Tigers limp home from 'tough trip' after losing 4 of 5 to Twins
Minneapolis — This isn't about moral victories or silver linings anymore for the Tigers.
Yes, they played some good baseball in this series. Evidence of growth, individually and collectively, was apparent in every game. But, when they boarded the flight home Monday night, they had lost five of seven on this two-city trip — four of five here to the Twins at Target Field after the 6-2 loss on Monday.
"Overall, this was a tough trip for us," said Lloyd McClendon, who for the second day filled in for ailing manager Ron Gardenhire (stomach virus). "We lost a lot of tough ballgames and you can say I wish I woulda, coulda, shoulda, but the fact is we lost.
"Now we have to go home and regroup. Just continue to play well, continue to grind it out — if we pitch well we're going to win."
It's getting a little dire now, though. With 21 games left, the Tigers will have to string some wins soon to get back in legitimate contention for a wild-card spot. At 18-21, the Twins (26-17), Yankees (21-19) and Orioles (19-21) are ahead of them, and they are in danger of falling behind the Mariners (18-22).
"You learn from your mistakes and you turn the page and go to the next game," said Jeimer Candelario, who had two of the Tigers' three hits. "That's going to get you better and you're going to grow as a team all the time.
"Tomorrow we're going to come out and we're going to have a great game."
The Tigers' pitching wasn't horrible on Monday, just one fatally bad inning.
Going back to his previous start, Michael Fulmer took a five-inning scoreless streak into the third inning Monday. With one out, he got two quick strikes on the Twins’ No. 9 hitter, catcher Ryan Jeffers. Nothing much went right from that point on.
Fulmer threw three non-competitive pitches to run the count full. Then he fired a 93-mph sinker that Jeffers destroyed. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 111 mph and traveled 437 feet, banging off the vines beyond the center-field wall.
For a first career home run, that one was a keeper.
"I don't regret the pitch he hit," Fulmer said. "It was a good sinker down and he went down and got it. But those three pitches before that kind of goes with the rest of the day for me.
"It's a different outing if I can actually throw a breaking ball for a strike. I was yanking my slider, I guess. They weren't offering at it and I think I threw maybe two off-speed (change-up) for strikes all day.
"My sinker was pretty good today, but they were spitting on anything with spin and just sitting on it."
To his point, the Twins swung at one slider and one change-up. They took 16 swings total without a single swing-and-miss.
"I thought my stuff was OK,, it moved the way it should and that was a step forward from my previous outings," he said. "When I can get a breaking ball over the plate and get some success with that pitch, everything else will play off that."
Fulmer didn’t record another out. Lamont Wade Jr. hit a popup behind third that rookie Isaac Paredes circled and lost. It dropped for a double. After a walk and a single, Fulmer left a bases-loaded, one-out mess for lefty Daniel Norris.
Eddie Rosario hit a line shot that caromed off the bag at first and bounded into the right-field corner. Three runs scored.
More than enough cushion for right-hander Michael Pineda.
"I thought his stuff was really good," McClendon said. "He was pitching up with his fastball and his slider had a lot of bite."
Making his second start since returning from a suspension (violation of MLB substance-abuse policy), he cruised through seven innings, allowing two runs and three hits. Candelario got him for two doubles and scored both runs.
"I just slowed myself down, slowed my body down," said Candelario, who since Aug. 2 is hitting .359 with nine doubles, three triples and four home runs. "The scouting report said fastballs away and sliders in, so I don't try to do too much and just take what he gives me."
Both his doubles were opposite-field slicers down the left field line.
"I just put myself in a good position to take advantage of any mistakes he makes," Candelario said. "I put myself in position to hit the ball the opposite way, not down the line but in the gaps. He threw me fastballs away and I was able to put good swings on it."
He was about the only Tiger to do so. Pineda got the Tigers to chase 20 pitches outside the strike zone. The day after banging out 17 hits Sunday, the Tigers managed just three on this day. Miguel Cabrera's 13-game hit streak was a casualty.
"Like I said, we're going to come to the ballpark tomorrow with a positive attitude and we're going to try to win a ballgame," Candelario said. "We're going to be OK."