'Nothing's working': Listless Tigers crushed 8-1 by Mariners, slide 40 games under .500
Seattle — The losing streak hit five after the 8-1 loss to the Mariners Saturday, but the misery goes a lot deeper than that for the Tigers.
You can pick your ugly number: 40 games under .500 (30-70), 2-13 since the All-Star break, 3-18 in July, 8-38 since June 1. It doesn't matter. They all paint the same picture.
"I don't know," veteran shortstop Jordy Mercer said when asked what was left to say or do to keep morale up. "We've tried a whole bunch of stuff. Nothing's working. If you guys got any ideas, let us know. We'd like to hear them."
You know times or tough when players are asking the media for answers. Catcher Bobby Wilson went even further.
"Me personally, and I know a lot of guys in here are almost trying too hard," he said. "It's just that you want it so bad. You've worked so long and so hard to get to this position in the major leagues and it's frustrating. We're not doing what we know we are all capable of.
"We have to find a way to take the bad aura out of the room."
It was suggested that they needed to sacrifice a journalist, which made him smile.
"I was thinking something along those lines," he said. "Some kind of ceremony to get the bad spirits out of here."
Maybe having that ceremony on the West Coast is the best idea. This was the Tigers' 23rd loss in 24 games against the American League West. And, with seven more games and two more cities remaining on this trip, the Tigers are 48-100 against the West since 2015.
"We just have to keep playing hard knowing this is going to change," Mercer said. "It has to. There is no way we can continue to do this and not win games."
There have been players-only meetings. Manager Ron Gardenhire has held team meetings. There's been sessions with individual players and small groups of players.
"I don't know what you can say anymore," Mercer said. "We've tried a whole bunch of different things that's in here and will stay between us. All we can do is continue to show up and play.
"That's all we can do at this point."
Gardenhire met with his coaching staff after the game Saturday.
"This is a difficult challenge," he said. "But our job is to lift them up, which we've been trying to do all year. We need to go back in that clubhouse and let them see us, let them know we're behind them 100 percent."
It was a dreary performance Saturday. There were defensive misplays (Niko Goodrum misplayed a ball in right field that fell for a double). There was another base running gaffe (Brandon Dixon was doubled off first base on a shallow fly ball to left field, in the ninth inning down by seven runs).
The Mariners had 16 hits, a couple that beat the shift, a lot of seeing-eye and bloops.
But it looked more lethargic than it might have been simply because there was no offensive spark. The Tigers have been held to two runs or less in the last five games and averaged 12 strikeouts over that stretch.
"We had energy, we had it early," Gardenhire said. "But you fall into a hole like that and it gets dead in the dugout. It looks dead because we're not getting anybody on base. You've got to get some hits.
"It doesn't look dead when you are running around the bases."
The offense was limited to an RBI single by Goodrum in the third inning off Mariners starter Marco Gonzales, who pitched seven strong innings. Goodrum’s hit scored JaCoby Jones who doubled.
"We're getting out of the gates early and we're scoring first almost every game," Mercer said. "We get some momentum on our side then we hit a wall and things don't go our way.
"The excitement is still there. The want to win is still there. We just have to start putting it together and play a full nine-inning game. Once we scratch out a win, then another one, we will start to build some confidence, start having some swag at the plate and on the mound."
Rookie Tyler Alexander’s third big-league start was puzzling — four runs in 4⅓ innings, but also a career-best nine strikeouts.
After he cruised through the first three innings, the game got away from him in the fourth. He was tagged for a two-run triple by Austin Nola and a two-out, RBI single by Ryan Court — who made the most of his first big-league start.
The single was his first big-league hit and he later added a two-run double.
Alexander gave up three more hits in the fifth, including an RBI double to Tim Beckham before departing.
"He gave us an opportunity," Gardenhire said. "He hung in there. We're just not scoring. We've had our moments where we look like our offense is coming around. Then there's moments like now where we're scuffling.
"This is not much fun. I think we are all pretty frustrated right now."