Their conversation was put off until later. The theme to Monday's 4-2 loss to the Twins, and arguably this recent stretch as a whole, was set.
"Lot of tough games just like this," Gardenhire said. "We've been in a lot of close games. Gotta figure out a way to make a big pitch, get a big out and get a big hit."
These are the games Gardenhire was brought in to lead the Tigers through, win or lose. He has set a tone, not through his phone in this case, that his team will compete until the last out. But he's also clearly making the best of a tough situation, trying to pull out close games with a bullpen of unproven, unseasoned arms.
Monday marked Detroit's fourth straight loss. Three of those losses have fallen on relievers after the Tigers held leads, the other a close game that broke open against the long end of the Tigers' bullpen. The losing streak followed a game the Tigers arguably stole last Thursday in Seattle with three hitless innings of relief.
Daniel Stumpf threw just two pitches during their four-game series in Seattle, spending most of the time working through his recent struggles. He threw a bullpen session Monday afternoon, fine-tuning his mechanics, then threw in the game Monday night, inheriting a 2-2 game in which Blaine Hardy and Louis Coleman had matched promising young Minnesota starter Jose Berrios, including Coleman stranding the go-ahead run on third by retiring Brian Dozier.
"I'm confident in my pitches," Stumpf said. "I'm not worrying about my last games. I'm not worrying about whatever."
An Eddie Rosario double on a high fastball well out of the strike zone set the Twins' go-ahead rally in motion, but it was a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk to Logan Morrison in a lefty-lefty matchup that brought in the tiebreaking run. Stumpf made some of his best pitches since early in the season, fanning Max Kepler on a 95 mph fastball out of the zone and inducing Rosario to chase a similar pitch in a 1-2 count, but it didn't yield better results for him.
This is the situation Gardenhire tries to manage, trying to guide Stumpf through extended struggles. He tries to pick and choose his spots, but with Hardy in the rotation for at least another turn, Stumpf is currently the lone lefty in Detroit's bullpen.
"With lefties, the only one out there, you don't really get good situations," Gardenhire said. "You have to come in and get lefties out. He had to go through a couple righties, too. He's just got to get the job done. That's the bottom line, and he just didn't get it done tonight. He walked too many people.
"That's the place where he's supposed to get outs. There's some lefties, some righties, but he's gotta get through that area. It just didn't work out."
Rosario then fooled center fielder Leonys Martin into a costly hesitation for an insurance run on Robbie Grossman's sacrifice fly.
In times like this, awkward as that sudden phone call might be, it was fitting.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Castellanos builds Tigers lead: Both Tigers runs came from Nicholas Castellanos, both times centering first-pitch fastballs from Berrios. His third-inning RBI single came one pitch after Berrios got Martin to hit into a double play, putting him one out away from escaping the jam. Castellanos is batting .357 (20-for-56) over his last 14 games with three home runs and eight RBIs.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY The Twins almost took the lead in the fifth inning, thanks to Eduardo Escobar's two-out single to left that appeared to score Kepler, who was ruled safe on the field after sliding past catcher James McCann's swipe tag. After a 2-minute, 18-second review, replay officials ruled they had enough evidence to overturn the call, earning JaCoby Jones an outfield assist for his strong throw from left.
UP NEXT Matthew Boyd (2-3, 3.19) tries to maintain his recent run of stingy pitching as the series continues Tuesday with an 8:10 p.m. ET start at Target Field. Boyd, who credits Hall of Fame inductee and Twins broadcaster Jack Morris with giving him advice on pitch mentality, has quality starts in six of his eight outings this season. The Twins will send Lance Lynn (1-4, 7.47 ERA) to the mound.