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Detroit — Now comes the fretting.

This losing streak is a doozy. And it could soon get ugly if Tigers starters can't dig deeper into games, if closers can't close, and if runs galore aren't somehow pushed across by an offense that isn't exactly loaded with All-Stars.

The Tigers have now dropped seven straight games, with Tuesday's 9-7 dismemberment by the Oakland A's at Comerica Park a particularly cruel display of home-crowd torture.

BOX SCORE: A's 9, Tigers 7

"They got into our bullpen again," said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, "and there you have it. End of story."

Gardenhire's and the Tigers' more basic problem, as the skipper acknowledged multiple times, is that Tigers starters have been saying farewell way too early in games.

Blaine Hardy slipped up just enough Tuesday to last only into the fifth. It might have been a different story had John Hicks' missed throw at first base in the fourth not led to 18 additional Hardy pitches and three unearned runs.

But any Tuesday indictments mattered less than the overarching fact the Tigers coughed up a 6-0 lead — and another game.

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It didn't begin ominously. Anything but.

The Tigers looked like exorcists ready to purge their long losing skid courtesy of a 6-0 lead built through three innings.

 

But the A's got three in the fourth, three more in the fifth, and a final pair against a shaken Shane Greene in the ninth, who lost his second game in two days when he was hammered in the ninth for three hits while putting away a single A's batter.

The Tigers have not won a game since June 17 in Chicago. They hadn't lost seven consecutive games since August of last season.

Hardy pitched well early, but a ragged fourth, when Hicks' error led to three unearned runs, pushed Hardy's pitch-count, and he was gone four batters into the fifth.    

Lous Coleman allowed a run in the seventh, and Greene was slapped around in the ninth as the Tigers bullpen continues to dissolve from fatigue and too many bad pitches.

"I think you guys all know where we are at the moment with our bullpen," Gardenhire said. "As soon as you guys get out of here, I'll talk to the GM (Al Avila). This is not an easy stretch. 

"We've got to figure out a way to get out of this."

The Tigers had at least figured out Tuesday how to build an early lead when they got four in the first. Leonys Martin singled, Jeimer Candelario walked, Nick Castellanos doubled to left, and Niko Goodrum had an RBI single, as did James McCann.

Gardenhire's gang got two more in the third on a Hicks swinging-bunt single to third, an opposite-field single through the hole from Victor Reyes, and Dixon Machado's booming triple to the flagpole-fence in left-center.

But while Hardy was cruising through the first three innings, he got into some slop in the fourth as the A's got three unearned runs. The "unearned" qualifier came by way of Hicks who simply missed a relay throw from Goodrum on what should have been a bounce-out to short.

 "Big play," Hicks said afterward, explaining he thought Goodrum's throw was diving, and that it "handcuffed" him as he went low. 

"We're up 6-0, and then they're right back in it. I make that play 99 out of 100 times." 

Back-to-back doubles from Mark Canha and Jonathan Lucroy pushed across three runs and the Tigers were now in a 6-3 game.

Hardy finished the night with 95 pitches after lasting only four batters into the fifth. The botched throw at first cost him an extra 18 pitches.

"Today, it affected me more than it should have," Hardy said. "Errors are going to happen. I didn't do my job to limit the damage."

 The Tigers popped back with a run in their half of the fourth on singles from Candelario and Castellanos, and a two-out RBI single to right from Hicks. It was 7-3 and that losing streak looked as if it were on life-support. 

 Hardy had his only self-imposed trouble in the fifth: a leadoff walk to Marcus Semien, a long home run into the left-field seats from Chad Pinder, and a follow-up, opposite-field bomb to right from Jed Lowrie, who finished the night with four hits and a walk.

It was now 7-6, and it headed for 7-7.

That's because Coleman, who had been quite the savior for much of the Tigers' spring, had a second consecutive bumpy stint, getting rapped for a single and a pair of walks.

Alex Wilson rescued him and got a bounce-out to second, but it also scored Matt Joyce from third with the tying run.

The Tigers had a chance in the eighth when, with one out, Candelario doubled and eventually found himself at third with two gone following walks (intentional) to Castellanos and (unintentional) to Goodrum.

Hicks was invited to bust up the scoreboard against the cruel left-hander Ryan Buchter, but he struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch.

The ninth was, ironically, a quick, 1-2-3 stint for the Tigers in a game that lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes.

"Trust me, it's tough," said Hardy, speaking of the Tigers' deepest nosedive of the season. "Especially coming off that good streak when we were a game within .500.

"I'm not gonna say we were ready for a playoff spot, but .500 would have been huge."

The Tigers, at 36-44, are a long way from playoff fantasies. They could be some distance, also, from putting this losing skid to rest.

Mike Fiers starts for the Tigers tonight. No one has to tell him there's a bit of a mandate following him onto the mound.

lynn.henning@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/Lynn_Henning

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