Tigers fight to finish against A's, but can't overcome Matt Manning's two-out struggles

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Tigers were twice just a few feet short of erasing an eight-run deficit Thursday afternoon. They were also one strike or one out short of even being in that deep hole.

Close don't count.

"It's not good to lose," Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario said after the Tigers were beaten by the Oakland Athletics, 8-6, in the rubber match of a three-game series at Comerica Park. "But the good thing we did today was we fought together. We fight back and we never give up. 

"If we continue to play good ballgames, good things will happen. Like yesterday, you saw we battled and battled and got the 'W.' We came up short today, so we will take the positives away from this and learn from the negatives."

Athletics' Elvis Andrus beats the tag from Tigers catcher Eric Haase (13) to score from first base on a double by Starling Marte during the second inning on Thursday.

Candelario, whose three-run home run capped a five-run seventh inning to cut the Oakland lead to two, had a dramatic at-bat against veteran right-hander Sergio Romo in the ninth. 

With Robbie Grossman on first (he walked), Candelario launched two long fly balls down the right-field line. The first one just hooked foul. 

"It stayed fair just long enough for me to get excited thinking we might've tied the game," manager AJ Hinch said. 

The second one bounced just foul before the wall. Then Candelario lofted one to the track in left-center that was caught.

"I love the clubhouse and the fight we have here," Hinch said. "We came up short today and it's disappointing to lose a series. … I'm not into moral victories, but I am into performances that matter when you are trying to come back from that large a deficit.

"We were down 7-0 before our eight-hole hitter hit, that's the hole we tried to climb out of."

Tigers’ rookie right-hander Matt Manning, coming off his best start of the season six days ago against the Blue Jays, endured one of his worst on Thursday. He was tagged for eight runs and eight hits in just 3⅔ innings. Salt in the wound: All eight runs were scored with two outs.

BOX SCORE: Athletics 8, Tigers 6

"I just didn't put away hitters when I got two strikes and I didn't put away innings when I got two outs," Manning said. "I did a good job of getting there, but I might've put a little too much pressure on trying to finish it out and trying to get the strikeout.

"My stuff in the bullpen was really good and after the first at-bat I felt really good. But after getting hit in the mouth, I couldn't seem to collect myself after that."

He walked both Starling Marte and, with two outs, Matt Chapman in the first inning after he was ahead of them both, 1-2 and 0-2. The A’s made him pay with back-to-back homers — a three-run shot by Jed Lowrie and a solo homer by Mark Canha.

After he gave up a two-out, RBI double to Marte in the second, he got the first two outs in the third on three pitches. Settling in? No. He walked Canha, gave up a single to Tony Kemp and a two-run double to Yan Gomes.  

Hinch sent Manning back out for the fourth, hoping he could pull something positive to take going into his next start, but it was more of the same. Two more two-out hits, which led to another two-out run on an RBI double by pinch hitter Khris Davis against reliever Miguel Del Pozo.

"I know I am on the right track," Manning said. "I took a lot of steps forward in my last three starts. This stuff happens. It's a learning experience and the only way to learn is to go through it.

"I'm fortunate that I'm at the big-league level and I get to learn here. It's just going to make me better going forward."

The total two-out carnage against Manning — eight runs, seven hits, two walks in less than four innings. His frustration was evident, twice throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

"I love that he's into it and he holds himself to a really high bar," Hinch said. "He can get emotional and it can impact him. But it's all part of the learning curve for his development. On his good days, we never talk about his emotions and, quite honestly, he has the same emotions.

"On his bad days, we look at it as a deterrent. It's just part of his growth."

The Tigers, as they do, made a game of it. And like they did in their comeback win Wednesday, they rallied behind a stingy bullpen and the long ball. 

The Athletics didn't score after the fourth, with Del Pozo (2⅓ innings), Derek Holland (one) and Alex Lange (two) shutting them down. 

Harold Castro led off the fifth with a monster home run off A's starter Frankie Montas. He got a first-pitch sinker and drove it into the shrubbery in center field — a 447-foot blast, the second-longest homer by a Tiger this season (Akil Baddoo hit one 450 feet in Houston).

After he hit his first ever opposite-field homer at Comerica Wednesday night, Castro, with 60 of his 71 hits being singles this season, said he was going to start hunting pitches early in his at-bats that he can drive. He wasn't kidding.

Baddoo also hit his second homer in two games — the 12th of his rookie season — lining a two-run, opposite-field shot into the Tigers’ bullpen in left in the seventh, ending Montas’ day and starting a five-run rally.

The Tigers stayed on the attack. Zack Short and Grossman singled off reliever Deolis Guerra, setting the table for Candelario.

Guerra had gotten two quick strikes on him feeding him four change-ups. Candelario had ugly swings three of them and a better one on the fourth.

"I think he saw that I was looking at a lot of change-ups," Candelario said. "I was out front a little at first but he kept throwing it. I just had to let it come to me. He probably thought if he threw me a fastball up, he had a chance to get me."

Wrong. Candelario was all over a 91-mph four-seam fastball and hit it 407 feet into the seats in right-center, a three-run blast to make it 8-6. 

After Eric Haase singled to extend the inning, lefty Andrew Chafin was summoned to face Castro, who represented the tying run. Castro drove another ball toward the left-field fence, but Kemp got back and caught it on the warning track.

Less than 10 feet from a tie game. 


Twitter: @cmccosky