Tigers Survive Rough Stretch, Eager to Get Home

It has been a long three weeks for the Detroit Tigers.

After playing 16 of the past 20 games on the road and having games in 30 out of the last 31 days, the Tigers are eager to get back in front of their home crowd to the park where they play their best baseball.

The Tigers finished a brutal 20-game stretch with a very respectable 10-10 record. But with the way the road trip began, it had more potential than that.

Detroit began the first of two road trips with a clean sweep over the talented Baltimore Orioles. They then followed up with a shellacking of the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox.

With six solid games in a row, the Tigers were rolling. And with a 27-12 record, they were on top of the league. That came to a crashing halt after getting swept by the division rival Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

The Tigers attempted to enjoy a quick stint at home after that, but the Texas Rangers obliterated the Tigers in their home ballpark by taking three of four, as the Tigers gave up 35 runs over the four days.

It brought them to the latest road trip.

Detroit was able to fight the major league leading Oakland Athletics over four tough games in Oakland and earned a two-two split in the series.

Despite a solid mark in the series, one of the low points emotionally of the season came on May 28 when the Tigers lost a heartbreaker, 3-1. Anibal Sanchez had a shutout going into the ninth inning and was looking for the complete game. But after he gave up a one out double to Coco Crisp, manager Brad Ausmus turned to closer Joe Nathan to seal the deal.

The first batter singled sharply off of Nick Castellanos’ glove. And on the next pitch, Nathan hung a slider to A’s star Josh Donaldson which he hit into the left field bleachers, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Detroit then finished the grueling road journey in Seattle against the team with the second best starting pitching ERA in the American League. These numbers were no fluke.

After a solid 6-3 win in the opening game of the series, the Tigers were only able to muster two runs over the final 18 innings of the series as they dropped the final two games.

In game two of the series. Detroit was down 3-2 in the ninth with former Tigers closer Fernando Rodney on the hill. After walking the leadoff hitter Alex Avila, Don Kelly hit a bloop single to left to set up the threat.

After that, Andrew Romine stepped to the plate to do just one job: bunt the ball. He did not need to get a hit, he did not need to drive in the game-winning run. He simply needed to bunt the ball fair. Romine was unable to do what has been taught since before high school in crucial situations, and struck out after two failed bunt attempts.

Follow that with a Rajai Davis strikeout and an Ian Kinsler fielder’s choice — that was the ballgame.

In the rubber match of the series, the Tigers hitters looked more like kitties. Cuban defacto pitcher Roenis Elias, owned the reigning Central Division champions and tossed his first career complete game shutout.

Detroit was only able to muster three meager hits, and had just one runner advance into scoring position over the entire day.

Even taking this rough stretch into consideration, the Tigers are still in good position. Only the San Francisco Giants have a bigger lead in their division and the Tigers will have 13 of their next 17 games back home.

June 2 is a much needed off day before the boys in the Old English D return home to take on the hottest team in baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Detroit will be in good hands to begin the series as Anibal Sanchez will be coming off his best start of the season, looking to get the Tigers back to their familiar winning ways.

Sanchez will face off against Drew Hutchinson and the Blue Jays at 7:08 p.m. on June 3.

Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.