Detroit — In a manner of speaking, manager Ron Gardenhire sprayed some verbal disinfectant throughout the Tigers clubhouse after Thursday's game. He wanted to make sure he killed whatever toxins might be spreading throughout this miserable homestand.
"As I walked through there and told the guys, this is really hard," he said after the Tigers ran their losing streak to nine with a stunning 5-2 loss to the Miami Marlins. "But we have to stick together. We have to have each other's backs.
"There's kids in there who are really upset. They know how this game went. We have to have their backs. I have their back."
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning with closer Shane Greene looking to remain perfect on the season in save situations.
Five unearned runs later and the Tigers were packing for a three-city trip on the heels of the longest losing streak in one homestand in the history of Comerica Park.
"We've got a good group of guys in this clubhouse and everybody really cares for each other," said Nick Castellanos, who had three hits in the loss. "The last thing we're going to do is point fingers and put blame on somebody else.
"We win games as a team and we lose games as a team. We get hot as a team and we struggle as a team. Gardy's message was spot-on."
The Tigers gave the Marlins two extra outs in the ninth, and rookie Garrett Cooper made it hurt, badly — whacking a two-out grand slam home run off a hanging slider from Greene.
"I just need to pitch better," said Greene, who had converted 15 straight save opportunities until that pitch. "My job is to close the door there and I couldn't do it."
The mess started with a lead-off error by third baseman Dawel Lugo. It was a ball he had to charge but the runner, Harold Ramirez, wasn't running hard out of the box. Even after he kicked it, he still had time to throw him out.
But he couldn't pick up the ball. Ramirez ended up scoring on a one-out single by Neil Walker.
After a walk to Jorge Alfaro, Greene got what looked to be a game-ending double-play ball from Miguel Rojas. Second baseman Ronny Rodriguez didn't field the ball cleanly at second and they only got the force.
"Both of those guys tried to make a play," Gardenhire said. "The third baseman didn't have to charge the ball that hard and Ronny just looked up a little bit instead of burying it in his glove.
"It was still a bang-bang play at first. We still almost got the guy. We took it to replay, it was that close. But we have to make that play. If we do, the game is over."
That set up a confrontation with former Tiger Curtis Granderson, with runners at the corners and two outs. But when Rojas stole second without a throw, and with a 2-0 count on left-handed hitting Granderson, Gardenhire told Greene to put him on first.
With right-handed hitting Cooper up, Greene said he wanted to throw two sliders away and then jam him with a fastball in. The second slider spun over the heart of the plate and Cooper, who hit his first big-league home run on Saturday, blasted it 417 feet into the seats in left field.
"The only person I am going to point fingers at today is myself," Greene said. "I needed to make a pitch to pick the team up and I couldn't do it."
The Tigers were swept at home by the Astros, Athletics and Marlins. The nine-game skid matches one at Tigers Stadium by the 1996 Tigers.
"It happens," said Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd, who pitched six shutout innings and put the club in position to break the streak. "But every game is singular. You win one at a time and you lose one at a time.
"We came out on the wrong side today, but we will show up tomorrow and do our thing. ... Losing isn't fun. But guess what, there's another game, another opportunity, tomorrow."
Two runs, again, didn't leave much margin for error.
Niko Goodrum had two singles and scored both runs. Miguel Cabrera had a pair of hits including an RBI single in the eighth inning to provide a two-run cushion.
“We lost 11 in a row last year," Gardenhire said. "It’s tough no matter what. A three-game losing streak’s tough in baseball. It feels like forever. And the way this one was lost is really hard.
"But you have to be grown men around here. I’ll take it, it’s on my shoulders to figure this thing out. I’m working at it. I’m talking with them but I can’t play., We have to go out and find a way."