Arlington, Texas — The Tigers needed to win a baseball game Monday.
After a miserable weekend in Kansas City — losing three of four to a team that had previously won just eight games — with several players fighting a flu bug, playing a Rangers team without three of its top players (Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Roughned Odor), and Michael Fulmer on the mound, the Tigers needed a win. They needed a feel-good night.
This wasn’t it.
This was astounding. And not in a good way.
They had a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning and blew that. They were handed a gift run and took the lead back in the top of the seventh and then gave that back and more in the bottom of the inning.
Just another bewildering loss – Rangers 7, Tigers 6.
The Tigers also lost the services of reliever Alex Wilson, who strained his left plantar fascia covering first in the sixth inning. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list after the game.
Afterwards, manager Ron Gardenhire announced starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was also going on the DL with a shoulder impingement. He might only miss one start.
The Tigers called up right-handed reliever Zac Reininger from Toledo to replace Wilson and purchased the contract of shortstop Pete Kozma from Toledo to replace Zimmermann.
“We are disappointed in here,” Gardenhire said. “We’re frustrated. And we’ve got the injuries on top of it. We’d been relatively healthy, now all of these things are coming at us and we’re having to make a lot of changes.
“But we’re going to work our way through it.”
The injuries are unavoidable. The ineptitude Monday night, though, that was galling.
Buck Farmer started the seventh with a 6-5 lead and got the first two outs. He had the third out, too, but shortstop Jose Iglesias made a slight bobble on Delino DeShields' ground ball — E-6. Left-hander Daniel Stumpf was brought in to face left-handed hitting Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo hit a ground ball to the left of second baseman Dixon Machado. The ball had an 18-percent hit probability according to Statcast. It scooted past Machado into shallow right field. By the time Machado got to it, with a slide, DeShields had scored from first to tie the score.
“That’s on me,” Machado said. “I didn’t make a play and it cost us a run. As simple as that. The ball hit my glove and kept going. I couldn’t stop it.”
Stumpf then gave up a triple to Jurickson Profar, which stood as the winning run.
“We had a lead and Fulmer couldn’t hold it,” Gardenhire said. “The rest of it was we missed plays. We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make to win that ballgame. That’s the bottom line.”
It would have been difficult to envision such an ugly ending earlier in the night.
For five innings, Fulmer was dominant. He allowed one hit — a 427-foot home run by Nomar Mazara — and struck out seven. He struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth and looked unhittable.
The Tigers, meanwhile, built him a nice, four-run cushion, thanks to a two-run single by Victor Martinez and an RBI hit by John Hicks in the third inning and a two-run home run by former Ranger Leonys Martin in the top of the sixth.
But after the long half-inning by the offense, Fulmer came back out a different pitcher. He walked the leadoff hitter, DeShields, on four pitches. Then with two outs he gave up a single to Mazara and an RBI double to Joey Gallo, who he had fanned twice in the game.
Fulmer’s last pitch of the night resulted in a two-run single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, that cut the lead to 5-4.
“I just lost it,” said Fulmer, who would not use the long half-inning as an excuse. “I can’t pin it on anything. I felt like the first five innings I could throw the ball where I wanted to when I wanted to. The sixth inning I came out and walked the leadoff guy.
“For five innings I thought I had the best stuff I’ve had all year. I just don’t know what to say for the sixth.”
Wilson relieved him and threw one pitch. Ronald Guzman hit a hard ground ball wide of first base that Hicks stopped with a dive to his right. He scrambled up but had no play at first. Wilson ran to cover first but came up hobbling.
Meanwhile, Kiner-Falefa kept running. Hicks didn’t notice until he was barreling home with the tying run.
Hicks threw wildly to the plate, but Kiner-Falefa was already crossing the plate. The Tigers allowed two runs to score from first base on singles, one of which didn't leave the infield.
“These guys have been busting their tails all year and they busted their tails tonight,” Gardenhire said. “It’s disappointing, yes. But they aren’t trying to make mistakes, but sometimes they happen. Tonight was a rough one.”
The Tigers did answer in the top of the seventh, using one of their best tools this season — the video challenge. JaCoby Jones was on second with his second double of the game.
With two outs, Iglesias lifted a fly ball down the right-field line. Mazara, the right-fielder, dropped the ball and it was ruled foul. Replays showed that the ball was on the line when he hit Mazara’s glove and the call was overturned.
Jones scored on the play. The Tigers have been successful on all but one challenge this season.
“I’m still proud of these guys,” Gardenhire said. “They are battling their tails off and really getting after the game. They are trying hard. This was just one of those games.”
Asked how to bounce back from one as ugly as this one, Gardenhire said, "We come back tomorrow, same as always. Lift up your lips, don't let them hit the ground, and we play baseball. You just have to deal with it. You've got to fight through it."