Detroit — At times on Monday, if you really squinted, you could see a glimpse of what the Tigers could be down the road.
There was Spencer Turnbull getting strikeouts for his first six outs, rookies Jake Rogers and Travis Demeritte getting base hits in their first at-bats in their new home, and JaCoby Jones launching a home run.
But as the Tigers lost 7-4 to the Chicago White Sox to open an 11-game home stand, the more clearer glimpse of the future might have come across the field.
Detroit is getting a look this week at a team two years or so past them in a similarly drastic rebuild and now 16 games ahead of them in the AL Central standings.
“Stick with us,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s going to turn around here, and when it does, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Tigers fans tried everything, even a spirited wave in the ninth inning.
Up close, they saw a 25-year-old All-Star starting pitcher in Lucas Giolito, who worked through an uneven first full season; a formerly inconsistent shortstop prospect in Tim Anderson, who has turned into a .300 hitter with decent power; a young slugger with tantalizing power in Eloy Jimenez; and an aging power hitter in Jose Abreu, who is still headed toward 30-plus home runs.
They also saw former Tigers catcher James McCann, himself an All-Star this year, provide an insurance RBI with a single in the eighth inning.
Given the Tigers’ struggles, a late lead seemed insurmountable. It was.
The White Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Matt Skole blooped a double behind second base and in front of center fielder Jones, who got a late jump. Later, Ryan Goins scored a run in the fourth with a single to almost the identical spot as three fielders gave chase to no avail.
“It’s frustrating, but that happens, it’s part of baseball,” Turnbull said. “The shadows were tough tonight. It’s an advantage for a pitcher, the hitters can’t really see, but it’s also tough sometimes for the fielders to see. That’s just part of it.”
The losing at Comerica Park continued in the first of a season-long, 11-game home stand. The Tigers have now won just four of their last 34 games at home. Overall, Detroit has lost 56 of its last 70 games.
Since the Tigers haven’t been able to entertain much, many of the 16,942 fans who stuck around until the end took it upon themselves. They did the wave for most of the ninth, speeding up and slowing down, then expertly changing directions.
“It was probably a lot of good cocktails going on,” Gardenhire said. “But yeah, they’re here. These are great fans. They want to see wins. They always do that. They get loud, start screaming and you know, they’re here for us.
“We’re not giving them what they want right now, but stick with us. I think they will. I know what’s in this clubhouse, I know they care.”
Jones homered and tripled, and Victor Reyes added two hits on a night where two possible future pieces made their home debuts.
Rogers scored Demeritte with an RBI single in the second inning as both rookies had base hits in their first Comerica Park at-bats. They would combine to go 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and a walk after that.
Rogers was reunited with former Double-A Erie teammate Turnbull, who was pitching for the first time in the big leagues since July 17.
Gardenhire said Turnbull was on a 70-pitch limit and hoped to get through five innings with him. He threw 76 pitches with a strange stat line. He struck out seven, including his first six outs recorded, but walked three and hit a batter.
Rookie left-hander Gregory Soto took the loss, his fifth without earning a win, allowing six hits over four innings. Reliever Buck Farmer was charged with three earned runs while recording two outs.
As for that future Tigers’ fans hope to look forward to: Giolito struck out eight batters in six innings, but also allowed eight hits; Anderson had three hits and scored twice; Abreu had two hits and drove in a run; and Jimenez singled and reached base twice.
McCann added two hits.
Detroit’s Harold Castro was the only hitless starting position player, as the teams combined for 25 hits.
The teams will play a day-night doubleheader Tuesday with the first game at 1:10 p.m. In addition to adding a 26th player for the twin bill, Gardenhire said the team will evaluate Jeimer Candelario’s jammed left thumb and see if he needs to go to the injured list.
Candelario, who had his thumb wrapped in the clubhouse, said he jammed it swinging during Sunday’s game in Texas. He was unavailable for Monday after Gardenhire said he couldn’t swing before the game.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.