Tigers on wrong end of rout; magic number 1
Lobstein allows five of Twins' eight singles in six-run fifth inning
DETROIT -- The American League Central is coming down to the last scheduled day of the regular season. A spot for the Tigers in the AL Division Series, however, essentially comes down to their ability to win one out of their next three potential games, involving three opponents, all at Comerica Park.
The Central-leading Tigers are hoping it doesn't come down to that, either a division tiebreaker on Monday against the second-place Royals, who trail by one game, or the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday. With a magic number of one over Kansas City, the Tigers can clinch a fourth straight division title on Sunday afternoon if they can beat the Twins with David Price on the mound. After Saturday's 12-3 loss at home to Minnesota cost the Tigers a chance to clinch, though, it's getting repetitive for them, even.
Detroit has lost back-to-back games by a combined 23-7 margin to a team 17 games behind it in the division standings and with little more than a 70-win season on the line.
"If it was Aug. 1, it would feel great," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire quipped about reaching the 70-win mark.
If the Tigers were a win away from clinching with a week to go, their feelings would be different, too. They haven't lacked urgency, but they've lacked clean play at times.
"It's frustrating, for sure," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Today was almost a carbon copy of yesterday. A couple of defensive mistakes, we didn't pitch well and you're in such a deep hole that it's tough to climb out of."
"I wasn't concerned at all going into the game today that something like that would happen again. I'm a little surprised by it, but again, we can't do anything about it. We've got a game tomorrow that we've gotta win -- and I mean, we've gotta win."
The Tigers want the division title, and not just for the banner. A win on Sunday would allow them three days to rest and recuperate -- especially important to outfielder Rajai Davis, who left Saturday's game in the second inning with a pelvic sprain. It would also allow Ausmus to line up his rotation, for the most part, in one of several ways.
Saturday's loss means Ausmus has to use Price on Sunday instead of lining him up for the postseason rotation. A loss on Sunday would force Ausmus to use Justin Verlander, another former AL Cy Young Award winner. Max Scherzer, who claimed last year's AL Cy Young Award, looms for Tuesday's start.
Saturday's losing pitcher, Kyle Lobstein, has no such hardware. For four-plus innings, however, he gave the Tigers a chance before ground balls and bloopers doomed him in a six-run fifth inning.
It was a cruel fate for a 25-year-old left-hander who had become the unlikely hero of the Tigers' rotation.
"I felt like I had the same stuff, same pitches," Lobstein said. "I kept making good pitches in the fifth inning, too. Unfortunately, they got some hits."
Lobstein took the mound for the fifth inning on a roll, limiting the Twins to two hits and a walk while allowing just three balls to be hit out of the infield. He induced another weak grounder to leadoff batter Eduardo Escobar. The bouncer gave Escobar enough time to beat Nick Castellanos' throw to first, however, setting up Lobstein's undoing.
"He looked good up until that point," Ausmus said, "and then it all came unglued. Everything they hit seemed to find a place to land, and they kept pushing runners across the plate. It was just one of those nights for him. First four innings, he was clean. I don't know what -- I couldn't tell you exactly what happened."
Chris Herrmann's blooper to center fell in front of Davis' replacement, Ezequiel Carrera, who did not seem to get a good read on the ball. Carrera regrouped to catch Aaron Hicks' liner, but Danny Santana's grounder to first caught Miguel Cabrera between trying for the out at second or tossing behind himself to Lobstein racing for first.
With the bases loaded, Brian Dozier sent a ground ball through the right side, just out of the reach of second baseman Ian Kinsler, to tie the game at 1. Kinsler then robbed Joe Mauer of a single with a diving stop for the second out, but Herrmann scored to put the Twins up for good.
The killer runs, however, came on an Eric Fryer line drive that carried just over Kinsler's outstretched glove on a leaping attempt. Two runs scored, and Lobstein left. Three consecutive singles off Phil Coke left Lobstein saddled with six runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Six more runs came home against the bullpen, including a four-run eighth off Robbie Ray.
"I understand why they're booing," Ausmus said of the crowd's reaction. "We're in a situation where we can clinch a division, and we give up 20-something runs over the course of two games. If I was sitting in the stands, I'd be booing, too."
Ricky Nolasco (6-12) tossed six innings of two-run ball for the win, holding down Detroit's offense for the second time in as many weeks.