Home stand ends with a dud, Tigers hit road to face a trio of playoff contenders
Detroit — If Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has been hyper-vigilant about anything this season, it's been trying to calm and control the overall frustration level in the clubhouse and on the field.
He has moved swiftly to snuff out any signs of his players giving in to or acting out on the frustration. He did it again on Thursday in the Tigers' 7-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
Victor Reyes struck out on a ball in the dirt in the eighth inning. The ball got past the catcher, but Reyes had already put his head down in disgust and was walking back to the dugout.
"That's not acceptable," Gardenhire said. "And I don't believe a manager should have to walk over and tell him. One of the players should stand up and do that, too. I had a conversation about that, too.
"That's not Reyes. I know for a fact that young man plays all out all the time. He was frustrated and we'll give him that one, but that's not something we want to see."
Frustration is inevitable. The club is 8-25 since the All-Star break and just completed its 15th straight home series without winning one. With 43 home losses, they are 17 short of the franchise record.
They haven't won a series at Comerica Park since the first week of May and they've won just one overall (in Anaheim) in the last 21. And now, just for kicks, they embark on a 10-game trip against three playoff-contending teams — the Rays, Astros and Twins.
"We're getting into a hot box here, playing some teams that are pretty good," Gardenhire said. "It should be fun baseball for them. These games mean a lot to those other teams and they should mean a lot to us.
"It's good competition. They're going to see where we need to get to, I guarantee you that."
Miguel Cabrera, who extended his hitting streak to eight with his ninth home run of the season — a 417-footer that cleared the bullpen in left field — agreed that his young teammates need to buckle up for the challenge.
"We need to be ready to play because any mistake we make with these teams, they're going to take advantage," he said. "We need to play good baseball."
Cabrera, though, quickly added that the focus is wider than this upcoming trip.
"We've got to look at the whole picture, not only what we've got here," he said. "We have to look at the picture we've got in the minor leagues, too. We trying to be a good team from the minor leagues all the way up to the big leagues.
"We can't focus on right now and the team we've got here, because this isn't going to be the team we have in two or three years. We've got good prospects in the minor leagues and hopefully they will be here soon."
One player who is here now and upon whom the Tigers are counting to be one of the anchors of the pitching staff going forward got the start — right-hander Spencer Turnbull.
It was his third start since he came off the injured list and he continues to tease with flashes of dominance and confound with one seemingly obligatory rough inning.
Taken whole, he gave the Tigers a solid five innings. The first seven outs he recorded were strikeouts — he’d finish with eight — and he put up zeros in four of the five innings.
But in the other inning, the third, he put the Tigers in a 3-0 hole.
"I thought he had some at-bats in that inning where he kind of gave in," Gardenhire said. "With first base open and Kyle Seager up, the guy had just chased a high fastball. He was supposed to bounce a breaking ball and he hung it.
"You don't want to walk the bases loaded, but with first base open you don't give in. You make him chase."
It ended up being a 27-pitch, four-hit inning. Seager, who hit three home runs and knocked in six runs on Tuesday, flipped a 2-2 curve ball into the left field corner for a two-run double.
"If I bounce a couple of those pitches I probably get out of that inning," Turnbull agreed. "But other than that, I felt pretty good."
He was. But the Tigers bullpen was not. The Mariners scored four more runs off relievers Matt Hall (two), right-hander David McKay, making his Tigers' debut, and Tyler Alexander.
"I don't know if it will be a learning experience or anything like that," catcher John Hicks said of the upcoming trip. "But for a team not really in the playoff race it'll be nice to play spoiler for some teams.
"But I don't think we'll get up for it any more than we would normally. We're still going to go out and compete like we always do."