Unwelcomed wagon: Tigers dumped by Rangers to kick off home stand
Detroit — Home sweet home it ain’t.
The Tigers confounding struggles at Comerica Park continued Tuesday night. They kicked off a six-game home stand with a 5-3 loss against the Texas Rangers.
The Tigers are now 2-18 in the last 21 home games (not counting the suspended game against Oakland, which they were losing in the seventh inning). They’ve been outscored by (96) runs in those games and out-homered (44-12).
"We just have to keep plugging away," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "No one is going to feel sorry for you. We know where we're at right now. We're not winning ballgames. We're not hitting and we're still making errors.
"There's a lot of things we've got to get rid of. But all we can do is work at it. And we're working at it. It just has to start carrying over to the games."
They certainly didn't give the ever-shrinking crowd (18,972 tickets sold) much to cheer about in this one. The only earned runs came on a two-run home run by Ronny Rodriguez with two outs in the ninth.
Too little too late.
"I don't know if we're frustrated, we're just making a lot of little mistakes," said starter Jordan Zimmermann, who battled through five innings, allowing three runs and nine hits. "As the game goes on there always seems to be one or two mistakes that end up hurting us.
"We've got to clean that up and if we do, we will win a lot more ballgames."
Veteran right-hander Jesse Chavez, who has been used mostly in relief this season, was supposed to be on a tight leash Tuesday. In his four previous starts, he’d been used as an opener, typically going one time through the opponent’s batting order.
The Tigers, though, gave Rangers manager Chris Woodward no reason to pull him. Chavez worked into the seventh inning, allowing only an unearned run and five hits in an efficient 79 pitches.
"He's done it for a long time," said Tigers catcher Bobby Wilson. "He knows how to pitch. He was cutting it away and then bringing it back in with the two-seamer. And he was doing it on both sides of the plate.
"It's what we talk about here — x-ing out the corners. That's why he's pitched as long as he has."
JaCoby Jones and Nick Castellanos each had two hits off him. They both singled with one out in the sixth and Jones scored on an infield hit by Miguel Cabrera and a subsequent throwing error by shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Chavez struck out seven, three of them on called third strikes.
He left, entrusting a 4-1 lead to lefty Locke St. John — a former Tigers draft pick the Rangers took in the minor-league Rule 5 draft before the 2018 season.
So it was fitting that he made his big league debut at Comerica. St. John, who didn’t advance above High-A with the Tigers, retired both hitters he faced.
"Another one of those slow offensive nights for us," Gardenhire said. "Just not able to drive in runs, not getting enough people on base. But it's not from a lack of trying. They're working hard.
"We hit some balls hard that were caught. Nicky had some great at-bats. But we've got to get more people involved."
The way this game started, it seemed like it would be a short night for Zimmermann. He needed 27 pitches (and 16 minutes) to get through the first inning. He ended up allowing two runs on three singles and a walk.
"I felt like it was better than the last time out," said Zimmermann, who was making his second start after missing nearly two months with an elbow injury. "The first couple of innings I was a little out of sync, but as the game went on I felt like I got sharper and I was able to locate better.
"I went five innings and 84 pitches, just keep building on that."
He didn’t exactly settle in, but he battled. Joey Gallo, activated off the injured list before the game, had an RBI double. Nomar Mazara also singled in a run.
The Rangers put seven balls in play with an exit velocity of 100 mph or harder off Zimmermann.
"He's still getting back," Wilson said. "He mentioned that he had that little extra built up in his fastball, some of those pitches would have got by guys. But he fought. He used his slider a lot tonight.
"But the bulldog in him kept him fighting."
The Rangers made it 4-0 in the sixth. Left-handed hitting Ronald Guzman hit a 434-foot home run into the shrubbery in center field off lefty reliever Daniel Stumpf.
Stumpf responded by striking out the next three batters.
Five straight losses and counting now as the Tigers fall to an abysmal 4-16 in June.