MINNESOTA — Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the first Tigers-Twins series of the season is that it’s over.
“It was a bad trip here,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said of the three-game sweep, which the Twins completed with a 7-1 victory on Thursday afternoon at Target Field. Detroit committed four errors and left 13 runners on base as its losing streak ran to five.
“We didn’t play good enough to win,” Hinch said. “We completely fell apart defensively in the fifth inning, and when you do that — when you give extra chances and get a little bit of momentum — when things are going bad, it keeps going bad. Not a good trip.”
Indeed, if there was a way to lose a game this week, the Tigers seemed to find it. It wasn’t that everything went wrong — it’s just that enough things didn’t go right at the same time.
On Tuesday, they squandered Javy Báez’s dramatic three-run homer in the eighth inning by coughing up the lead in the ninth. Normally lights-out closer Gregory Soto walked two batters and the defense failed to take advantage of a Twins baserunning gaffe by committing an error that allowed the winning runs to cross the plate.
The next night, it wouldn’t have mattered what type of pitching or defense they got, because the hitters couldn’t solve Twins starter Joe Ryan. Only three Tigers reached base, and none of them passed second as Ryan and two relievers combined on a two-hit shutout.
Thursday’s loss was a multifaceted effort.
• Lefty Tarik Skubal wasn’t sharp, allowing six hits and two walks in six innings. “I just don’t think I had a lot of quality pitches today,” he said. “I don’t think I threw a lot of quality strikes.”
• The offense stranded multiple runners in four innings, including leaving the bases loaded in the second and the ninth. “We did see better things offensively today, that’s a good sign — some better balls put in play, some better at-bats, a couple of key walks,” Hinch said. “We didn’t have the big hit.”
• Defensively, the team unraveled with three errors in the fifth inning, including two on back-to-back plays when the Twins were trying to give Detroit an out with a sacrifice bunt. First, backup third baseman Harold Castro threw the ball into the runner heading to first base, and then catcher Tucker Barnhart did the same thing on the next hitter. Entering the game, only two AL teams had committed fewer errors this season than the Tigers. “Whenever you shoot yourself in the foot like that, myself included, it’s tough,” Barnhart said. “We’ve just got to play cleaner. Just have to play better all around.”
To be clear, nobody in the Tigers’ clubhouse is ready to surrender. Veteran reliever Michael Fulmer pointed out that last season started slowly before Detroit righted its ship. Indeed, the Tigers started 9-24 last year, then were seven games over .500 the rest of the season.
“I’m not worried yet,” Fulmer said. “I think everybody’s going to start heating up here soon, filling in roles and trying to figure out everything that’s going on right now. That’s just part of it. That’s why you play every day.”
But with three games coming up this weekend at Dodger Stadium, the Tigers know they need to clean it up in a hurry, or the bad trip is liable to get worse.