Detroit — The small crowds, the increasing impatience of the fan base, it’s not been lost on Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire.
But he knows there’s only one remedy for both. Play better and win more.
“It’s frustrating losing, more frustrating inside this clubhouse than you can possibly imagine,” Gardenhire said before the game. “Guys want to win. We know we’ve been struggling. We know our fans aren’t happy. But if we put all our emphasis on making our fans happy, we’re forgetting about what’s really important.
“And that is, once we get happy in this clubhouse by winning a few ballgames, I think the fans will go right along with it. But we have to show it out on the field.”
You’d think the 13-win Miami Marlins would provide a happy pill for the Tigers. Well, they did, but the Tigers didn't take it.
After gifting the Tigers two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score, the Marlins scored a run in the top of the 11th to claim a 5-4 win and extend their winning streak to four.
By the end of this one, the Tigers had struck out 17 times and endured their seventh straight loss, all at Comerica Park. Gardenhire had been ejected for arguing an overturned call in left field in the bottom of the ninth that essentially nixed the winning run.
And the Marlins were down to the their last strike in the 11th when they scored the winner.
"Everybody is frustrated, obviously," said bench coach Steve Liddle, who managed the team after Gardenhire was ejected. "It's nice to see us come back and get some key hits. But obviously, frustration boils over."
Start in the 11th inning.
Reliever Joe Jimenez got the first two outs before Miguel Rojas produced an infield single on a ball that shortstop Ronny Rodriguez stabbed but couldn't get the throw across the diamond in time.
Jimenez, though, got two quick strikes on No. 9 hitter Chad Wallach. But then he and Liddle started paying extra attention to holding Rojas at first. Jimenez threw over a couple of times and Liddle ordered a pitch-out.
"It's just the scouting report says in that situation he might go," Jimenez said. "So, as a team, I guess I was just receiving orders. Just doing my job."
Whether it took his focus off the hitter or not, he hung a slider over the middle of the plate and Wallach slammed it into the gap in left-center, scoring Rojas, who, for the first time in the at-bat, was running on the pitch.
Asked if the all the attention on Rojas impacted the pitch to Wallach, Liddle said, emphatically, "No, I thought he made a bad pitch. You make a good pitch and you are out of the inning. The guy was running on the pitch.
"Obviously I told him to pitch out, so I thought he'd be running on the pitch before. He ran on the breaking ball. He might've been looking in at the catcher's sign while he was leading off."
Jimenez, for the record, agreed that he made a bad pitch and didn't use the throw-overs as an excuse.
"It was right in the middle," he said. "Can't pitch there here (in the big leagues)...It was a chance for us. We came back in that last inning and tied the game. It's just frustrating I didn't do my job. I have to come back tomorrow and do better."
The Tigers had made 14 straight outs and entered the bottom of the ninth down 4-2. And they were facing Marlins closer Sergio Romo. You might remember, it was Romo who closed out the final game of the 2012 World Series at Comerica Park, igniting the Giants' World Series championship celebration.
But the Marlins gave the Tigers a couple of extra outs. Niko Goodrum reached on an infield single when Romo missed the bag covering first. Then with one out, second baseman Starlin Castro, attempting to get a force out at second, dropped a throw from third baseman Brian Anderson.
That put runners on first and second for Miguel Cabrera. It was Cabrera who struck out against Romo to end the 2012 World Series. This time, Cabrera singled Goodrum home to make it 4-3.
Rodriguez then lofted a fly ball to deep left field.
"That was just one grain of the bat away from being a home run," Liddle said.
Left fielder Harold Ramirez dropped the ball, but it was ruled after video review that he dropped it on the exchange to his throwing hand. Gardenhire was ejected by umpire Fieldin Culbreth for arguing the decision.
"The umpire didn't think he had control," Liddle said. "But they appealed it and New York (the video review center) said somehow he did have control. I think that's one of those instances where the slow-motion camera can hurt you a little bit.
"It looked like it came back to bite us."
Gardenhire knew he would be ejected the minute he came out to argue the replay decision, but he still felt it important to make his point.
"It's kind of a gray area," Liddle said. "The rule says you have to have control of the ball so you can make the transfer. When he went to move his glove to reach up for it, the ball fell out. So he didn't really go in and grab it with his hand."
Instead of Castellanos and pinch-runner Brandon Dixon both scoring, the Tigers settled for just the tying run after Josh Harrison lined out for the third out.
It was all Marlins for eight innings.
Coming off a weekend sweep of the New York Mets, they came out swinging against starter Spencer Turnbull. Of the first 14 batters Turnbull faced, seven of them hit balls with an exit velocity off the bat better than 100 mph.
Included in that barrage was an RBI double by Chad Wallach and a solo home run by Harold Ramirez, the first of his career. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson singled (104 mph) and scored in the first inning.
All seven of those rockets were hit off Turnbull’s fastball. The average exit velocity on all balls put in play against him was 94 mph. And yet, he was able to get through five innings and keep the Tigers in contention.
"I've got to make some adjustments," Turnbull said. "Nothing too crazy, just noticing the hitters are game-planing a little differently on me. I have to attack the zone a little bit more than I have.
"I've been throwing too many balls with my slider and curve and teams are able to eliminate it pretty quickly. They end up just sitting on my fastball."
Lefty Nick Ramirez pitched three strong innings in relief of Turnbull. His one mistake, though, ended up leaving the yard. He left a change-up over the heart of the plate to Anderson, who lined it over the left-field fence.
For the Tigers, JaCoby Jones hit his fourth homer of the year, a two-strike opposite field shot.
Cabrera, with his two hits and two RBIs, continues to climb up the all-time list in both categories. It was RBIs No. 1,652 and 1,653, passing Tony Perez for 28th place in major league history. And it was hits No. 2,724 and 2,725, passing Roberto Alomar for 62nd place.