Ausmus said the same thing on Saturday after Tyler Danish tossed five shutout innings in his first Major League start in a 3-0 loss to the White Sox. He said something similar last Monday after Brad Peacock tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in a 1-0 loss at Houston.
Tuesday's loss to Skoglund and the Royals was the third time the Tigers have been shut out on this road trip, the fourth time this month, and the fifth time this season. Their three on this trip have come against starting pitchers who either haven't previously started in the big leagues, or in Peacock's case, haven't done much as a starter.
They all brought something the Tigers didn't seem to expect -- a different mix of pitches from Peacock, a different look from Danish and Skoglund. But asked what the common thread is, Ausmus pointed to his team.
"The common thread is we're not swinging the bats well. That's the common thread," Ausmus said. "If we're swinging the bats well, it doesn't matter who's on the mound, to some degree."
Their struggles have seemingly had the same effect. In addition to the shutouts, they struggled to hit ex-teammate Mike Pelfrey and Miguel Gonzalez in Chicago.
Asked if they've seen the best from opposing starters or the struggles from their offense, Cabrera pointed to both.
"We have to say, yes," Cabrera said of the starters, "but I think we have to do a better job at the plate. I think I have to do a better job at home plate and get better at-bats, and try to make something happen. We're not going to win with one home run or something like that. We win when we get on base, everybody does their jobs and we drive in runs. That's it. But first, we have to get on base. If we don't get on base, we're not going to score."
They got on base aplenty on Monday night against Royals starter Jason Hammel -- in part, Cabrera said, because they didn't try to do too much. The momentum didn't last.
The Tigers had two hits in 6 1/3 innings against Skoglund. One was a Victor Martinez bouncer through the right side that put runners at first and second with two out in the opening inning. Skoglund struck out J.D. Martinez swinging at a breaking ball, ending the threat and starting a run of 14 consecutive batters retired. Dixon Machado, batting leadoff on Tuesday in a right-handed-laden lineup against the lefty, broke the string with a one-out single up the middle in the sixth, but he advanced no further.
The one advantage Skoglund had, coupled with unfamiliarity, was a 6-foot-7 frame and an extended delivery that allows him to release the ball closer to home plate than shorter hurlers.
"He's so tall, when he throws 89-90 [mph], it looks like 93-94," Cabrera said. "When he throws 93-94, it looks like 97. He's so tall and delivers the ball so close."
Said Ausmus: "Hitters were coming back saying he's a little bit sneaky, kind of hides the ball on you. It got on you a little bit quicker than the velocity was. You tip your cap to him. He did a nice job."
Still, they'll admit, they've tipped plenty of caps this trip.