'It's old': Tigers muster one hit in losing fifth straight, 5-0 to Astros

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Houston — They wore pink Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day around baseball. But it had to feel like Groundhog’s Day to the Tigers.

Wake up, go to the ballpark, play game, lose game.

"It's old," catcher Eric Haase said. "No one likes losing. It leaves a bad taste in our mouth every time." 

It’s five in a row now, 12 of the last 14. There seems no end in sight.

The Tigers' Derek Hill reacts after striking out against Astros in the sixth inning Sunday in Houston.

Back-up shortstop Aledmys Diaz hit a two-out grand slam home run off reliever Drew Hutchison in the third inning and the Astros swept the Tigers out of Houston with a 5-0 win at Minute Maid Park.

BOX SCORE: Astros 5, Tigers 0

"It's a long season," Haase said. "You play 162 games and we haven't even played 30 yet. But it doesn't make it any easier day to day. We are still showing up at the ballpark with energy every day and trying to play the best we can."

The Tigers will drag the second-worst record in baseball (8-19) into an eight-game, seven-day homestand starting Monday at Comerica Park. As manager AJ Hinch has said repeatedly, keep looking through the windshield, not the rearview mirror.

“Bringing yesterday’s drama into today doesn’t help today,” Hinch said before the game. “We are where we are. We have a steep hill to climb. But you’ve got to take the first step. We’re going to continue to be positive with these guys.

“This game is built on so much failure, even when you are doing well.”

The Tigers’ bats have been stuck in failure-mode since scoring 13 runs in the first game of a doubleheader on April 23. They’ve averaged two runs in the 14 games since. Coming into play Sunday, they ranked among the bottom three in baseball in runs (29th), home runs (30th), slugging percentage (30th), OPS (27th) and WAR (28th).

“If you are talking about this game, we got one hit and a couple of walks," Hinch said. "We didn't do enough to win. They drew more walks (six) than hits (five) but had the one big swing on a mis-located pitch. Clearly we're frustrated. Clearly it's the same struggle. But it is what it is.

"We have to play better."

While the Tigers used all relievers Sunday, the Astros piggybacked starters Jake Odorizzi and Cristian Javier. The Tigers got one hit in five innings off Odorizzi. Javier held them hitless for three innings. Each pitcher struck out five.

Hector Neris pitched a perfect ninth. 

"We just need to hit," Haase said. "I keep saying 'we're one hit away' for so long. You can only line out to people with runners in scoring position so many times before it starts going our way."

It's been a collective funk, for sure, but two of the veteran mainstays have been especially quiet at the plate. Jonathan Schoop, whose double was the Tigers' lone hit Sunday, is hitting .134 with five RBIs. Jeimer Candelario, who has started to show signs of breaking out, is hitting .200 with eight RBIs. 

"Everywhere you look there's talent in this locker room," Haase said. "It's just one of those things. Schoop and Candy, they're going to hit. We need those guys to get hot, that's no secret. They're sick of lining out at people, as well. Once those guys start clicking, it takes pressure off some of the other guys farther down in the lineup.

"I don't think anyone is pressing the panic button. It's a long season. These guys are going to hit. That's all they've ever done. So we can lean on that a little bit."

Detroit scored six runs total in the four games here. That leaves a slim margin of error for any pitching staff, let alone in a bullpen game.

Wily Peralta started and pitched two scoreless innings, despite walking three hitters in a 27-pitch first. Hutchison took over in the third and loaded the bases with a single and a pair of walks.

"I was able to get ahead of both guys I walked and I wasn't able to put them away," Hutchison said. "I missed on a couple of close pitches and wasn't able to put them away. I kind of put myself in a bad spot and then gave up the big hit."

He struck out Kyle Tucker for the second out, but he left a 92-mph fastball up and over the plate to Diaz.

The ball landed in the first row of the boxes, in the shortest part of the ballpark. A grand slam home run at Minute Maid would have been an out in 28 other parks. But there are no asterisks.

"We were playing here today," Hutchison said. "You either get the job done or you don't."

Alex Bregman homered off Joe Jimenez in the fifth.

"We need to play better," Hinch said. "We're going to go home and we need to fix this over the long haul. But it starts with one game. We have not played a really good, clean game where we've come out on top in a while. 

"This was a terrible series. We're not playing well consistently. There have been flashes that it's going to get better but we've got to put it together if we want to win a game."


Twitter: @cmccosky