Same story, different day: Swept on the South Side, Tigers losing streak hits 7
Chicago — OK, we’ll say it. With tongue firmly implanted in cheek.
The Tigers have not won a baseball game since general manager Al Avila was fired.
(Of course, it’s awfully hard to justify cause and effect when the team was 25 games under .500 on the day he was relieved of his duties. Still, as a point of fact — winless minus Avila.)
The seventh straight loss was incurred Sunday, the White Sox completing the three-game sweep at Guaranteed Rate Field with a 5-3 win.
And the script was gloomily familiar.
The strikeout bug has completely infested the Tigers' bats. After striking out 39 times in three games against the Guardians, they were punched out 39 times in this series — 14 times Sunday.
"Look, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and face it that this is our reality," manager AJ Hinch said. "This is where we're at. We're going to keep fighting, keep pushing and these guys are going to keep getting at-bats.
"But contact is your friend. It's easier said than done, but this week, in the middle of all this mess, it illustrates exactly where the adjustments need to come from."
Hinch talked before the game about the lack of subtlety with White Sox right-hander Lance Lynn.
“It’s Lance Lynn,” he said. “It’s no surprise, no secret. He does everything but motion what he’s going to throw. Similar to what (Reds All-Star) Joey Votto said at the game in Iowa (Field of Dreams game), you’ve got to hit the fastball if you want to hit at this level.”
The Tigers haven't hit the fastball much all year and they didn't hit Lynn’s fastball or cutter Sunday. He threw 39 four-seamers and 17 cutters and produced a total of 13 whiffs on 34 swings, with 10 called strikes. He struck out seven in six innings, allowing just the two runs in the third inning.
The average exit velocity on the balls put in play by the Tigers was a meek 76 mph.
"We just had a hard time making adjustments throughout the game," Hinch said. "They continued to pound the fastball up. You know what you're going to get with Lynn and he threw it right past us.
"Not a good offensive day and it's been going on for a while."
They didn't do any damage against the White Sox bullpen, either. Right-hander Jimmy Lambert struck out all four hitters he faced. Jake Diekman finished the eighth, striking out the only two batters he faced.
Three hitters did all the damage against Tigers’ starter Tyler Alexander. Leadoff hitter AJ Pollock homered and doubled. Eloy Jimenez had two hits including an RBI double that tied the game in the fifth inning. And American League hits leader Jose Abreu had a pair singles.
The rest of the White Sox lineup was hitless against Alexander, who turned the game over to the bullpen after five innings.
"It was just a grind," Alexander said. "As a pitcher you know when you don't have your best stuff so you just grind. I battled through five and gave us a chance to win with three (runs)."
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead into the fifth. Pollock and Jimenez doubled, tying the game. After Abreu singled Jimenez to third, it looked like Alexander was going to get out of the inning with the game still tied.
He got Andrew Vaughn to hit into what looked to be an inning-ending double play. But first baseman Kody Clemens couldn’t hang on to the throw from second baseman Willi Castro and Jimenez scored.
Vaughn earned the fourth run — blasting a 405-foot homer to left as the White Sox tacked on two runs against reliever Wily Peralta in the bottom of the eighth.
The Tigers offense came in one all too brief flurry. Akil Baddoo, who is slowly showing signs of life at the plate, beat out an infield single, went to third on a single by Riley Greene and scored on a wild pitch.
Javier Báez, who again was booed fervently by the South Siders, slapped a double to center to score Greene. He immediately put his finger to his lips, hushing the crowd.
But as has too often been the case, that little flurry was about all there was. Harold Castro swatted his fifth home run of the season in the ninth — too little, too late.
"It's tough," Hinch said. "You stand out here and answer questions. You try to encourage these guys. We'd like to be doing a lot better than we are but right now we have to wear it -- we earned this."