Frustration, injuries, hitting woes piling up as Tigers drop 5th straight

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — There was plenty of thunder and lightning at Comerica Park Wednesday. Unfortunately for the home team, that was not a euphemism for offensive firepower.

The game was played in a fairly steady rain, and by the eighth inning, lightning was flashing off in the distance. As the Tigers came to bat in the bottom of the eighth, fans were instructed to leave the seated area because of severe weather.

Detroit Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario strikes out swinging in the ninth inning.

But the game continued. And so did the Tigers' losing streak. 

An RBI single by Colin Moran off reliever Buck Farmer in the 10th inning provided the winning margin, as the Pirates handed the Tigers their fifth straight loss, 3-2.

On top of that, they might have lost the services of one of their hotter hitters. Christin Stewart left the game after he flew out to end the eighth inning. 

"He had a spasm in his right quad," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We will see how he feels tomorrow."

Stewart had slipped after making a catch in the top of the eighth, but Gardenhire said the injury occurred when he rounded second base after the fly out.

BOX SCORE: Pirates 3, Tigers 2, 10 innings

"I think everybody in the lineup is trying to do too much," said Miguel Cabrera, who singled and scored the Tigers' first run, and then struck out to end the game. "Trying to make something happen, that's good. But when we put pressure on ourselves, trying to do everything, you're going to make mistakes and swing at bad pitches."

That's been the trend throughout this skid. The Tigers scored their runs in the fourth inning and then got one hit the rest of the way — making 12 straight outs from the sixth through the ninth.

"We just have to keep playing," Gardenhire said. "These are tough ones. We're saying over and over. These are tough losses. But these guys aren't going to quit."

Gardenhire could sense even before the game that tension was mounting as the Tigers continue to scuffle offensively. But he also sensed some fight.

“Guys are working at it,” he said. “They’re talking about it. There’s a little frustration going on with the hitters right now. But they won’t back away, I promise you that. They are out there grinding away.”

The Tigers went into Wednesday ranked last in the American League in batting average, slugging, runs, RBIs, home runs and hitting with runners in scoring position, and they didn't improve their standing in any category.

“There’s a lot of failure in this game,” Gardenhire said. “You’re going to have to deal with it and move on. … It’s not about frustration, it’s about making adjustments. I want to see them start making adjustments. I’ve talked to Lloyd (McClendon, hitting coach), and they are making adjustments.

“There was a guy here an hour after the game (Tuesday) working in the cage trying to fix his swing. That’s all I care about. They give a flip. They all want to get better.”

On Wednesday the Tigers scratched out two runs in the fourth inning and managed just two hits the rest of the way.

And here's a twist: Cabrera provided the brief spark — with his legs.

"I still got it," he joked.

Cabrera singled to open the bottom half of the fourth inning. With one out, Pirates starter Trevor Williams walked Stewart and hit Jeimer Candelario in the knee to load the bases. Ronny Rodriguez then hit a soft fly ball to left field.

The ball didn’t seem deep enough for Cabrera to even attempt to score, but he came chugging home. The throw from left fielder Jason Martin was a bit on the first-base side of the plate and Cabrera beat the tag.

"Clarkie (third-base coach Dave Clark) said this is the one guy we can take advantage of," Cabrera said of Martin "He's the weak arm in the outfield. That's why I go. You play to the (scouting) report. If the report say he doesn't have a good arm, you've got to take a chance."

John Hicks followed with a bloop single and the Tigers had a 2-1 lead.

Tigers rookie starter Spencer Turnbull made that skinny lead stand up through six innings. He allowed just two singles and two walks, and the only run the Pirates scored was unearned on a two-out error by Rodriguez at shortstop.

"Turnbull kept us in the game," Gardenhire said. "He did what he was supposed to do. Our pitching in general did what they were supposed to do. We just aren't getting any offense right now."

He was nine outs from his first career win.

"The level of disappointment is more that the team didn't win," Turnbull said. "It'd be cool to get my first win, but I don't really care as long as the team wins. That's where the disappointment is. Losing sucks. It's never fun."

Joe Jimenez, who last pitched on April 10 and walked three batters, faced three hitters in the top of the eighth and didn't record an out. He gave up a single to pinch-hitter JB Shuck and walked Adam Frazier.

He got two quick strikes on Starling Marte. But on the 0-2 pitch, his 94-mph fastball hit Marte in the side of the head, near his ear flap. He was down for a spell, but stayed in the game.

Left-hander Daniel Stumpf was summoned and he very nearly pitched out of the jam. He struck out Colin Moran, then appeared to have Josh Bell out on a borderline 2-2 pitch. He didn't like the called strike from home-plate umpire Jim Wolf, or the check-swing appeal from the first-base umpire Dan Iassogna.

"I thought I got him," Stumpf said. "I went back and watched it. It could've gone either way and obviously, we'd like it to have gone our way. I look at it like, if you are commanding your — and I was — you should get a reward." 

Bell ended up hitting a sacrifice fly to tie the score.

As for Jimenez, Gardenhire said he was going to take him out of high-leverage situations for a bit. 

"He was misfiring pretty good," he said. "We're going to try to get him in a little better situation next time out and let him get some confidence back. He's a little frustrated right now and we haven't seen that in a while.

"So we're going to set up a better situation next time and let him go in where he can relax a little bit and find himself again. Because he's got too good of stuff."

Twitter @cmccosky