'Rough patch' continues with another listless loss for free-falling Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers right fielder Nicholas Castellanos (9) watches as the two-run home run by Oakland Athletics' Mark Canha clears the wall during the fifth inning on Friday.

Detroit — This is what it's like when you are in a tailspin like the Tigers are now.

You walk a guy, he scores. You hit a guy, he scores. You make an error or you don't turn a double play, you make one bad pitch and all of a sudden there is a crooked number on the scoreboard and you are fighting uphill.

"That's what it always seems like," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Tigers were beaten by the Oakland Athletics, 7-2, Friday at Comerica Park. "That's kind of where we are at right now. Something is going to change. It's going to turn our way. We're going to get a break here pretty quick. 

"We're not getting any breaks. Maybe you've got to make your own breaks. We have to figure out how to do that."

BOX SCORE: Athletics 7, Tigers 2

The Tigers now been outscored 48-11 and are 0-5 on this homestand.

"Just keep plugging," Gardenhire said. "It's a rough moment right now. We're going through it. We have to find a way to dig out of it."

Starter Daniel Norris was zipping along through four innings. He allowed a run in the fourth on a couple of softly-struck singles and a fielder’s choice ground out that the Tigers just missed turning into an inning-ending, run-saving double play.

In the fifth, Norris walked Jurickson Profar to start the inning. Mark Canha followed with a two-run, wind-aided home run to right.

"A pop-up home run," said catcher John Hicks. "I thought Nick (Castellanos, right fielder) was going to have to come in on it and it went over the fence."

Still, in the last five games to that point, Tigers pitchers had walked or hit 21 batters and 16 of them scored.

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"It seems like we've had something happen early in each of the last four or five games that starts a downward spiral," Hicks said. "We haven't found a way to get out of it. It's like any small thing starts us going downhill."

More of the same in the sixth. Khris Davis singled with one out and Matt Olson followed with a base hit to center. JaCoby Jones, for the second time this week, overran the ball and it rolled all the way to the warning track in center — a two-base error, run scored.

"He probably overplayed it," Gardenhire said. "He came charging in on a line drive in the wet grass and it skipped by him. It was not one of his better plays and it ended up costing us a couple runs."

Chad Pinder followed with a 437-foot, two-run home run to the shrubbery in center — and just that fast, Norris’ night and was over.

"Every starting pitcher wants to be the stopper," Norris said. "That was my objective today. I wanted to do that. I didn't want them to put runs on the board and I wanted to give us a chance to win. 

"I wanted to stop the bleeding. We're going through a rough patch and we've got to find a way to win and I didn't do that."

One bad pitch spoiled his night, but it shouldn't detract from the progress Norris continues to make through his six starts this season. He's effectively added a two-seam fastball to his four-seamer, slider, change-up and curveball. 

He had good command of those pitches most of the night and his velocity gradually continues to inch up. He was 91-93 mph most of the game.

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"At the end of the day, I've got to keep in mind where I was and where I am now," Norris said. "I feel good about that."

The Tigers' offense just didn’t have enough weaponry to fight back into the game.

Athletics starter Frankie Montas, with two-seam and four-seam fastballs ringing between 95-98 mph on the radar gun, had a lot to do with that.

"A 97-mph two-seamer that moved a foot," Hicks said. "With a slider and splitter that he commanded today. He was tough."

Montas put down the first 12 Tigers hitters before Miguel Cabrera led off the fifth inning with a double. He had struck him out with a 97-mph heater in the second inning. This time Cabrera was able pull a 95-mph fastball into the corner in left.

Josh Harrison, who had struck out on three upper-90s heaters in the second, got on top of a 96-mph heater and drove it into the same corner — RBI double.

Cabrera ended up costing Montas the first complete game of his career, too. With two outs in the ninth, Cabrera rapped another double, this one to right center, scoring Gordon Beckham. 

It was Cabrera's 1,721th career hit, tying him with Lou Gehrig for 63rd on the all-time hit list. 

"It's been a rough patch for sure, and it's not been fun," Norris said. "And it's not who we are as a team. We've shown a lot of signs of really good baseball this year. We shouldn't be judged on a span of six games."

Hicks agreed with that.

"We're not playing our best baseball in any phase of the game," he said. "We have to find a way to get back to playing good baseball. I can be one small thing that lights the fire. But we have to find a way to do something."

Hicks was asked about the atmosphere in the clubhouse, whether it was frustration or resignation or something in between.

"Obviously, after games by no means are we happy," he said. "Everybody is a little frustrated. But we show up the next day and I don't think there's any lingering effects."

Gardenhire jokingly threatened to make his lineup by pulling names out of hat, whatever it took to break the spell.

"I don't think we need to do that but I'm not afraid to try anything," he said. "We talk all the time. They are upbeat. We've got a team picture tomorrow, so we're still alive. We'll see how it goes — I hope we're all smiling at the picture."


Twitter: @cmccosky