Detroit — On the plus side, no one froze to death.
And, yes, there was a ninth-inning ruckus that spurred thoughts of Friday’s craziness and of rallies that might deliver late Sunday a minor Motown miracle.
But it all ended glumly for the winless Tigers as they lost both games of their Easter doubleheader against the Pirates at ice-cold Comerica Park.
Ron Gardenhire’s team is three games into a new season and three games into the loss column, even if Gardenhire suggested after Sunday’s finale that the Tigers weren’t quite accepting Friday’s 13-inning, 13-10 defeat, which tore a victory from Detroit with the help of a crazy replay reversal.
“We really did win that game,” Gardenhire said as he thawed in the manager’s office afterward. “Put an asterisk next to that game.”
There were no qualifiers Sunday. The Tigers were beaten twice, and beaten cleanly, beginning with the early Easter affair that saw Detroit get only two hits for starter Michael Fulmer and lose, 1-0.
In the evening duel, which began at 6:10 p.m. as compensation for Saturday’s rained-out game, the Tigers saw a 3-3 game disintegrate into an 8-3 Pirates lead, all before the Tigers made matters intriguing with three late runs.
One of the those runs came in the sixth on the team’s first home run of 2018, courtesy of Miguel Cabrera. It was a high, moon-grazing drive that ended up as a 383-foot homer into the right-field seats.
They added two in the ninth on a Mikie Mahtook single, Dixon Machado’s double to the right-center field gap, and Cabrera’s second double of the evening.
But with Cabrera on second and one gone, Pirates fireman Felipe Rivero struck out Nick Castellanos and got Niko Goodrum on a fly to right to end it.
“We didn’t quit,” Gardenhire said. “Guys were jumping in the dugout. We’ll be fine.”
Perhaps. But a team’s bats need to align with its pitching in happier fashion than the Tigers showed in their opening showcase against the Pirates.
Ryan Carpenter, a Triple A left-hander, was summoned to start Sunday’s second game, thanks to rule changes that allow a 26th player for a day-night doubleheader.
Carpenter worked only three innings, was socked for five hits, walked one, and struck out three. His fastball is not a high-caliber heater, running 89-90 and sometimes 91, which puts pressure on breaking pitches that weren’t producing enough pitchers’ counts or missing enough bats.
“He just has to attack more,” Gardenhire said of a pitcher, long in the Rockies’ farm system, who signed during the offseason as a minor-league free agent.
Carpenter, who was pitching in his first big-league game, agreed.
“I’d say pretty disappointed overall,” he said of his debut. “It was not my best stuff. I wasn’t getting behind my breaking balls or having command.”
When he exited, the Pirates were on top, 3-2. The Tigers tied it in the bottom of the fourth on Nick Castellanos’ triple to right-center and James McCann’s two-out, RBI single.
But after Farmer struck out the Pirates in a 1-2-3 flamefest in the fourth, when he got Pittsburgh batters on third-strike fastballs of 94-95, he was drilled in the Pirates’ five-run fifth.
“An adjustment should have been made,” said Farmer, who hadn’t pitched multiple innings in Florida’s spring camp and who conceded Sunday he lost steam when his pitch-count hit 40. “I tried to be too fine. And then my arm starts slowing down and the slider flattens out.
“I’ve just got to stay with that (fourth-inning) approach.”
The Tigers got only two hits in Sunday’s opener but fared better in the evening game, even as the thermometer skittered from 40 degrees at game time to 37 at the end. Sunday evening’s tickets-sold crowd was announced at 18,438 – and probably 15,000 of them were season-ticket buyers who decided an evening at home by the fireplace was beating downtown Detroit’s chill.
The Tigers lashed 12 hits in the night match, topped by Cabrera’s two doubles and 463rd career home run. He was the team’s designated hitter and earlier ripped a first-inning double that led to the Tigers’ first run.
Castellanos had a single to go with his triple, while Goodrum, the rookie who once was with the Twins and who played first in the evening game, had a double to the left-field corner, as well as a single that caromed off the second baseman’s glove.
Jeimer Candelario had a seventh-inning triple that, likewise, was nearly nabbed by a hustling Gregory Polanco in right but instead ricocheted off him for a three-bagger.
Tigers relievers, other than Farmer in the fourth, were fine.
Drew VerHagen pitched two impressive innings (three strikeouts, no hits, no walks), while Warwick Saupold added a scoreless inning and Joe Jimenez finished with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Victor Reyes, the rookie outfielder the Tigers are carrying as their Rule 5 apprentice, started in left field but was knocked out in the fifth after he had a mishap with shortstop Jose Iglesias that left Reyes with eight stitches in his right arm.
It happened on Gregory Polanco’s pop-fly to short left. Reyes came in, Iglesias backpedaled, and as Iglesias snared it, Reyes dived and slid past the shortstop, but not before his arm snagged on Iglesias’ cleat.
“I didn’t hear Iglesias call for it,” Reyes said by way of the Tigers’ Spanish interpreter, Bryan Loor-Almonte. “My natural instinct was to just dive for it.
“But it was Iglesias’ play and I should have known that.”
Gardenhire was more forgiving.
“I don’t know if Reyes knows how good Iglesias is at going back on pop-ups,” the manager said. “The kid’s just trying to make a play there. I’ll never complain about that.”
There was less acceptance for a botched relay in the sixth following Jordy Mercer’s sacrifice fly to left. Reyes’ throw had no chance at getting Elias Diaz at home and instead should have been zipped to third base, holding Josh Harrison at second, where he had been planted after a double. But on to third went Harrison after he tagged at second when the throw went deep and there was no one at third.
“You just have to throw the ball to third base,” Gardenhire said. “The third baseman lined up with home. Iglesias should have been running to third.
“We were all screaming (in the Tigers dugout), ‘Third, third, third.’
“Just throw the ball.”
The Tigers will try their luck in another three-game home series against the Royals, beginning at 1:10 p.m. Monday. Temperatures are expected to again be icy, although they will rise to the high 50s Tuesday when another potential villain reappears: rain.
The Royals lost their first two games of the season, during the weekend at Chicago against the White Sox.
Francisco Liriano will start today’s series opener against Royals right-hander Jakob Junis.