Bullied and beaten: Reeling Tigers no match for division-leading Twins
Detroit — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire isn’t much interested in whatever dubious achievements his team is closing in on as this forgettable season drags toward the end.
“I’m not trying to pay attention to records,” he said before the game. “I’m trying to pay attention to what we’re doing on the field.”
Well, it was ugly on both of those fronts Friday night as the Tigers were bullied and beaten by the Central Division-leading Minnesota Twins, 13-5.
It was the Tigers sixth straight loss — three each against the top two teams in the division, Cleveland and Minnesota. They are 4-11 at Comerica Park this month. And since May 13, their home record is 8-39.
They still need to win five more games to avoid being the first team in modern baseball history to lose 60 home games. They have 16 home games remaining, including six more against the Twins and three against the Yankees.
“I know it’s frustrating to our fans, and it’s frustrating for us,” Gardenhire said. “We do some good things on the road and then we come home and struggle. It’s frustrating not to put on a show here.”
Veteran Edwin Jackson took most of the punches early and didn’t survive the third inning. He faced 17 hitters in 2⅓ innings. Twelve reached base and eight scored.
"Jack just didn't have it," Gardenhire said. "He didn't have his best stuff today."
And as shaky as he was, allowing seven hits and three walks, the defense was worse.
Rookie shortstop Willi Castro booted what would have been a double-play grounder in a four-run first inning. Left fielder Victor Reyes and center fielder Harold Castro converged on a routine fly ball in short center, nearly collided, and the ball fell for a double in a two-run third.
"There was no reason for a collision there," Gardenhire said. "Victor just kept running like a mad man and ended up banging into him. That was kind of silly. He wasn't going to catch that ball. I know Victor plays like that, but that was silly."
The second run of that inning scored on a passed ball by catcher Jake Rogers with two outs. It was Rogers’ seventh passed ball in 22 games behind the plate. That’s the fourth highest total in the American League.
In the fourth inning, lefty reliever Matt Hall was late covering first base on ground ball by Jorge Polanco, which turned into an infield single. Next hitter, Nelson Cruz, hit a routine fly ball to right that Travis Demeritte lost in the lights.
"I hadn't seen that before this year," Gardenhire said. "But I am told it does happen here."
It ended up being another four-run inning, capped by a three-run home run by C.J. Cron.
"All these things go into a loss like this," Gardenhire said. "And they are teaching moments."
Polanco had three singles for the Twins. Eddie Rosario had two hits and knocked in three runs. Max Kepler doubled twice and scored three times.
The Tigers threw a few counter punches at Twins starter Kyle Gibson — four runs and 10 hits in five innings — but this was essentially a TKO after the fourth.
John Hicks, playing first base, had a double and hit his 11th home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth. Ronny Rodriguez had an RBI double in the first and hit his 11th home run into the seats in right field in the eighth.
Reyes had a pair of hits and Rogers, who had been in a 1-for-36 skid with 21 strikeouts, had an RBI double.
Speaking of teaching moments, Willi Castro had two hits, as well, but he made a costly blunder on the bases. With the Tigers down 4-0 in the first inning, he got picked off first base with one out and runners on first and third.
"It's a 3-2 count and he was running, but he has to make sure the (Gibson) throws home," Gardenhire said. "He bends his knee, he has a balk move and we know he's got it. But you just can't get picked off there.
"We have to let them keep playing and keep working on this stuff. It's all we can do."