Game 49: Tigers’ offensive struggles hit flip side
The Tigers were expecting to get a boost from the return of shortstop Jose Iglesias to the starting lineup. This wasn’t quite what they had in mind.
Their fate was pretty well decided long before Iglesias doubled in J.D. Martinez in the ninth inning Thursday night, turning this into a 12-2 loss instead of 12-1. It was significant statistically because it matched the number of run-scoring hits the Tigers posted previously on this West Coast trip: One.
Yoenis Cespedes’ three-run homer Wednesday was the only run-scoring hit in Oakland. Detroit was shut out Monday, and got a 1-0 win Tuesday night on the strength of a Rajai Davis sacrifice fly. It still left town taking two out of three.
Thursday was hoped to be game the Tigers’ offensive struggles changed. They’ve hit lefties this season. They hit C.J. Wilson for 11 runs over 16 innings in their previous three innings. Instead, the only run they scored came when C.J. Wilson hit Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded.
Wilson regrouped from there, got a called third strike on Yoenis Cespedes and limited a threat that had been built on one single, a pair of two-out walks and a pitch off Cabrera’s surgically repaired right foot (fortunately, closer to the toes than the area of the surgery, according to manager Brad Ausmus).
“If you had to put your finger on something, that would be the one inning when it kind of got away from us,” Ausmus said.
Wilson allowed a run over six innings despite five walks, thanks to the seven strikeouts.
“We hit a few balls hard early off of him, then got some walks,” Ausmus said. “We just didn’t hit.”
Low-scoring struggles in Oakland were nothing new in recent years. Low scoring off C.J. Wilson was; Detroit had scored at least three runs in five of their previous six meetings, dating back to his final season as a Texas Ranger in 2011. The one stingy outing in the bunch, Wilson walked just two guys over 7 2/3 innings in September 2012.
Ausmus said some players are putting pressure on themselves to get the big hit. That said, they’ve had a profound lack of big hits lately. This is one matchup where they clearly missed Victor Martinez, even this year’s version, given his ability to bat right-handed. If they can get him swinging at least reasonably well left-handed now, they’d probably take it, given his ability to get hits in pressure situations. It’s difficult to expect that to happen in just a 15-day stint, though. He continues to work out at home in Orlando with the hope of strengthening the knee, but it’s not known yet how that will translate to his swing.
For now, this is the offense they have, and they have to put runs together. Even without Martinez, Ausmus believes they’re better than this.
Play of the game: Albert Pujols’ two-run homer certainly wasn’t the shot that decided the game, but it put the Tigers down from the outset, capitalizing on a hanging slider from Buck Farmer. The Angels hit two homers in their first six batters, building a 3-0 lead that left the Tigers searching for runs to answer until the Angels put it clearly out of reach in the sixth.
Out of the game: The Tigers had a number of hitters who have pounded Wilson over the years. Cespedes wasn’t one of them. He was 0-for-6 with five strikeouts against Wilson during his Oakland years, and Wilson added to it to escape the third, spotting a called third strike to strand the bases loaded and hold his damage at a run.
Strategery: It was one run among a dozen, but Johnny Giavotella’s run in the fifth looked like a page out of Mike Scioscia’s younger years. He turned what looked initially like a double into a triple when Cespedes, who was playing closer to the gap, didn’t get to the ball in the left-field corner right away. That set up Erick Aybar’s squeeze bunt two pitches later for a 4-1 lead.
Line of the game: Wilson became the first pitcher to hold the Tigers to one run despite five walks since Texas’ Derek Holland on July 13, 2013. Holland, too, survived with help from seven strikeouts.
Stat of the game: Farmer gave up home runs in his first six batters Thursday (two) than he allowed in 51 1/3 innings at Triple-A Toledo this year.