Detroit — All season long, Tigers fans could point to the not-so-distant past for a little relief: Well, it’s not as bad as 2003.
Well, at home, it was worse.
The Tigers closed the worst home season in franchise history on Thursday afternoon with another sweep, falling to mostly backups of the American League Central Division champion Minnesota Twins, 10-4, to finish 22-59 at Comerica Park, one game worse than the 2003 squad.
"We were terrible at home, we didn’t play well for our fans," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It’s not like they didn’t try, but we really played bad at home. Hopefully we can turn that around. That’s something that’s got to change. You’ve got to take care of home, you got to play well in front of your fans. We’re going to try to do a better job of that and make sure they understand that."
The Tigers already had avoided becoming the first MLB team with 60 home losses, and weren't as bad at home percentage-wise as the 1939 St. Louis Browns (18-59). Detroit is 46-112 heading into a season-ending four-game set in Chicago this weekend, clear of the dreadful 43-119 mark from 2003.
Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann allowed four earned runs in 4⅓ innings in his final outing of the season, falling to 1-13 and raising his ERA to 6.91.
With one year left on his five-year, $110-million contract, the 33-year-old Zimmermann said he's looking forward to a healthy offseason for the first time in years after four seasons of disappointment in Detroit.
"It seems like right when I turned 31, this broke down, that broke down — it was a snowball effect," he said. "I'd like to put one good season together here, be full health and be able to stay that way to show these guys really what they could've had if all these injuries didn't happen."
Zimmermann thought his career might have been over after an elbow injury in April. There was ligament damage, but it would not require his second Tommy John surgery.
"I know that in my head that I haven't had my best years here and everybody sees that here, everybody thinks I'm done and finished and I don't have anything left," Zimmermann said. "I don't see it that way. Going into the offseason, I'm thinking I'm going to be one of the top pitchers when I come back next year."
The Twins clinched the division crown on Wednesday with a 5-1 win and Cleveland’s loss to the White Sox.
With eyes on next week’s playoffs, manager Rocco Baldelli rested regulars such as Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron.
Despite 13 hits, the Tigers still couldn’t get it done, allowing 13 hits to the depleted Twins. It was the 10th time the Tigers were swept out of 26 series at home. Detroit swept the opponent once.
Willi Castro had a career-high three hits, and Victor Reyes, Brandon Dixon and Travis Demeritte had two hits apiece, with Reyes driving in two runs in his sixth multi-hit game in the last 12.
Castro hit his first career triple and has hits in five of his last six games, with extra-base hits coming in four of those.
"I’m seeing the ball better, been working on that because I’ve been too aggressive," Castro said.
Castro said he plans on playing the third straight winter ball season for Escogido in the Dominican Republic, where he grew up. The goal after that is to assume everyday shortstop duties in Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera drove Dixon home with a groundout in the third inning after Dixon reached with a leadoff triple.
Later, Cabrera's 2,813th career hit pushed him past George Sisler (Michigan) for 51st on the all-time list. Next on the list is a pair of former Tigers: Charlie Gehringer at 2,839 and Ivan Rodriguez at 2,844.
Rookie catcher Jake Rogers had his ninth passed ball, tied for sixth-most in MLB, despite playing in just his 33rd game behind the plate.
Gardenhire attributed many of the mix-ups to pitcher misfires, throwing outside when Rogers calls for it in, for instance.
"Plus, I’m not saying he gets lazy, but sometimes it looks like he gets wandering a little bit and the pitch goes in there and bounces off his glove," Gardenhire said. "But the kid can catch and throw. We know that, and he’ll be OK. This is a learning experience from him, he’s just got to grow with it."
Jonathan Schoop and Willians Astudillo hit home runs for the Twins, and Ian Miller had his first MLB hit and RBI in the third inning. Ryan LaMarre, a Jackson Lumen Christi and Michigan product, reached base three times for the Twins.
The Twins are the first team in MLB history to hit 300 home runs, now totaling 301 with three games left at Kansas City. The Yankees, with three games this weekend in Texas, have 299.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.