DETROIT -- The bolt of lightning flashed across the downtown Detroit skyline beyond right field as Christin Stewart stood on deck in the eighth inning.
Turns out it was not a sign of Roy Hobbs magic ahead. It could well end up being a reminder of what the Tigers will miss if Stewart has to miss much time with the injury he sustained Wednesday night.
While the Tigers suffered their fifth consecutive loss -- second straight in extra innings -- and fell under .500 (8-9) with Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat to the Pirates, the loss of Stewart could be far more costly. Though he batted in that eighth inning, flying out to center, he hobbled back to the dugout and into the clubhouse afterwards, and was replaced in left field by Dustin Peterson.
Stewart suffered a right medial quad spasm, according to the Tigers. He’ll be examined Thursday morning ahead of the team's series-opening matinee against the White Sox at Comerica Park.
“The big thing to see how he feels in the morning,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Though Stewart slipped and fell on the rain-dampened grass in left field in the previous half-inning while readying for a throw on Josh Bell’s sacrifice fly to left, Gardenhire said Stewart told him that he injured his quad running out the fly ball.
Stewart is the lone Tiger with double digits in RBIs, and has three of Detroit’s seven home runs. He has become a power threat in the middle of the Tigers order with Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera batting second and third, respectively.
Even before Stewart’s injury, the Tigers’ offensive struggles have left Detroit looking to take chances on the basepaths to create offense.
“They’re trying, believe me,” Gardenhire said of his club. “They’re giving everything they can give. They put some decent swings on it. Seems like it goes right at [defenders] when they hit it hard right now, but that’s part of baseball and you have to live with it.”
Those concerns could be magnified with each game Stewart misses.
“I think everybody in the lineup is trying to do too much, trying to make something happen,” Cabrera said. “That’s good, but when we put pressure on ourselves and try to hit everything, we’re going to make mistakes and swing at bad pitches.”
Their two runs Wednesday came in the fourth inning -- one when Cabrera challenged left fielder Jason Martin and scored on a Ronny Rodriguez sac fly, the other when John Hicks followed with an RBI bloop single to left that sent Stewart charging around third with what was then a go-ahead run.
Cabrera’s dash home, he said, was based on the Tigers’ scouting report to challenge Martin in left. Still, the overall aggressiveness stands.
“We’re trying to move people around and trying to do a little bit,” Gardenhire said.
Spencer Turnbull handed the 2-1 lead to Detroit’s bullpen with six innings of two-hit, one-run ball, striking out five batters with help from a cutter that left Pirates batters hacking.
But after Victor Alcantara retired the Buccos in order in the seventh, Joe Jimenez loaded the bases on a leadoff single, walk and a hit batsman on an 0-2 fastball. Daniel Stumpf nearly escaped the jam he inherited but couldn’t get a strikeout call on Bell’s checked swing on the pitch before his game-tying sac fly.
Not even the lightning show could re-ignite the Tigers offense from there, though it wowed the crowd that stayed to watch the game from the concourse, once fans were evacuated from the main seating area as the weather passed. Cabrera’s strikeout against hard-throwing lefty Felipe Vazquez ended the game with the tying run on base in the 10th.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” Gardenhire said.