For the 3rd straight game, the Tigers starting pitcher had command issues from the moment he took the mound. This time, it was Kyle Ryan and the outcome was the same, the Pirates beat the Tigers 8-4 and swept the three game series.
Ryan (1-2, 4.55 ERA) issued 5 walks including a pair to start the 5th inning. Brad Ausmus had seen enough at that point and came out to remove Ryan with the Tigers trailing 1-0 and the offense having a tough time getting anything going against Pirates starter Francisco Liriano. One of those walks would come around to score and give the Pirates a 2-0 lead after 4-1/2 innings.
Ryan served up a solo blast to Francisco Cervelli to account for the other run.
Ryan’s final line: 4+ (2 batters) IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K
The bullpen was pressed into action again. After going 8 innings on Tuesday and 3 more on Wednesday, the pen chipped in with another 5 innings on Thursday, giving up 6 more runs.
J.D. Martinez did his best to give the Tigers a chance with a 2-out, 3-run blast over the wall in right center field. His 21st homer of the season and 3rd of the homestand pulled the Tigers to within 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th. The homer came off of Pirates reliever Antonio Bastardo who came on in relief of Liriano. Liriano (5-6) was a ground ball machine, 5-hitting the Tigers over 7 scoreless innings.
AUSMUS GETS TOSSED
With the Tigers trailing 2-0 heading to the bottom of the 5th and Francisco Liriano showing no signs of wearing down, the Tigers were looking for any break they could get to start a rally. J.D. Martinez thought he had one, he took a payoff pitch for what he thought was Ball Four but home plate umpire Sam Holbrook called it a strike, much to the chagrin of Martinez and Ausmus.
The call proved costly as the Tigers broke through for a pair of singles but had nobody to drive in before Liriano got Rajai Davis to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
TIGERS ARE A .500 TEAM AGAIN
The Tigers dropped their 3rd straight game on Thursday afternoon and fell to 39-39. They were outscored 22-11 in the series and never held a lead in any of the 32 innings.
The last Tigers team to be at or below .500 as late as July 2nd was the 2012 Tigers who were 39-41 at that point and went on to go 49-33, win the division by 3 games and make the World Series.
This team is a long way from repeating those feats. Are they lacking a sense of urgency? Is a fire and brimstone speech needed? Hear it straight from Ausmus and the players in the clubhouse following Thursday’s loss.
AVILA HOMERS IN TOLEDO + ROSTER MOVES COMING?
Alex Avila went 1-for-4 with a home run and three strikeouts in the Mud Hens 7-3 loss to the Indianapolis Indians on Thursday night. Avila is expected to rejoin the Tigers this weekend.
Following the game, the Toledo Blade’s John Wagner reported that Mud Hens reliever Jeff Ferrell was told he would be joining the Tigers for Friday’s series opener with the Blue Jays. Ferrell started the season with the club’s AA affiliate in Erie and was promoted to the Mud Hens on Monday. He made just one appearance with the Mud Hens, a perfect inning in a game against Durham on Monday night.
As of Thursday night, the Tigers had not confirmed this move nor made any corresponding roster moves.
Following Thursday’s game, Ausmus was asked if the team needed a spark and what that spark might be that could get them headed in the right direction.
TOM GAGE SAYS “GOODBYE”
It’s been an emotional 2015 for Tom Gage, his friends, and his readers. One of the best baseball writers who ever had the pleasure of sharing our nation’s past time with you, may have typed his last column on Thursday.
Gage was let go from the Detroit News following the 2014 season and shortly after signing on with Fox Sports Detroit, corporate eliminated his position on a nationwide basis. Later this month, Tom will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Tom has been a role model and a great friend to everyone that has been fortunate enough to work with him and around him. We echo the sentiments of Tigers fans across the globe: We’ll miss you Tom.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Staying hot at the plate…
- J.D. Martinez continued his sizzling hot run at the plate with his 3-run blast in the 8th inning. In his last last 16 games, he’s hitting .358 with 11 HR and 24 RBI
- Rajai Davis led off the game with a single to extend his season-long hitting streak to 10 games (.306, 5 runs, a triple, 2 doubles and a home run)
- Ian Kinsler went 3-for-5 with a double. He’s hitting .310 in the first 6 games of the current homestand.
- After Thursday’s game, the Tigers are now…
- 21-12 in day games
- 12-8 vs. left-handed starting pitchers
- 4-6 on Thursdays
- 7-10 in interleague games
- 6-27 when opponent scores first
- 13-34 when scoring 4 or less
- 3-28 when trailing after the 6th inning
- 1-33 when trailing after the 7th inning
- 0-33 when trailing after the 8th inning
- 4-27 when the opponent outhits the Tigers
WHAT’S ON TAP
The Tigers open up a three game series with the Blue Jays on Friday night. The AL East is so bunched up that the Jays could come out of the weekend anywhere from 1st place to 4th place in the East.
The Tigers send RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-7, 4.63) to the hill. Sanchez is on a roll. He’s gone 7+ innings in each of his last 6 starts (dating back to May 29th) and is 3-0 in his last 4 starts (2.05 ERA, 30.2 IP, 21 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, 26 K). Hopefully he’ll be able to give the bullpen some rest by pitching deep into the game.
The Blue Jays counter with RHP Drew Hutchison (8-1, 4.99). Hutchison features reverse splits with RH hitters batting .321 against him which should favor the right handed dominant lineup of the Tigers. Hutchison doesn’t tend to go deep into games, having crossed the 100 pitch plateau in just 5 of his 16 outings. He’s been effective of late, earning the win in each of his last 3 outings (1.65 ERA, 16.1 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 19 K)
Follow Denny Kapp on Twitter: @DennyKapp