KANSAS CITY, Mos. -- Forget any sort of advanced stats or nuanced analysis. This is all you really need to know about the Detroit Tigers' most recent six-game road trip: The team surrendered a whopping 61 runs during that span.
As in, an average of more than 10 runs per game. Double digits.
That alone is enough to underscore the team’s biggest burden, which will continue to plague them through the remaining four weeks of the regular season and will dictate their offseason shopping plans: pitching.
It wasn’t just worthy adversaries that the Tigers faced in both the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays and then the American League-leading Kansas City Royals, who walloped Detroit 15-7 on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium. It’s that, save for every fifth day when Justin Verlander takes the mound, the team is at the whim of the foibles of each night’s starter, it seems.
How exhausting, both mentally and physically, it must be for the club’s everyday players, running down the barrage of balls hit hard, cramping at the infinitesimal margin for error provided each night.
At this point, with the team 11 games below .500 (61-72) and 9.5 games back from the second wild-card sport in the American League standings, what can even be done?
“You better learn from it. You better try and get better, because if it gets any worse, I don’t know what we’ll do,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “This was a very tough road trip for the pitching staff. We do have some young guys, but we’ve got to work to get them better.”
“Tough lesson,” Ausmus continued. “Tough lessons learned on this road trip.”
The latest debacle will surely be seared into the memory of Thursday’s starter Matt Boyd, who was yanked in the second inning -- his shortest start of the season -- after giving up six runs on seven hits. Boyd did not entertain any thought of making an excuse, but instead was frank in his self-assessment.
“I got beat today and that’s what it comes down to,” said Boyd, who is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts against the Royals. “I’m just going to work my tail off the next five days.”
Boyd was the benefactor of a 3-0 lead following a leadoff home run for Anthony Gose in the first inning, followed up by back-to-back base hits from Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera, both of whom scored on Nick Castellanos’ two-out RBI double in the first go-round against Royals starter Edinson Volquez. Volquez labored in the first -- requiring 38 pitches to get out of the inning -- and it was a harbinger of things to come for a marathon of a game that lasted 3 hours, 58 minutes and was riddled with a slew of indignities for the Tigers.
It wasn’t just Boyd who struggled. Al Alburquerque, pitching for the first time since Aug. 24, gave up four runs on two hits in just a third of an inning pitched. Tom Gorzelanny was taken deep and surrendered a pair of runs on three hits during the seventh. Kyle Ryan provided some length and Drew Verhagen was probably the sole silver lining, but it was hard to find much to be positive about after that display.
“I think anytime you’re not meeting your goals, your losing games, it’s tough on the team, it’s tough on the morale of the team,” VerHagen told ESPN.com. “But, we can’t really worry about these last two games. We just have to look forward and try to turn it around.”
Even when the club showed spark in rallying back from a 6-3 deficit to knot the score in the third inning, the Tigers lost shortstop Jose Iglesias to an injured hand when he was hit with a pitch when squaring up for a bunt in his second at-bat of the night.
Iglesias left the game in obvious pain and is expected to miss “more than a couple days,” according to Ausmus. Shortstop Dixon Machado has already been summoned from Triple-A Toledo to fill the void, with reliever Jeff Farrell on his way up as well.
And though the initial diagnosis on Iglesias seemed to be a relief -- a contusion on his right middle finger -- the 25-year-old infielder said it still felt “pretty uncomfortable” and seemed to be treating it gingerly.
“Hopefully nothing bad and I can recover,” said Iglesias, who will be reevaluated when the team returns to Detroit on Friday to open a six-game homestand.
The team’s home record isn’t exactly encouraging, but the way this road trip has gone, anything should be more welcoming than the confines of Toronto’s Rogers Centre and Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
Whether it’s beaten, bludgeoned or battered, the Tigers have found increasingly painful ways to lose. And the scariest part of the whole premise? There’s still a month to go.
“I think it’s just frustrating to lose, I don’t really care how it happens” Castellanos said of the team's current frustration level. “It sucks, but it’s baseball.”