'We needed that': Tigers clobber their way out of funk, end 20-game skid vs. Indians
Cleveland — Team meetings can be eyewash. They may be well-intended, but rarely do they have any significant impact.
Every once in a while, though, when they are timed right and the message is clear, they can be a rallying point.
Apparently the players meeting the Tigers convened in Chicago over the weekend hit home. The Tigers came to battle on Friday, erasing a five-run deficit and vanquishing, at last, a 20-game losing streak against the Indians with a rousing, 10-5 win.
"The 20-game streak and what, nine straight losses overall," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We needed a win more than anything else. It's not even about that other stuff. Afterward, we talk about it and it's great, but we just needed to go out and play a good ballgame and get a win.
"But I am glad we all that other stuff out of the way. Those kinds of things can hang over you."
According to Michael Fulmer, who gave up the five runs Friday, and Matthew Boyd, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Romine and Cameron Maybin addressed the team in Chicago as the team was reeling toward a nine-game losing streak.
"The message was, just keep playing hard, keep playing the game the right way," Fulmer said. "Pick each other up and don't be down on yourself...It was just to change the atmosphere and get everyone's juices flowing again and make sure we always have each other's back.
"They definitely had my back tonight."
The big blow in a seven-run fourth inning was a grand slam home run by rookie Isaac Paredes.
"Very exciting," Paredes said through interpreter Carlos Guillen. "My first big-league home run, so I feel it. Felt good. The biggest thing is, we won the game."
Just 21, Paredes was 1-for-10 coming into that at-bat and fell into a 1-2 hole. He fouled off two nasty sliders from Indians right-hander Adam Plutko and then turned on an inside fastball, sending it into the grandstands in left field.
"I already had an at-bat against him and I could recognize his pitches," Paredes said. "I studied the pitcher. It was a situation, bases loaded, I felt a responsibility to do something.
"I just didn't want to strike out so I went to my two-strike approach (no leg kick), like I was looking for a breaking ball. But I knew I had to react to fastball if I got one. That's what happened. I got a fastball and I was able to react."
Before the game, Boyd, who gets the start against the Indians on Saturday, also talked about the meeting in Chicago.
“I’m just really grateful for the veteran players who are leaders on this team and for the coaches and for Gardy (manager Ron Gardenhire) who lead us,” he said. “They haven’t let us be down. We’re fighting…They’re invested. I’ve been in this situation as a young guy and it can feel like the end of the world. But you know what, a few balls go your way and five days later you can be back to .500. Things can change just like that.
“It’s never as bad as it seems and it’s never as good as it seems.”
Sure enough, down 5-0 in the third and things got better in a hurry.
First Jonathan Schoop, who had four hits on the night, hit a two-run home run that might have broken Statcast.
"I think it's still going," Fulmer said.
Last seen, the ball, hit high and deep to left field, looked to be heading out of Progressive Field. There was no Statcast data available on it.
"I think that got us going," Gardenhire said. "After he hit that bomb he hit that an absolute mile — it got everyone a little looser in the dugout and we started to grind it out from there."
The Tigers then loaded the bases — this after Plutko breezed through the first three innings allowing just one hit. Romine whacked a two-strike single to right to make it 5-3.
That set up Paredes.
"The guy can hit, we've been saying that from the get-go," Gardenhire said. "He's played a lot of baseball in his country (Mexico) and he's played with a lot of experienced players. He doesn't have any fear. We knew that."
The last Tiger whose first career homer was a grand slam — Brennan Boesch in 2010.
The Tigers stepped on the Indians' necks, figuratively, of course, scoring three more in the seventh. Victor Reyes hit a line-drive home run to right off reliever Dominic Leone. Then, after a single by Cabrera and a double by Schoop, Jeimer Candelario ripped a two-run single.
"You knew we weren't going to struggle like we have forever," Gardenhire said. "We've got some guys who are talented and can hit. We had some really good at-bats and we were able to put together a big inning.
"We needed that."
The second star of the night for the Tigers, though, was the bullpen. They got three shutdown innings from Rule 5 rookie Rony Garcia and Jose Cisnero. Garcia got Ramirez with runners on second and third in the fourth inning.
Cisneros, for the second straight outing, was dominant. He struck out Franmil Reyes, Tyler Naquin and Domingo Santana in a row, and allowed one two-out single in 1.2 innings.
Lefty Gregory Soto, who had two forgettable outings in Chicago and walked the first batter he faced Monday, blew through Ramirez (strikeout), Francisco Lindor (strikeout) and Carlos Santana (comebacker to the mound).
"Romine did a really nice job of calming him down," Gardenhire said. "He was shaking him off (pitch calls) early and after that he really just threw to the glove whatever Romine put down.
"That was huge for us, yes. But it was huge for Soto, to get through that after he had a couple of rough ones in Chicago."
Bryan Garcia worked around an error by Paredes and a walk to put up a zero in the eighth. And Buck Farmer, in his first appearance since coming off the injured list Thursday, closed it out.
"This is an exciting team, I truly do feel that way," said Fulmer, who struggled with his command in his three innings. "There's good chemistry. Everyone is pulling for each other. This season is far from over.
"Just glad to get this monkey off our back."