Torii Hunter: We played a little harder, and I could see it
Statistically, the Tigers lost ground with Saturday’s doubleheader split, dropping another half-game on Kansas City and Seattle. They’ve dropped two games in the AL Central over the last three days, and they’re now facing their biggest deficit since they were down three games to the White Sox with 15 games to play in 2012.
Yet, as the Tigers headed back into the visiting clubhouse at Target Field after salvaging a split Saturday night, there was a reason the music was blaring. They avoided the worst-case scenario of dropping four games back in the division with another loss. More importantly, they found the energy to keep fighting.
“It was a no-brainer. We had to go out there and come with a little more fight,” Torii Hunter said. “We lost the last two and we lost big. Those guys are taking first and third, stealing bases. So today, we played a little harder, and I could see it.”
It was Hunter who mentioned after back-to-back losses in Pittsburgh last week that there was a lack of energy. It was Hunter who tried to create a spark Saturday night when he tried to go from first to third on Victor Martinez’s single.
It nearly resulted in an inning-ending out. It took a replay review to put him on third base, in position to score a few pitches later.
There’s a reaction sometimes when players talk about playing with more energy, asking why they don’t do that all the time. The day-in, day-out nature of the baseball schedule makes that a lot more challenging. For many, it’s that consistency that is the toughest part of a 162-game Major League schedule.
For the Tigers, it’s particularly tough these days. They’re in the midst of 24 games in 23 days, and 55 games in 55 days out of the All-Star break. They’re essentially playing four games in 48 hours at Target Field, and they lost the first two in demoralizing fashion. While pitchers can find a way to plug through when hitting slumps leave them in a 1-0 and 2-0 deficit, it’s tougher to get hitters to wake up sometimes when a bad pitching performance puts a team down eight or 10 runs.
It’s a bad combination going right now, and it’s a veteran team that can’t simply rely on youth to summon that energy. Justin Verlander’s return provided them some. They had to look within for the rest.
“You have to dig deep,” Hunter said. “You have to have that will to find it and dig. I always says during a storm, a tree actually grows roots, just so it can be rooted and strong. It finds the will to survive. That’s what we have to do, find a will.”