Inside the sleepy clubhouse Saturday morning, one of the Detroit Tigers passed around a carafe of coffee, the kind used for a pour-over.
A strong brew seemed in order for a team looking to awaken from a nightmarish June slumber marked only by defeat.
But the Tigers remained comatose, falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-0, at Comerica Park and extending their losing streak to eight games.
The sudden and pronounced regression has caused the Tigers to drop in the standings — all the way to fourth in the American League Central — and has left manager A.J. Hinch perplexed in the process.
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“I think in the back of our minds, ‘There’s a ‘what the hell happened?’ ” Hinch said before Saturday’s game.
Some fans are probably asking the same question.
But the answers seem obvious. An unimpressive roster has been further diminished by injuries, with Akil Baddoo’s quadriceps strain Friday night creating yet another problem to solve. The offense has missing in action, producing one or fewer runs in four of the past eight games. And their pitching has been inconsistent.
As the team reconvened to play Arizona for the second time this weekend, Hinch was optimistic there would be a breakthrough while outlining the strategy he implored starter Matthew Boyd to execute. The objective was to gain the upper hand with a steady stream of early-count strikes and to mitigate the number of high-leverage situations for the Diamondbacks, a team that Hinch said has “a really talented offense.”
Arizona began Saturday ranked in the top five in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. The night before, the Diamondbacks pounced on the Tigers, pushing across 11 runs. Seven of them came in the decisive seventh inning, when they resembled a den of boa constrictors and squeezed the life out of Hinch’s club.
“They put the ball in play too much,” Hinch cautioned in one breath.
“There is a lot to deal with,” he warned in another.
But Boyd failed to heed Hinch’s counsel.
When the left-hander exhibited his first sign of vulnerability Saturday, the Diamondbacks struck with venom. After Pavin Smith singled with two outs, Nick Ahmed let two pitches sail outside the strike zone before Boyd delivered a 90.6 mph four-seam fastball over the middle. Ahmed deposited the ball beyond the left-field wall, quieting a lively crowd that came to get their hands on a Miguel Cabrera bobblehead giveaway. As Ahmed circled the bases to give the visitors a 2-0 lead, they could sense doom for a team that maintains little margin for error.
Perhaps Hinch did, too.
“You throw the wrong pitch at the wrong time to the wrong hitter in the wrong area, that’s dangerous,” he said.
That’s especially true for his weakened bunch.
Before Saturday’s first pitch, the Tigers had scored only 14 runs while hitting .153 in June. As the slump deepened during a calamitous six-game road trip, there was hope that a return home to the intersection of Montcalm and Brush would help the Tigers snap out of their stupor. Then, there was reason to be encouraged that would soon happen after they scored in each of the final four innings Friday.
But the Tigers reverted to their feckless ways, failing to generate much oomph. They managed only three extra-base hits and couldn’t take advantage when they advanced runners to scoring position.
Case in point: The second inning.
Not long after Ahmed drew first blood, Miguel Cabrera hit a scorching line drive to center field for a double. But the next batter, catcher Jake Rogers, struck out, extinguishing any hope for a two-out rally.
Cabrera, of course, wasn’t the only player stranded on base. Jake Marisnick was left out there, too, in the third inning. He stood 90 feet from home after leading off with a single and gradually working his way over to third.
But Kerry Carpenter couldn’t drive him in, popping out in foul territory to end the threat.
On and on it went. The Tigers teased and then turtled, even loading the bases in the sixth. That forced Arizona to dip into its bullpen, only for the Tigers to suffer yet another letdown when Zack Short flew out to center.
“I’ve stood at this podium and talked about too many missed opportunities,” Hinch said afterwards. “And now I am talking about too few. We haven’t been able to find a ton of momentum on offense.”
When a reporter asked Hinch if he would consider shaking up the lineup, he conceded that no potential solution is off the table.
“If you have any suggestions,” Hinch said with dripping sarcasm, “we’ll put the suggestion box in the back.”
The futility, however, isn’t much of a laughing matter. Instead it offered a harsh reminder of the tall task Boyd faced when he took the mound.
“The second you start worrying about those things it really takes away from what you can do on that current pitch or what you want to do in the next start,” Boyd explained. “You got to go out there and attack the same way…Our game shouldn’t change.”
For that reason, Boyd rejected the notion that he was under pressure because of the punchless lineup supporting him.
But, deep down, he must have known his fate when he relinquished a three-run home run to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the fifth inning that gave Arizona a 5-0 lead. Gurriel’s blast carried 418 feet into the left-field stands, originating from a 1-1 count. Boyd only lost leverage when he unfurled his left arm and delivered a 76.1 mph curveball that didn’t have enough bite, which is representative of the Tigers at large these days.
As everyone inside Comerica Park witnessed, the baseball team in Detroit needs a lot more than caffeine to give it a jolt.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers blanked, 5-0, by Diamondbacks for 8th straight loss
Source: Yahoo Sports