DETROIT -- Two different games on Monday, but the outcome was much the same for the Detroit Tigers, with a pair of solid pitching performances spoiled by an overall lack of offense in the club’s lost doubleheader at the hands of the Chicago White Sox.
One day after an abysmal start for Alfredo Simon that subsequently overworked an already-taxed bullpen, Kyle Ryan and Randy Wolf were strong in their respective outings, going seven innings each but receiving little run support in return for their efforts.
And if that was the takeaway from the day, it also has been a recurring theme for the Tigers’ underachieving season. It has been a puzzling phenomenon for much of this year -- a dominant offensive team ranked first in most statistical categories that finds the most inopportune times to come up anemic at the plate.
“I don't know how you would explain it,” catcher Alex Avila said. “Sometimes you're able to put up a lot of runs like we've had [before], and sometimes we haven't. It's kind of frustrating that you can't be consistent, but probably a little credit goes to the pitcher. There's got to be some blame on us.”
Shut out 2-0 in Game 1, the Tigers failed to scrape together much more in the second game, save for a third inning that produced a home run from Avila -- his first since July 7 -- back-to-back base hits for Andrew Romine and Rajai Davis and a sacrifice fly from Ian Kinsler that scored Romine. The Tigers threatened again in the fourth, but left runners stranded when Erik Johnson struck out Jeff Wilson with two outs and the bases loaded.
Otherwise, it was an impressive performance from veteran Randy Wolf, who contained the White Sox to three runs on five hits and struck out a season-high six batters in his sixth start of the season. And though the 39-year-old got himself into a few sticky situations, he was able to maneuver out of those with skill and poise.
“I thought he had a great plan. He knew what he wanted to do and when it wasn’t right or he didn’t feel right about it, you saw him step off a few times. Some people can perceive that as not being on the same page or not having the right plan, but I think it was he felt that he needed to get back to that,” Romine said following the 3-2 loss. “He knew that he had to have a little chat or step off for a second and gather himself. He’s a veteran guy. He knows what he needs to do and he executed.”
Earlier in the day, Ryan was outstanding in allowing just two runs on six hits in seven innings of work -- his ninth appearance with two earned runs or fewer allowed -- though his outing was simply overshadowed by the dominance of Chicago’s Jeff Samardzija, who threw a one-hit shutout.
"I felt phenomenal," Ryan said. "Everything was working. I made two boo-boos, one big one. Other than that, it felt good."
Though Samardzija has had a surprisingly rough stretch this season, and after the trade deadline in particular, he was dazzling in a complete game in which his only blemish was a fifth-inning bloop single from Victor Martinez.
Overall, pitching was a source of strength for the Tigers on Monday, with relievers Drew VerHagen, Al Alburqurque, Alex Wilson and Bruce Rondon combining to throw four scoreless innings between the two games.
Rondon, who was singled out by manager Brad Ausmus earlier in the day as the player who can do the most to influence next season with his play over the next two weeks, retired all three batters he faced in the ninth, though a noticeable dip in velocity seemed even more pronounced, with his fastball in the low- to mid-90’s.
Rondon declined to speak after the game, though Ausmus said he didn’t think anything was bothering him.
“That I don't know,” Ausmus said. “It was a little bit down, he said he felt fine.”
It has been a grueling stretch for the Tigers with the grind of a doubleheader particularly unpalatable following a week that included three extra-inning games, but players insist that the effort and hustle is still there. That professional pride still trumps fatigue and disappointment.
“It’s easy to get caught up in what we haven’t done this season, what we should have done, but those games are gone. We can’t get ‘em back,” Romine said. “So all we have left are these last couple of weeks, and nobody’s coming to the field giving up. We’re all competitive, we all want to win no matter who we’re playing or how many games back we are.”