Detroit — The Tigers are way beyond accepting moral victories.
"You show up to win," said catcher James McCann. "And when you lose it's frustrating."
The Tigers lost their third straight one-run game to the defending world champion Houston Astros on Wednesday at Comerica Park, 5-4. The Astros, trying to stave off the Oakland A's in the American League West, have won 10 out of 11 and have the best road record in baseball.
This was the first time they had swept a series from the Tigers in Detroit.
That the Tigers were one good swing of the bat from beating the Astros in all three games — well, that wasn't much in the way of solace.
"It's kind of like hitting the ball hard four times and going 0-for-4," McCann said. "Yeah, you have to take the positives. You always have to take the positives, otherwise you will drive yourself crazy.
"But at the end of the day, they're L's."
McCann hit his eighth home run of the season, lining one out to right field against Astros starter Gerrit Cole in the fourth inning. Nick Castellanos pounded a slider from reliever Josh James 408 feet over the fence in left, a two-run home run that made it a one-run game.
But that's where it ended.
"Our effort level was great, but at this point, it's about building experience," said Castellanos, who leads the Tigers with 21 home runs, 81 RBIs and 40 doubles. "It's about getting everybody in certain situations as many times as possible so you start to feel comfortable when the same situation pops up again in future scenarios.
"That's where we are at."
Tigers starter Daniel Norris took a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning and appeared to be in cruise mode. He’d given up a run on three singles in the third inning. Other than that, he’d only allowed one hit, posting three strikeouts.
"I don't know, I feel like I ran out of gas," said Norris, who made his third start after being out four months after groin surgery. "You can feel it in your legs. But I have to be patient; that's part of it. The fact that I am able to get tired in a big-league game right now, that's a positive."
A couple of softly hit singles got him trouble leading off the fifth and then Alex Bregman, who singled in the first run, ripped a double scoring two more. A sacrifice fly by Tyler White and an RBI double by Marwin Gonzalez ended the day before Norris could get out of the fifth.
"I like his stuff," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said of Norris. "He just has to get more stretched out. He hasn't pitched enough. We really wanted him to get through five, but he started misfiring a bit.
"But he's going to be in the mix for this ball club. We can use him a lot of different ways. If we don't like the starting part of it, we can put him in the bullpen and he can eat people up."
The Tigers made one bid to tie the game in the eighth inning, but it was foiled by a spectacular catch in right field by George Springer. With two outs and Jim Adduci running on the pitch, Dawel Lugo sliced a line drive down the right-field line.
Springer got a fast jump on the ball and caught it on a full layout sliding toward the line. Incredible play.
"When that ball was hit, we were looking at a possible triple and he just made a heckuva play," Gardenhire said. "That's how you win ball games. A winning baseball player made a heckuva play."
As they did throughout this series, the Tigers produced some bright moments.
Victor Reyes, playing center field Wednesday, made a sensational diving catch on a ball hit in the left-center field gap by Martin Maldonado. According to Statcast, he covered 95 feet in five seconds on a ball hit with 99-mph exit velocity.
There was a 60-percent hit probability on the ball.
Christin Stewart, who doubled and walked, got back to the fence quickly and stole a possible home run from Yuli Gurriel in the fifth inning.
And the Tigers bullpen was unscored upon the entire series. After Sandy Baez (2.1 innings), Zac Reininger (one) and Shane Greene (one) held the fort Wednesday, the Astros went 11.1 innings without scoring on a Tigers reliever.
"Yeah, that's great," Gardenhire said. "But we lost three games. We have to figure out a way to get a big hit. We just have to figure out a way to win these games, and we will. The guys are really trying and I like that part of it.
"But that's getting old, too. We want to win. We don't back down from anybody, but we want to win some games."