CHICAGO -- Score early. Lose lead. Stop hitting. Repeat -- it'd be hard to find a more fitting progression to explain the Tigers' trip to Wrigley Field.
Solo homers for Nicholas Castellanos in the first and John Hicks in the third accounted for the only Tigers runs in their 5-2 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday.
"It's frustrating to be right there, to be so close," catcher James McCann said. "But at the end of the day, that's not reflected in your win-loss column. It's either a win or a loss. We came up short two games in a row."
Detroit nearly stopped the cycle of offensive flat-lining in the seventh inning, but Jose Iglesias was thrown out at the plate for the first out and Jeimer Candelario struck out looking with two runners in scoring position to end the threat.
From there, the Cubs pulled away. A two-run double from Willson Contreras gave Chicago a three-run cushion in the seventh. It was Contreras' second hit of the game. He also launched a go-ahead solo homer 430 feet, as projected by Statcast™, in the sixth inning off starter Francisco Liriano.
The Tigers played more than half the game without manager Ron Gardenhire in the dugout. Gardenhire had to go in the clubhouse sometime during the third or fourth inning due to overheating and dehydration. The heat index was over 102 degrees at the start of the game.
Gardenhire underwent tests with team doctors as a precautionary measure, but fortunately the heat was the only issue. Bench coach Steve Liddle filled in as manager for the remainder of the game.
Javier Baez badgered the Tigers on the basepaths in the fourth inning, putting pressure on them and forcing some defensive miscues.
Going on left-hander Liriano's first move, Baez most likely would have been picked off had first baseman Hicks not thrown the ball past second base and into left field, which allowed Baez to advance to third.
"I thought it was over the base," Hicks said of the errant throw. "I didn't know who was fielding the ball, whether it was Iggy or Niko [Goodrum]. I thought it was close enough to be tagged."
Then, with Contreras up, Liriano tried to pick off Addison Russell at first. Baez broke for home and slid around the tag from McCann to tie the game, 2-2.
"We made a mistake on a pickoff that wound up giving them the go-ahead run," Liddle said. "We had a miscommunication on the coverage at second base, and that allowed the runner to go to third."
Despite being charged with the loss, Liriano still earned a quality start. Tigers starters have now gone eight straight games with outings of at least six innings, which is the franchise's longest such streak since May 9-17, 2014.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gotta send him: With Cubs starter Jose Quintana out of the game, Iglesias doubled to lead off the seventh inning with the Tigers down a run. However, the shortstop was thrown out trying to score on Victor Martinez's pinch-hit single to center field.
"When I coached third, [Gardenhire] used to tell me, 'If you're not getting them thrown out, you're not doing your job,'" Liddle said. "It took a perfect throw to get him."
HE SAID IT
"It doesn't matter what team you are, whether you're the 1927 Yankees or the team with the worst record in the history of baseball, you're going to have games like that." -- McCann
Lefty Matthew Boyd will start on Thursday when the Tigers begin a four-game series with the Rangers in Detroit, their final homestand before the All-Star break. Boyd should be happy that July is here. He went 1-2 with a 6.32 ERA over six starts in June after enjoying some success in April and May. Righty Yovani Gallardo will pitch for Texas, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. ET at Comerica Park.