“It's obviously frustrating, playing the way that we've been playing,” catcher Eric Haase said of the players-only meeting. “Nobody likes it. It's very old and we want to change that. Getting in the weeds with the negative stuff isn't going to be a good path going forward, so hopefully we aired it out and we're ready to go.”
Added shortstop Javier Báez: “We’ve been communicating, and we’re on the same plan. Everything has to click together. Hitting and pitching, it needs to match. We should take one lead and keep that lead. And just play together, have the same plan. We’ve had so many injuries, but there’s no excuses.”
Asked which players spoke up, Báez said, “Everybody.”
In a way, Wednesday’s loss was symbolic of the season. The Tigers have leaned on young arms to carry the team through its pitching injuries and offensive struggles for nearly two months. So it was arguably fitting that on a day when the young hurlers faltered, position players had to step in and pick up the slack.
Alex Faedo, currently the oldest member of the Tigers’ rotation at just 26, was the third Major League pitcher since 1893 to throw at least five innings and give up two runs or less in each of his first seven appearances. On Wednesday, he had the kind of dud that rookies suffer occasionally, throwing 80 pitches over three-plus innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits.
Coming off a bullpen game Tuesday, the timing couldn’t have been tougher. Alex Lange, a young reliever who had seen more high-leverage work lately, pitched the fifth inning in a seven-run game and gave up two runs.
The way the Tigers have struggled offensively, they never threatened to catch up.
“Our pitching was kind of the only thing keeping us afloat,” Haase said, “but we’ve taxed those guys tremendously, not being able to hit the baseball. They kind of took the brunt of it and kept us afloat. We just need to play better.”
By game’s end, the Tigers were simply trying to save relievers for Thursday, when rookie Beau Brieske will make his 10th Major League start. So on came the position players for the final three innings -- first Harold Castro, then Kody Clemens and then Tucker Barnhart. Castro and Clemens were already in the game; they went back to their previous positions after they were done pitching. The Tigers gave up two runs overall during that stretch, after four consecutive two-run innings.
Wednesday’s loss finished off a three-game series sweep in which the Tigers were outscored by a 27-6 margin. They’ve gone 1-5 on their 10-game homestand, having been outscored, 44-10. They’ll open a four-game series against the Rangers on Thursday.
“The results are pretty obvious,” said Tigers manager A.J. Hinch. “I mean, if you’re not frustrated by today, even embarrassed that the game got out of hand to the point where we had to do what we had to do -- this is baseball at its highest level and we expect better. I mean, we’re trying. Guys aren’t caving in. I know they kind of went through our lineup, another shutout. Gotta encourage them to have a night off and then get to a new team.”
Hinch cautioned against the idea of staff or player changes for the sake of change, arguing that winning a news cycle doesn’t necessarily mean a better chance to win a game. He also said they’ve tried different ideas behind the scenes. But he also said everyone is accountable.
“I get it, we obviously are accountable to the performance. This is unacceptable,” Hinch said. “We are better than this. We have not lived up to the standard that we expect. What the solution is, is something that we talk about all the time. As long as messaging is consistent with what we feel is right, that to us is where we’re at right now.
“We’re all accountable -- the players, coaches, manager, front office, everybody -- because it’s been below par.”
The solution needs to be just as thorough.
“It just needs to click, pitching-wise and hitting-wise,” Báez said. “We can’t have 11 hits and one run, and the other team has six hits and four runs and they have two errors, and we don’t use that to our advantage. Everything has to click. I start hitting the ball, but then I start running the bases really bad. Things like that need to get better at the same time, and be better every day.”