'Not a great trip': Defense falters again as Tigers swept by Twins
Minneapolis — You try to keep things in perspective this time of year. If you jump ship in April, you might miss some sunny days and smooth water later in the summer. At this time last year, remember, the Tigers were 7-11 and would free-fall to 9-24 before righting the ship.
Still, it's hard to look on this sloppy brand of baseball the Tigers featured in this series at Target Field and see any light.
"We're going to play the 140-plus games we have left," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said after the Minnesota Twins completed the sweep Thursday with a 7-1 drubbing. "I don't want to rush to too many judgments. But, obviously, it is what it is. We've earned the situation we're in, the hole we're in.
"We've got to play better."
The Tigers will carry a five-game losing streak and a 6-12 record into Los Angeles, where they start a weekend series against the Dodgers on Friday night.
"It's been tough, but so be it," Hinch said. "We will play in warmer weather tomorrow. But if we don't play cleaner in any weather, we're not going to win. That's the bottom line."
This game turned ugly in the fifth, when the Twins exploited three misplays for four runs off starter Tarik Skubal, breaking open a one-run game.
The Tigers botched sacrifice bunts on back-to-back hitters. With a runner at first, Harold Castro, making his first start at third base, fielded a bunt by Gilberto Celestino. His throw caromed off Celestino. It was Castro’s second throwing error of the game.
Jorge Polanco followed with another sacrifice bunt. This one was picked up by catcher Tucker Barnhart. His throw was also into the runner.
"I misjudged it," Barnhart said. "I thought it was going to die and it kept rolling and I had to rush the throw. Unacceptable."
That loaded the bases for Carlos Correa, who was 0-for-10 in the series to that point.
Correa lined a ball over the head of left fielder Willi Castro. The ball was smoked — with 108-mph exit velocity — but Castro didn’t get a good read or jump on it. Three runs scored on the double and Correa rolled into third when Castro couldn’t pick the ball up cleanly.
"I just didn't think I made a lot of quality pitches today," Skubal said. "Not a lot of quality strikes, especially in that fifth inning. The pitch (to Correa) the damage got done and just wasn't executed where it needed to be."
Willi Castro did make a tremendous running catch on a foul fly ball near the tarp roll for the first out of the fifth. But Geo Urshela followed with a bullet single (105 mph exit velocity) past Harold Castro, who was playing in and even with the bag at third, plating Correa.
"Whenever you shoot yourself in the foot like that, myself included, it's tough," Barnhart said. "We have to play cleaner. We have to play better all the way around."
Three of the four runs were unearned. The two runs the Twins scored in the second inning were earned, but the Tigers’ poor defense contributed.
The inning started with Harold Castro’s first throwing error, which put Urshela on second base. Skubal walked Kyle Garlick, just the second batter he walked this season. With two outs, left-handed-hitting Trevor Larnach ripped a two-strike slider into center to score one run.
Hill, in center field, got a little overzealous with his throw, airmailing the cutoff man. That allowed Garlick to go to third, putting him in position to score on a slow roller by Celestino that hugged the third-base line until it reached the bag.
"We just didn't play good enough to win," Hinch said. "We did see better things offensively today, which was a good sign. Some better balls put in play, some better at-bats, a couple of walks, but we didn't have the big hit."
Coming off a night where they mustered just two hits, the Tigers punched out 11 hits Thursday — all singles. They left 12 on base, going 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
"Then we completely fell apart defensively in the fifth," Hinch said. "When you do that and give them extra chances, give them a little momentum — when things get going bad, it kind of keeps going bad.
"Not a great trip."