Deep in skid, Tigers finding misfortune in late frames

May 10th, 2016

WASHINGTON -- The Tigers continue to search for the end to their losing streak. For a third consecutive game, they turned the corner and found another long haul.

As Clint Robinson's pinch-hit loft in the ninth cleared the right-field fence at Nationals Park, sending the Tigers to a 5-4 loss, the look on right fielder J.D. Martinez might have summed up the night.

"I was right against the wall," Martinez said. "High fly ball, I thought it was going to come down. It kept carrying and carrying. I jumped, hoping it was just going to come down. The ball just went over and disappeared."

Detroit's seventh consecutive loss marks its longest skid since last June. The Tigers took a lead into the sixth inning in the last three games. They gave up go-ahead home runs in the last two from Bobby Wilson and Robinson off Mark Lowe. This time, the only time Detroit trailed was at the end.

A day after describing Sunday's loss as a punch to the gut, manager Brad Ausmus went lower for Monday's pain.

"Below the belt," Ausmus said.

The degree of difficulty didn't ease matters. The Tigers clung to a lead built off a pair of two-run homers -- by Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez -- off Stephen Strasburg, who had surrendered one home run in 42 innings this season going into the start. Detroit had Anibal Sanchez through six quality innings at 82 pitches, with the bottom third of Washington's order due up in the seventh.

Ausmus felt confident enough in Sanchez to let him hit in the top of the inning, hoping to get three more outs from the starter and carry the lead to the late-inning bullpen. At the same time, the manager got Alex Wilson and Kyle Ryan warming as the inning began.

"He's sailing along," Ausmus said. "And especially when you have a lead, pitching is extremely valuable. He's sailing along and coming through the bottom part of the third time through the lineup. You feel like he's still in a good position to succeed."

Michael Taylor's line drive off the left-field wall changed Sanchez's position. Sanchez got Danny Espinosa in an 0-2 count before Taylor took off for second, bringing Ian Kinsler to cover the bag. Espinosa sent a ground ball through the right side, sending Taylor easily to third.

Sanchez's errant attempt to pick up Strasburg's sac bunt and tag him in one motion not only ended his inning, it might have summed it up.

"I tried to rush the play," Sanchez said.

After that, Ausmus said, Sanchez was "mentally fried."

Ryan and Wilson combined to hold the top of the lineup to a Ben Revere sac fly, but the lead was gone. Once the Nationals thwarted a two-on, no-out opportunity in the eighth, intentionally walking pinch-hitter Victor Martinez before striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, so went Detroit's best chance to climb back.

"I either hit Saltalamacchia right away, or I hit Saltalamacchia with two guys on instead of one," Ausmus said. "I was in between, quite frankly. I wasn't sure we'd have another opportunity to use Victor."

It's the way of the losing streak.

"We win as a team and we lose as a team," Castellanos said.