Tigers lock up another sub-.500 season with 3-2 loss against Twins
Minneapolis — What had been evident for a few days became reality Tuesday night. The Tigers will not finish with a .500 record.
The Minnesota Twins, using an emergency starter and five relievers, stymied the Tigers 3-2 at Target Center, dropping them seven games under .500 (75-82) with five games to play.
"We've been chasing that all year," said Tigers starter Tyler Alexander, who soldiered through six strong innings. "We've grown a lot as a baseball team. We're getting a lot better and we've got a long way to go.
"A winning season has been our goal as the summer has gone on. That would be a big turnaround from where we've been in the past. But I think we're trending in the right direction."
A week ago, the Tigers were 74-78 having just taken two straight from the White Sox. But they've lost four of five since as the offense has gone dormant, especially early in games.
The Tigers didn't score until the ninth. With two outs, Akil Baddoo and Jonathan Schoop both lined RBI singles against reliever Alex Colome. But it was too little too late.
"It's not ideal," manager AJ Hinch said of the sluggish start. "We haven't gotten into games. We had a base runner almost every inning, just couldn't capitalize. We put up a good fight in the ninth but we have to get into games better if we want to win some of these next five games."
Alexander not only had to grapple with some early command issues, he also had to contend with home plate umpire Tim Tichenor giving Twins hitters late timeouts after he’d already commenced his delivery.
The first time it happened, with Willians Astudillo batting in the second inning, he flipped the ball 67 mph into the seats.
"It's not annoying," Alexander said. "Normally I just throw it off the backstop. Tonight I threw it into the stands."
The same thing happened in his start against Tampa earlier this month. He explained then, and again Tuesday, that it's something he started doing in college.
"It serves a purpose," he said. "It's kind of a free change of eye-level. For him to call timeout, it's safer for me not to stop my mechanics and risk getting hurt that way. And I don't want to throw the pitch because then they know what's coming."
The second time it happened, with Brent Rooker batting in the fourth, Alexander flipped the ball behind his back.
"I meant to throw that to the backstop, too, but it kind of hit my butt," he said.
None of those shenanigans rattled him much, though. He knifed through the Twins' lineup for six innings, allowing just one run, which the Twins produced without a hit in the third inning.
His sin there was walking speedy Byron Buxton to start the inning.
"I walked the fastest guy on their team on four pitches to start the inning," he said, still disgusted by it. "I've been mixing the uncompetitive walks in lately. I'm working on that, trying not to do that, especially not to Buxton."
Buxton stole second, went to third on a fly out to right field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mitch Garver.
Alexander wriggled out of a mess in the first inning, striking out Miguel Sano with two on. After that, he allowed two base runners, retiring the last 12 hitters he faced, striking out five of the last nine.
"He competes his tail off," Hinch said of Alexander. "He's got guts. He's going to challenge the strike zone for the most part. He's not going to cave and give in and I love that about him."
Alexander left the game trailing 1-0 as the Tigers’ early offensive ineptitude continues. They’ve managed just two runs total in the first five innings over the last five games.
They bent Twins rookie starter Charlie Barnes Tuesday but couldn’t break him. Just called up from Triple-A Rochester, the lefty Barnes had made a mess of his seven starts with the Twins earlier this year (0-3, 6.61 ERA).
The Tigers put runners on base in each of his four innings – seven in all. None scored. Zack Short popped out and flew out with two runners on in the second and fourth innings. Miguel Cabrera, who notched his 2,987th career hit in the sixth inning, flew out to center with a runner on second in the third.
Relievers Jorge Alcala, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar and Ralph Garza, Jr., kept the goose-eggs coming through eight until the Tigers marked against Colome.
The Twins padded their lead in the seventh against right-hander Jose Urena. The second pitch he threw, a 94-mph fastball, was blasted into the second deck in left field by Sano. His 30th homer of the season left his bat with an exit velocity of 110.8 mph and traveled 410 feet.