Critical mistakes cost Tigers in series finale vs. Dodgers, 6-3

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — There was nothing subtle about AJ Hinch's message to his players after the Tigers made a couple of costly errors in a 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the rubber match of a three-game set at Dodger Stadium.

"We've got to take care of the ball," third baseman Jeimer Candelario said. "We've got to play good defense then everything will go from there. We're going to hit. We know we're going to hit. But we've got to take care of the ball, like AJ says. We've got to take care of the ball all the time."

The Dodgers' Chris Taylor, left, scores on a double by Cody Bellinger as Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart takes a late throw during the sixth inning Sunday in Los Angeles.

Candelario, who belted his first home run of the season in the ninth inning, made one of the critical mistakes Sunday. It came in a pivotal three-run second inning. 

After a couple of soft singles, starter Eduardo Rodriguez got Mookie Betts to hit a grounder to Candelario, a potential inning-ending double-play. Candelario seemed to hesitate and then threw errantly to first base.

"I thought about throwing to second base and the guy was almost there," Candelario said. "I tried to throw to first base right away but Mookie Betts was running pretty hard and I rushed a little bit."

One run scored on that misplay. Freddie Freeman doubled home the second run and the third scored on a ground out by Trea Turner.

"It was a tough mistake," Hinch said. "You make a mistake against that team, especially when they roll the lineup around — I'm not sure we would've doubled up Betts, but you make a mistake in front of Freeman, (Justin) Turner and (Trea) Turner, that's bad for you."

Two of the six runs charged to Rodriguez were unearned. He settled in after the second and set down 12 straight batters into the sixth. But he gave up an RBI double to Cody Bellinger and was pulled after shortstop Javier Baez booted a grounder up the middle — another unearned run.

"Those first two innings I had a little trouble getting my command," Rodriguez said. "I felt like I was throwing too many fastballs in the first two innings and they took advantage of it." 

As for the errors behind him, Rodriguez said, "It happens. I just need to make the next pitch and get the next guy out. It's part of the game."

Rodriguez, still looking for his first win as a Tiger, also gave up a couple of hits that went through the shift-vacated side of the infield.

"That's just a freaky thing that happens," he said. "Sometimes I have a shift and a guy hits a line drive that's supposed to be a base hit and somebody catches it. I have nothing against the shift. It just happens. I've gotten a lot of good plays with the shift. I can't be mad at that."

The Tigers may have lost the services of outfielder Robbie Grossman for a bit. He left the game in the second inning after being hit with a 93-mph fastball in the right hand by Dodgers starter Walker Buehler.

"The preliminary x-rays were negative for a fracture," Hinch said. "He got hit in the hand and by the time he was done on the bases it was pretty black and blue. That gave us cause for concern.

"He will have further tests on Monday."

BOX SCORE: Dodgers 6, Tigers 3

The defensive misplays might have been less conspicuous had the Tigers delivered a key hit early against Buehler. After stranding two runners in the first, Báez, who delivered two clutch, two-out RBI hits on Saturday, struck out with the bases loaded in the second.

Eric Haase, who replaced Grossman in the outfield, hit into a double-play with two on in the fourth.

"I thought we swung the bats pretty well early but we didn't get anything to show for it," Hinch said. "We made him work and got him out after five innings and we had a couple of good swings that didn't go our way, from a results standpoint." 

Betts made a couple of clutch plays in right field — on balls hit by Baez and Akil Baddoo — and the Dodgers defense was flawless in all three games.

"Elite teams play defense and that's what that team does," Hinch said. "The outfield goes and chases the ball down and they don't make mistakes on the infield. The team that makes the most mistakes usually loses."

The Tigers kept fighting, though. Miguel Cabrera, after striking out in his first three at-bats, hoisted a low slider from Phil Bickford 426 feet into the seats in left-center in the eighth. The two-run shot was his first of the season.

Candelario homered in the ninth and the Tigers had the tying run at the plate when closer Craig Kimbrel got Austin Meadows to pop out to end the game. 

"We are going to play the 27 outs and I'm proud of them for that," Hinch said. "I'm encouraged by the at-bats. But we didn't play well enough to win...Our reality is we make a critical mistake or two every game and it's costing us right now."  

More: Austin Meadows' 'all-around' skills at plate, in outfield wowing Tigers

The Tigers are off Monday before opening a two-game homestand against the Pirates, which begins an arduous patch of scheduling — 30 games in 28 days.  

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky