After responding to Leyland’s tongue-lashing with one of their best games at the plate this season, the Tigers look to win their seventh straight against Washburn when they play the middle game of their series with the Mariners on Wednesday night.
Detroit (18-27) had high expectations entering this season after bumping up its payroll to nearly $139 million with the additions of several star players. The Tigers, though, have been perhaps baseball’s biggest disappointment so far, falling to last place in the AL Central, and their fiery manager is starting to show signs of feeling the pressure.
The 63-year-old Leyland did not specify any of his players by name in his rant early Tuesday, but he certainly wanted his team to know he is not happy with the way it has performed.
“You’re saying it wasn’t fair to have expectations? What are you talking about?” Leyland asked rhetorically. “I’m a grown man. I can take my heat, and I deserve some for the performance of this club. But you better be careful when you’re a player. If you’re hitting .200 and .220 and striking out, you shouldn’t be popping off.
“They want to play games, I’ll play games. I’ll quit protecting some of these guys night after night after night after night. And I’ll put some names to it.”
Leyland’s comments included a jab at former Tigers pitcher Jason Grilli, who was traded to Colorado this season. Grilli was quoted Tuesday as saying Detroit hurt its chemistry by getting rid of players such as Sean Casey.
Later that day, the Tigers responded by collecting 17 hits in a 12-8 win over the Mariners. Detroit had lost 12 of its previous 15, scoring three runs or less 11 times in that span.
“Hopefully, we can take off from here,” said shortstop Edgar Renteria, who hit one of Detroit’s four homers and matched a career high with five RBIs.
Now, Renteria and the Tigers will try to win consecutive games for the first time since a three-game run from April 29-May 1. Facing Washburn (2-5, 5.56 ERA) may give them an excellent opportunity to do so.
Washburn has lost six starts in a row versus Detroit, posting a 5.65 ERA. He is 4-7 with a 4.65 ERA in 13 career starts against the Tigers.
The left-hander is back in his familiar starting role after making his first relief appearance since 1999 on Wednesday. He earned the save in the Mariners’ 4-3, 12-inning win over Texas.
Washburn struggled in his last start, though, allowing seven runs in five innings as Seattle lost 8-4 to the Chicago White Sox on May 10.
The Tigers will counter with Kenny Rogers (3-4, 6.65), who’s coming off one of his worst starts of the season. He gave up seven runs and 11 hits in four innings of an 8-4 defeat to Kansas City on Thursday.
The left-hander went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his previous three starts.
Rogers is 10-12 with a 4.52 ERA in 28 starts and 24 relief appearances against the Mariners. He’s 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three starts at home this season, and Seattle hopes to take advantage.
The Mariners have lost eight of their last nine road games, scoring two runs or less five times during that stretch.
“You’ve got to start having some offense before the seventh inning,” Seattle manager John McClaren said.