be in play for the fifth spot.
Norris hasn’t picked up a ball since his last start and won’t until the Tigers get back to work Friday.
“I think it’s good for me to just reset,” Norris said. “I had a couple days here, then the All-Star break and get back and have another chance to get things right.”
Gose on DL
Anthony Gose, the outfielder turned left-handed pitching prospect, has hit a bump in the road.
Confirmed by David Littlefield, the Tigers' director of player development, Gose has been placed on the disabled list at High-A Lakeland. Littlefield said an MRI showed left elbow strain.
Further tests will be done after the inflammation abates.
Gose, 26, pitched in 11 games for Lakeland. He was 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA. He allowed nine runs, seven hits and six walks in 10.2 innings. He also struck out 14.
According to Elias, the Tigers have been shut out 14 times in games started by Justin Verlander since 2012. Only Jeff Samardzija (18), John Lackey (15) and Julio Teheran (14) have endured the same lack of run support.