Detroit — The Tigers lost another ballgame here Monday night — 8-3 to the Oakland Athletics — but they may have dodged more devastating news.
Reliever Jeff Ferrell was struck above his right ear with a line drive in the eighth inning — a ball struck with a 102.6 mph exit velocity by Ryon Healy. Ferrell took a few steps toward the Tigers dugout before bending over at the waist.
He would walk off on his own with trainer Kevin Rand.
“That’s something that brings life into perspective,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “We’re just playing a game. To see him walk off under his own power was somewhat comforting. And to see him go down the stairs on his own.
“But that’s always a scary moment for both teams.”
Ferrell went through concussion protocol and was sent for a precautionary CT Scan.
“They just want to make sure there is no skull fracture,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “The initial signs are pretty good. They put him through the concussion protocol but he was responsive and very alert.”
Ausmus said he was encouraged right away because Ferrell was aware and responsive immediately after being struck.
“The biggest relief was when Kevin asked where it hit him and his response was to show exactly where it hit him,” Ausmus said. “He was very aware of what had happened.”
As for the game itself, it was back to climbing mountains for the Tigers.
“We’ve been through this before,” Ausmus said.
A day after Matthew Boyd’s complete-game, one-hit gem, it was another early exit for the Tigers starting pitcher and another uphill climb for the offense.
The A’s scored five runs off Buck Farmer in just 2 2/3 innings and built an early 7-0 lead. It's the 29th time this season, and the 13th since the trade deadline, the Tigers' starting pitcher hasn't made it through four innings.
“It puts us in a hole and it’s tough to find a way to dig out of it,” Ausmus said.
Organizationally, the Tigers aren’t sure if Farmer’s future is as a starting pitcher or a reliever, and since he’s out of minor-league options, this is a critical month for him. What would help him, apparently, is to pitch anywhere but Comerica Park.
He came into this start with an abysmal 11.30 ERA at home, with opponents hitting .328 with a 1.004 OPS. On the road, his ERA is 3.43 with a .215 opponent’s average and .650 OPS. It makes no logical sense, but there he was Monday, in trouble from the start.
Apparently, he was battling tightness in his right trapezius muscle.
“It was something he was dealing with all night,” catcher James McCann said. “He was struggling to get the ball to his glove side (inside on left-handed hitters). Even out in the bullpen he was struggling with it.
“And he was never quite able to make the adjustment. He did for a couple of hitters at the end of the first inning, but that’s part of it. You have to battle through something like that. He just wasn’t himself.”
Farmer gave up a run and three hits to the first four batters he faced — single by Marcus Semien, RBI double by Jed Lowrie and another single by Khris Davis.
After a clean, nine-pitch second inning, he hit Semien, gave up a single to Matt Joyce, sacrifice fly to Lowrie and a long, two-run home run to Matt Olson in the third.
He should have been out of the inning after Healy hit a ground ball to Jeimer Candelario at third. But Candelario’s throw pulled first baseman Efren Navarro off the bag, and Navarro’s tag attempt missed.
Chad Pinder followed with an RBI double to end Farmer’s night.
On the pitch that hit Semien, Farmer winced and shook out his shoulder. That was the first clear indication the shoulder was bothering him. Trainer Doug Teeter and Ausmus came out to look at him. But, after a couple of warm-up pitches, Farmer stayed in the game.
“He said he could pitch,” Ausmus said. “It might have affected his command, but his velocity was still good and it looked like his breaking ball was good.”
The A’s scored two more off reliever Artie Lewicki in the fourth inning — runs aided by a misplayed pop-up by Candelario and two walks by Lewicki — including Lowrie with the bases loaded.
Lowrie had three RBIs and former Tiger Joyce had three singles. Tigers pitchers contributed six walks and two hit-batsmen on the night.
There were some good moments for the home team, though.
The A’s loaded the bases with no outs against reliever Victor Alcantara in the sixth inning and didn’t score. Credit a couple of huge defensive plays by Navarro for killing the rally. First, he started a 3-2-4 double play on a ground ball by Olson.
Then, on a slow chopper to third by Healy, Navarro came off the bag and caught Candelario’s tailing throw right off Healy’s back.
Offensively, Nick Castellanos continues to sizzle. He had three hits, extending his career-best hit streak to 15 games. It’s the longest hit streak by a Tiger this season. He also showed off his wheels. He turned a single into a double in the fourth. Then after his single in the sixth, he stole second base.
JaCoby Jones, who made a spectacular running catch in deep right-center on a drive by Matt Chapman to save a run and end the third inning, doubled and scored in the fifth on a double by Ian Kinsler.
Kinsler blasted his 19th home run against Santiago Casilla in the seventh. It was his 10th home run in August and September. He had nine home runs from April through July.
“Honestly, you just want to play good baseball because it’s a lot more fun when you are playing good,” Kinsler said. “All I’m trying to do is play hard and be prepared to play every game.
“We’re going to play hard regardless of the score. Just continue to play the game hard and do what we can to get leads and keep leads.”
The Tigers might have expected to do more damage off A’s emergency starter Raul Alcantara. He was pressed into duty after scheduled starter Jharel Cotton strained his right groin during warm-ups.
“That’s always funky,” Kinsler said. “You prepare for a guy all day and they switch 20 minutes before the game. Basically it’s like a bullpen guy coming in.”
Raul Alcantara had allowed 15 runs and four home runs in his 11 innings of work with the A’s this year. But he ended up allowed only two hits over 3 2/3 innings.