Philadelphia — The Tigers had a chance to break even on this eight-game, three-city road trip. They limited a good-hitting Phillies team to a mere two runs for 15 innings in this brief two-game set at Citizens Bank Park, and had a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday.
But again, the margin for error when you average three runs a game is slim, especially against contending baseball teams.
"You are in a close game every night," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Phillies erupted for six runs and beat the Tigers 7-3. "It doesn't seem like we ever take a big lead. And then you end up using the same relievers in every game.
"We just have to figure out a way score more runs and build some comfortable leads. I like the way we're playing. I like what we're trying to do here. I think we are moving forward. We just need to score more runs."
You could almost here the clock ticking in the seventh inning. After reliever Buck Farmer worked a scoreless sixth, J.T. Realmuto rolled a one-out double into the corner in right field.
Then, on a 1-2 pitch, he drilled Sean Rodriguez with a 94-mph fastball in the hand.
"That was the big at-bat," Gardenhire said. "It all spiraled after that."
Three hitters and two Tigers relievers later, the Phillies hung a four-spot on the board and tacked on two more in the eighth.
Left-hander Daniel Stumpf, who made his big-league debut with the Phillies, gave up a single to Cesar Hernandez to load the bases.
Victor Alcantara replaced him and promptly gave up a bases-clearing double to Maikel Franco, who had been hitless in the series to that point.
Franco then scored on a single by Andrew McCutchen, who had three hits on the night.
"We didn't want to use Alcantara unless we needed to get one out," Gardenhire said. "But he got a ball up and then it just snowballed a bit and got away from us."
The Phillies' late burst blunted some encouraging performances by the Tigers.
Daniel Norris, in his third start since joining the rotation, pitched five strong innings. He allowed a run on five hits, dispatching the last seven batters he faced.
"That's a really good hitting lineup," Norris said. "The first couple of innings they were bashing me pretty good. But we made the adjustment and switched it up. We started to get ahead with something other than a fastball."
The run came on three straight singles in the second, the last an RBI single by Cesar Hernandez. But the Tigers got an out on the play, too, when catcher John Hicks, after taking a relay throw from left fielder Niko Goodrum, threw out Sean Rodriguez at third base.
It was a big play at the time because it seemed to calm Norris down. He allowed just one hit over the next three innings.
Norris was only at 64 pitches after five innings, but the Tigers put together a rally in the top of the sixth and tied the game. Norris, who flew out and grounded out in two at-bats, was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
"I told Gardy I was just getting my swing dialed in," Norris said with a smile. "I was about to knock that Liberty Bell down. But I understand. That's the fun part of the game, making moves like that.
"I understood it, but I let him know I could hit."
Nola shut the Tigers out for five innings, before JaCoby Jones was able to get some redemption.
In the fourth inning, the Phillies walked Jordy Mercer (hitting .234) intentionally to load the bases. They’d rather pitch to Jones. And Nola struck him out on four pitches, the last a fastball that completely tied him up.
At that point, Jones was in a 3-for-35 skid.
But in the sixth, Jones dug back in against Nola. With Ronny Rodriguez on second base and two outs, he dropped a single into shallow left field scoring Rodriguez to tie the game, 1-1.
"He's been working really hard," Gardenhire said. "He was in the cage all day, working on a different approach, setting his hands down and getting the bat on his shoulder. He had better swings and got in good counts."
Rodriguez, who had two singles and a walk, delivered his own clutch, two-out hit in the seventh. After Nick Castellanos singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on an infield hit by Goodrum, Ronny Rodriguez poked one in almost the same spot as Jones, giving the Tigers a short-lived 2-1 lead.
The Tigers other run came on a solo home run by Mercer, his first as a Tiger, in the eighth.
"We went 1-1 here against a very good baseball team," Gardenhire said. "But we had a chance to sweep. That's the frustrating part. But it doesn't always work out the way you want it to."
After the game, the Tigers sent outfielder Victor Reyes, who singled in his only at-bat, back to Toledo. Pitcher Tyson Ross, whose wife delivered their baby Wednesday night, is expected to return off paternity leave Friday.