Detroit — The contrast between what happened at Comerica Park Saturday night and Sunday afternoon was, well, stark.
Saturday night was all plot twists, dramatic plays and walk-off grand slams for the Tigers. Sunday was rain, walks and a tedious loss.
"We're on a stretch where we're playing a lot of games in a row (21 in 20 days) and we still have more to play before a day off and you can tell our group is a little down, especially after the long game last night," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Orioles beat the Tigers, 8-2, in a rain-extended game.
"But no excuse. We didn't come out and play our best ballgame today."
With the loss, the Tigers retain their 4.5-game “lead” on the Orioles for the worst record in baseball — the prize for which is the first pick in the 2020 draft and absolutely no consolation to this current team.
"We had some good swings early but it kind of went flat," Gardenhire said. "It just wasn't there. The rains came, it was misting, the whole package. The game just never had a pace to it as far as I was concerned."
Edwin Jackson got the start for the Tigers and except for a three-batter stretch in the third inning, he had things relatively under control.
Problem was, those three batters produced three runs in the pivotal third inning.
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead into the inning on the strength of an RBI double by Jordy Mercer and an RBI single by Grayson Greiner.
Jackson, who has lost five of his last six decisions, had pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second, striking out Trey Mancini to end the inning. And he got the first two outs in the third before the trouble hit.
Dwight Smith Jr. tripled and scored on a bunt single by Hanser Alberto. Rio Ruiz followed with a two-run home run, his 11th of the season.
"Edwin really battled," Greiner said. "In the middle innings he found his slider a little bit. Just a couple of cutters in that guys put good swings on, but I thought he battled and threw the ball well."
Jackson ended up facing two batters in the sixth. Both reached, one scored and the Orioles put the game out of reach against the Tigers' bullpen.
"Jack was OK," Gardenhire said. "He made some bad pitches that hurt him, not killed him by any means, but it cost him some runs there and we never got back into it."
Lefty reliever Nick Ramirez, with a huge assist from left fielder Victor Reyes, looked like he was going to pitch out of the mess in the sixth. With one out, pinch-hitter Pedro Severino singled and Ruiz attempted to score from second.
Reyes, who threw out Renato Nunez at second base on Saturday, gunned down Ruiz with another strong throw.
But Jonathan Villar followed with a two-run single to make it 6-2.
The rain began falling in the fifth and the game was delayed for 39 minutes before the Tigers came to bat in the bottom of the sixth. As far as the Tigers were concerned, it should’ve kept raining.
The Orioles scored twice more against lefty reliever Matt Hall in the eighth on a two-out, two-run single by Anthony Santander.
The bright spots on the day were Greiner and Harold Castro.
Greiner had three hits for the Tigers. Since being called up from Triple-A Toledo in September, he’s hitting .393 (13-for-33).
"A lot better than before I got hurt, for sure," Greiner said. "When you start getting some hits, your confidence rises. Confidence is a huge key in this game. If you are lacking confidence, it's going to be a downhill ride for you.
"I feel comfortable and at ease in the box. I just want to keep working and build on it."
Castro is on an incredible stretch, threatening to get some buzz for rookie of the year honors. He had three more hits — his fifth straight multi-hit game and his ninth three-hit game of the season.
Among rookies with at least 300 at-bats, Castro's .305 batting average ranks fourth. He's on pace to become the first Tigers rookie since Harvey Kuenn in 1953 to hit .300.
Castro also made a diving catch in center field taking a hit away from Severino in the eighth inning.