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Tigers hit with knockout blows in tough series

Kinsler believes last-place club can turn its season around
MLB.com @beckjason

SEATTLE -- The look on Robinson Cano's face after connecting with Tigers reliever Francisco Rodriguez's fastball suggested he didn't think he got all of it. He shook his head as he started toward first base, gently dropping his bat.

The look from Rodriguez suggested the opposite. He didn't have to turn his head to know it was gone.

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SEATTLE -- The look on Robinson Cano's face after connecting with Tigers reliever Francisco Rodriguez's fastball suggested he didn't think he got all of it. He shook his head as he started toward first base, gently dropping his bat.

The look from Rodriguez suggested the opposite. He didn't have to turn his head to know it was gone.

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It was a fitting snapshot for the state of the Tigers after Thursday night's 9-6 loss completed a four-game sweep, the first for Detroit in Seattle, and its first four-game sweep in any city since Anaheim two years ago.

"We were in the game the first night and they scored a bunch of runs late," said Ian Kinsler, who has homered in three straight games. "The second night, they won on a walk off. The third night, [Justin Verlander] was perfect through five. And tonight, we fought the whole game.

Video: DET@SEA: Kinsler slugs a solo home run to left field

"It's not like we're playing bad baseball. We're not throwing the ball around the field. We're producing runs. It's not like we're playing bad baseball right now. We're just losing games. And I think at the end of the day, we can all accept that we're just getting beat. They played a good four games. They beat us."

Video: DET@SEA: Cano launches a grand slam to right-center

Each game presented a different way to lose. Though the Tigers rallied from a 9-3 deficit to bring the potential tying run to the plate in the eighth inning, putting five consecutive runners on base with two outs, all that did was make the grand slam off Rodriguez -- brought into the seventh to hold a two-run deficit -- the difference in the game.

"We fought our way back into the game a little bit, but Cano's grand slam kind of put it out of reach," manager Brad Ausmus said. "That was where the game went their way. Obviously it was a big point."

Whether this is a big point in the Tigers' season, maybe even the big point, depends on who's judging. They've lost six in a row for the first time since May 2016. They sit in last place in the American League Central, 7 1/2 games behind the front-running Indians, and 5 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race. At 32-40, they're a game and a half ahead of the A's for the AL's worst record.

"We've got a team that represents what our record is," Kinsler said. "Until we win more games, that's what we represent. If we win tomorrow, then we represent what that record shows. We need to start winning games. We need to start playing better. That's the bottom line."

Kinsler believes they have time to do that and change the course of their season. If they play hard, he argued, they can live with the results.

"If we continue to play sound baseball, we should be able to turn this around," he said.

Said Ausmus: "We better turn it around quickly. I still maintain that you don't know what the team is until 162 games are over."

The individual question looming was whether they can turn it around with Rodriguez, whose struggles have statistically worsened since complaining last week about his exile to low-leverage situations. Since then, he has given up seven runs on seven hits -- three of them homers -- in 4 2/3 innings. Half of his runs allowed on Thursday were self-inflicted; he hit Guillermo Heredia to lead off the seventh, then walked rookie Mitch Haniger to load the bases for Cano.

"He's obviously struggling, not throwing the ball like he would want to, or like we would want him to," Ausmus said. "There's no way around it."

Asked about future situations for Rodriguez, Ausmus said, "We'll figure that out."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers