Splitting a four-game series at home against the worst team in baseball is not what the Detroit Tigers want right now.
Seeking their first three-game win streak in nearly a month, the Tigers instead fell behind in the first inning and never recovered in a 7-1 loss Wednesday.
“Durbin was fine,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We knew he wouldn’t pitch long, and we let them have too many add-on runs. That killed us.”
The Tigers (63-50), losers of 10 of 13 since July 25, remained one-half game behind Cleveland in the AL Central, but dropped one percentage point behind wild card-leading Seattle.
The middle of Detroit’s order—Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez—were a combined 1-for-12. Ordonez was 6-for-9 in the first two games of the series before going 0-for-4 on Wednesday to drop his league-leading batting average to .351, three points ahead of Polanco and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki.
The one bright spot for the Tigers was the return of Gary Sheffield, who went 1-for-4 after missing five games with a slight right shoulder separation.
“He looked good,” Leyland said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Sheffield and the Tigers may not have an easy time against Kazmir (8-7, 3.72 ERA), who is 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA in his last five starts. That stretch comes after he was 0-3 with a 6.06 ERA in his three previous appearances.
The ace of the Devil Rays (43-70) limited Baltimore to one run and seven hits over seven innings with two walks and nine strikeouts Saturday in a 9-2 victory.
“He’s just pumping strikes with his fastball,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s kind of like what I saw last year. It’s a little bit more simple. … He utilizes his other pitches when he needs to, but he’s easily throwing his fastball when he wants to. It’s a simplified version.”
Kazmir is 1-3 with a 5.47 ERA in five starts against the Tigers with his lone victory coming at Comerica Park on May 19, 2005.
Dioner Navarro could be back behind the plate to catch Kazmir after going 5-for-9 over the last two games. He had three hits, including a two-run homer, to help the Devil Rays snap an eight-game road losing streak Wednesday.
Tampa Bay has lost 19 of its last 22 on the road, where it is 17-37 this season.
Navarro, who has home runs in back-to-back games for the first time in his career, is now hitting .201, the first time he has been above .200 since May 15.
“I’m just trying hard to get something going,” he said. “Hopefully, I can keep this up for the rest of the season.”
Detroit’s Jeremy Bonderman (10-4, 4.50) hopes to snap a personal three-game losing streak. The right-hander has been hit hard in each of his last three starts, allowing 21 earned runs and 27 hits in 16 1-3 innings. He was reached for six runs and 10 hits over seven innings Saturday in a 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“I need to pick it up and give this team a chance to win,” Bonderman said. “In my last three starts I haven’t been doing it.”
Bonderman has pitched much better at home, going 5-2 with a 3.71 ERA in 10 starts.
He pitched 6 1-3 strong innings in a 14-2 victory at Tampa Bay on May 29, improving to 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA in six career starts against the Devil Rays.