The Detroit Tigers returned to Comerica Park for the beginning of an eight-game homestand, desperate for an offensive spark and a win to snap their miserable losing streak.
Neither happened Monday.
“There’s growing frustration across the board,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re getting beat in relatively close games, for the most part, and we expect more out of ourselves.”
The Tigers tallied four hits and lost, 2-0, to the Oakland Athletics in the first of five games, extending the losing streak to six games in front of 12,674 fans. Detroit owns the worst record in the American League, at 8-20 overall, dropping 13 of its past 15 games.
Hinch’s squad has been held scoreless for 24 straight innings.
Meanwhile, the Athletics snapped a nine-game losing skid.
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A’s right-hander Paul Blackburn tossed 6⅔ scoreless innings. The 28-year-old has turned around his career this season, with a 1.74 ERA, three walks and 26 strikeouts over 31 innings in six starts.
A two-out single from Jonathan Schoop chased Blackburn from his start in the seventh. Right-hander reliever Zach Jackson induced a groundout from Jeimer Candelario on his second pitch.
“He threw a lot of strikes,” Hinch said of Blackburn. “He kept coming at us in the strike zone and trying to get to leverage (counts). He did a good job pitching with the lead and got himself in and around a little bit of traffic.”
Jackson and righty Dany Jimenez pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, without allowing a hit. Oakland scored its pair of runs off Tigers right-hander Michael Pineda in the third and fourth frames, including a solo home run from Tony Kemp.
Offense still dormant
The Tigers posted four hits, zero walks and eight strikeouts, finishing 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. Schoop, Javier Báez, Austin Meadows and Tucker Barnhart each recorded one hit.
After his ninth-inning strikeout, Baez and Hinch were both ejected by home plate umpire Nick Mahrley for arguing balls and strikes.
“I can’t reiterate enough, Javy said nothing that he wouldn’t say in front of your mother,” Hinch said. “He was just saying he thought it was a ball. … I don’t think he needed to be thrown out at that point, with me standing in between them. There was nothing aggressive going on at that point.”
Hinch voiced his displeasure with Mahrley’s strike zone.
“I think he had a tough night,” Hinch said. “We’re all trying to do our best. There’s no agenda here. But that can frustration you when it’s multiple times.”
Meadows and Barnhart came the closest to scoring, both advancing to second base before the Tigers stranded them.
Barnhart singled and moved up on Derek Hill’s bunt, which resulted in the second out. Robbie Grossman was called out on strikes to end the third inning. Meadows, after missing the past three games, ripped a two-out double to right field in the fourth.
Schoop, though, lined out to third baseman Kevin Smith.
The ball had a 105.3 mph exit velocity.
“When you don’t put any runs on the board, it doesn’t feel like you had a night offensively that was very good,” Hinch said. “The nature of the game is to score. I like the progress of the better at-bats. We just got to find ways to get guys across the plate.”
Another solid start on mound
Pineda nearly completed seven innings, but Hinch stopped him short following a two-out single from Luis Barrera.
Hinch turned to left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin, who struck out Kemp — a left-handed hitter — to complete the seventh. Pineda allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 6⅔ innings.
He tossed 63 of 94 pitches for strikes.
“It’s tough for everybody here because we want to win,” Pineda said about the lack of run support. “We’re doing everything to win, but we’ve lost a couple games, so everybody is a little sad here. We want to win. We’re going to continue grinding, keeping our head up and coming every day and doing everything we need to do to win the game.”
The two runs Pineda surrendered were scored in the third and fourth frames.
In the third, Kemp hit a solo home run off Pineda’s 0-1 changeup with one out, which ended up being enough to win the game. To begin the fourth, Sean Murphy doubled to left field. He scored on a one-out single from Chad Pinder, who smacked a 1-2 slider from Pineda.
“That was really the only damage against Michael,” Hinch said. “I thought he had good stuff. I thought his slider was good. He got a lot of swing and misses. He got some ground-ball contact. He gave us every chance to win.”
For his 94 pitches, Pineda used 53 four-seam fastballs, 34 sliders and seven changeups. He recorded 10 swings and misses, racking up six with his slider. His 18 called strikes came from 12 fastballs and six sliders.
“I’m feeling more comfortable, especially tonight, with my slider,” Pineda said. “I’m using it a little bit more. It’s pretty good.”
Righty reliever Rony Garcia, recalled from Triple-A Toledo before Monday’s game, pitched the eighth and ninth innings.