Same result, different day: Daniel Norris keeps progressing but Tigers can't flip script
Detroit — Daniel Norris unleashed a loud, anguished scream as he walked off the mound after the fifth inning Tuesday.
His frustration was palpable, and understandable as the Tigers dropped the first game of a double-header against the White Sox on a rainy Tuesday, 5-3.
"It was more that I didn't execute my pitch," said Norris, who was maybe a couple of inches on a pair of missed catches in the outfield from having a very different result.
The Tigers had just tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning — on a 407-foot home run by Jake Rogers — and Norris thought he had pitched out of a jam in the top of the fifth.
With Ryan Cordell on third and two outs, Jose Abreu hit a line drive to right field. Rookie Travis Demeritte, in his second start at Comerica Park, was playing deep and seemed to have it in his sights. But instead of running back to the track, he drifted and the ball sailed over his head, one of three RBIs for Abreu on the day.
"He just didn't catch it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I don't know if it got right over his head or what, but he drifted to it. I am sure Dave (Clark, outfield coach) told him you can bust back to it and make that play a lot easier.
"But, new outfield, new player, he's learning. It's going to be a work-in-progress with him, too. Give him a little leeway but I know he knows he should've made that catch."
When he got the next hitter to ground out to end the inning, Norris vented, his scream easily heard in the quiet, mostly empty stadium.
"If anything, you want to pick your teammates up and let them know their effort was appreciated," said Norris, who ended up allowing four runs in 5.2 innings. "You want to end that inning and not let it come to anything. That was my frustration."
In the first inning, after getting the first two hitters out in five pitches, Norris engaged in an 11-pitch battle with Abreu. Finally, after the White Sox slugger fouled off seven pitches with two strikes, he lined a fastball into the first row of seats in left field.
"That was a battle," Norris said. "I tried to mix in a two-seamer and left it middle. I wasn't executing great in the first first inning. If I make my pitches there, the at-bat is over. But I was leaving stuff middle and he kept fouling it off.
"I left the last one too middle and he got it."
With one out in the second inning, Ryan Goins hit a long fly ball to the cut-out in right-center field. JaCoby Jones, who was shallow and shaded over in left center, raced more than 100 feet and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove.
He was not able to complete the process, however. The ball came out as he was tumbling to the ground. Instead of another five-star catch for Jones, it was a triple for Goins, who scored on a double by Adam Engel.
"I don't know how it came out, to be honest," Jones said. "I guess my wrist kind of flipped and it came out. I ran a long way for that ball. We were on the 11-day road trip (smaller ballparks) and I was playing shallow.
"I came back here and looked behind me and I was like, 'Dang, there's a lot of room back there.'"
Norris, who gave up a first-pitch, 420-foot home run to Welington Castillo leading off the sixth, was two near-catches from putting together a fourth straight strong start. He’d allowed two runs or less in his three previous outings.
"I think I am making progress every time out," he said. "My whole goal coming back from surgery was to keep pitching, get innings and get back to normal. I feel close. I feel real close."
The Tigers, who didn’t start a single established Major League player in the first game — Jones, John Hicks and Niko Goodrum were as close as it got — had a chance to put up a crooked number in the first inning.
They had rookie right-hander Dylan Cease on the ropes. A single by Harold Castro, an error and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Cease, who beat the Tigers in his big-league debut back in July, got third baseman Dawel Lugo to tap back to him (though he nearly threw the ball past catcher Castillo) and Hicks to line out to third.
"Unfortunately, we missed our opportunities early to score some runs and it went from there," Gardenhire said. "We never got back into it."
It was the Tigers fifth straight loss — they are 4-20 since the All-Star break — and their 16th in the last 18 games at Comerica Park.