'We've got to fix this': Gardenhire delivers stern message after Indians sweep Tigers
Detroit — He didn't throw any chairs or kick over the grease board, but Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire delivered a very stern, direct message in the Tigers clubhouse Sunday after a no-compete, 8-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
"Frustrating day," Gardenhire said. "It's the little things I talk about more than anything else and I talked to the club about it — like not running balls out, little things which to me are unacceptable and today we had a couple of those things happen.
"Those are the things I apologize for. That's not the way we play the game. We run balls out. Today wasn't one of those days. Whether it's getting beat down too many times in a row, I don't know. But we've got to fix this."
The frustration among the players was palpable, and it was exacerbated by the dominance of Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer, who pitched his first career complete-game shutout.
"I think the frustration boils over at times," first baseman John Hicks said. "I think a lot of it was guys frustrated with their at-bat or frustrated at pitches that they swung at. It boils over."
The losing is becoming oppressive, too. The Tigers are now 2-17 in the last 19 games at Comerica Park. They are 3-11 in June. Going back to last season at this time when they were a game under .500, the club is a dreadful 53-104.
And against the Indians, it's almost become men against boys.
The Indians have won five out of six games this season, taken four straight series at Comerica and since 2018 are 18-7 against the Tigers. Only the Twins (24-10) have beaten them more regularly in that span.
The games have not exactly been closely contested, either. The Indians outscored the Tigers 116-47 last season, and six games into the 19-game set this year, they are up 38-12 in the composite box.
"We've had a lot of injuries and we are playing guys all over the field," Gardenhire said. "We are over-matched a lot of times. That's part of the process here. We have those kids down in Double-A, the pitchers, they need to develop. So we're going with what we have right now.
"But these guys give a flip. They care. They're in the big leagues and I expect them to play like big-leaguers. They typically give 100 percent. Today was disappointing."
The Tigers mustered four hits off Bauer. They struck out eight times and grounded out 11 times. They had 10 swing and misses and 26 called strikes and the average exit velocity on balls put in play was a soft 79.6 mph.
"That guy today was an animal out there," Gardenhire said. "He's got great stuff and he's a very fierce competitor. He really spun the ball on us. Give him a lot of credit. But we didn't do too well today.
"We didn't have good at-bats."
You'd think Bauer would be satisfied. He was not.
"Mostly was just upset my strikeouts were lagging," he said. "Just trying to get ahead of people so I could get some strikeouts. Got a lot of first-pitch outs, which helped keep the pitch count down and no walks, how about that?
"I could’ve punched out the side in the ninth, I could’ve gotten to 10, no walks, and I think that’s some rarified air or something."
The other side of that coin was Tigers' starter Spencer Turnbull. He had allowed three runs or less in 12 of his 14 starts before Sunday. But he was no mystery to the Indians. They scored the six runs on 10 hits in five innings.
"They're a good-hitting team," Turnbull said. "But I definitely didn't have my best stuff today. Kind of one of those days. Not sure what it was, I just had a hard time finding what would work."
Jason Kipnis, hitting .207 with two home runs coming in, was moved into the clean-up spot in manager Terry Francona’s lineup. He responded with an RBI double in the first and then a two-run home run in a three-run third inning.
Rookie Oscar Mercado, who knocked in four runs, had two of his three hits off Turnbull and stole a base. Turnbull has allowed 11 straight successful stolen bases.
"I was not very happy," Gardenhire said of the tone of his postgame clubhouse talk. "I respect the hell out of those guys in that clubhouse because they play the game; they play it hard. But you get frustrated and you pop a ball up, you still owe it to everybody sitting in that dugout to run.
"It takes no talent whatsoever to run. Everybody's got the obligation to run when they play baseball. I let them know that."
Hicks said the message was received.
"He came in and talked to us like men," he said. "And whenever he comes in and talks, obviously it's something he feels is important. We listen and we'll make the adjustments he wants us to make."