'Too many mistakes' sink Tigers to 1st series loss to Guardians since '22

May 8th, 2024

CLEVELAND -- is about as cool as they come among Tigers relievers, his easygoing personality helping him handle the pressures of a bullpen that finds itself in many one-run games. But as he watched David Fry connect with his sinker off the plate and tuck it inside Progressive Field’s right-field foul pole for a game-tying home run Wednesday afternoon, the frustration came through.

Chafin’s jaw dropped, allowing a couple choice words to come out as he prepared for the next batter. When he returned to the Tigers’ dugout, he chucked something against the wall and kicked at the air.

“It’s not a terrible pitch in that situation,” Chafin said later. “I wanted it lower, but it’s one of those things. It went way too high, got caught in the jet stream and said, ‘See ya.’”

The 334-foot oppo shot would not have been a home run at Comerica Park, according to Statcast. It would’ve been a home run at just 11 Major League ballparks.

“Well, it was a home run today,” Chafin said. “So that [stunk].”

It was a fitting snapshot of the Tigers’ emotions over a 5-4 loss to the Guardians. Manager A.J. Hinch didn’t drop any harsh language after the game, but he didn’t heap platitudes either.

“Pick a side of the ball, and we didn’t do enough to win the game,” Hinch said. “This one got away because I think we put ourselves in a really tough spot to win the game.”

For most of the afternoon, Detroit was poised to not only reward with his first win of a sneaky strong season, but continue the Tigers’ success against AL Central rivals. After Tigers hitters taxed Guardians starter Tanner Bibee for 44 pitches in a four-run fourth inning, Olson carried a 4-2 lead to what has largely been a reliable bullpen.

Instead, the Tigers lost a series to Cleveland for the first time since August 2022, having won all four series last year and split another before that. It’s the Tigers’ first series loss in the AL Central since losing two of three to the Twins at Comerica Park last June 23-25, having won or split 11 consecutive series against division rivals.

More immediately, the Tigers return home from a 1-5 road trip that included three one-run losses, two of them walk-offs in which Detroit led in the ninth. Unlike a pair of 2-1 defeats on the trip, including Monday’s series opener, the Tigers gave run support to their starting pitching. They just couldn’t carry it from there.

It was a missed opportunity, and it stung.

“Too many mistakes,” catcher Jake Rogers said. “Just didn’t get it done.”

It wasn’t so much Fry’s home run, but the mistakes before and after it. Olson’s lone hit allowed was a two-run single that followed two walks and an error by Andy Ibáñez, who missed a throw on a potential double play grounder. Olson retired his final 14 batters from there and finished with 10 ground-ball outs, but he could’ve had a scoreless performance with a double play.

“I think [Ibáñez] went a little fast,” Hinch said. “Originally I thought he lost it in the brightness of the stands, but after looking at it, he moved pretty quick and tried to throw, and he didn’t need to. I mean, it was a one-hopper to third base. That kick-started that inning. Luckily we got out of it with minimal damage, but that was the beginning of the mistakes.”

Chafin had a one-run lead to protect because Bryan Rocchio’s leadoff single in the eighth turned into an unearned run off Joey Wentz when Rocchio stole second and took third on Rogers’ airmailed throw.

“Just threw it to the center fielder,” Rogers said.

Hinch used his primary closing option, Jason Foley, in the seventh inning. Guardians manager Stephen Vogt emptied his bench with three pinch-hitters and a pinch-runner but couldn’t get a run, a sequence that set up Chafin to face two left-handed hitters in the ninth. Fry, the lone right-handed hitter, got him.

The Tigers still had a chance to win in extra innings, but automatic runner Javier Báez wandered too far off second base on Ryan Vilade’s leadoff grounder to short, a baserunning miscue that proved fatal. Once the Tigers failed to score, Cleveland could just bunt its runner over for Rocchio’s walk-off single.

“We made too many mistakes,” Hinch said. “That’s the point.”