Even getting back to Comerica Park could not wake up the Detroit Tigers’ sputtering offense.
Increasingly frustrated manager Jim Leyland hopes that begins to change Saturday, with the Tigers trying to avoid falling into last place as their four-game set against the Cleveland Indians continues.
Clearly one of baseball’s most disappointing teams, Detroit (24-36) has been limited to 10 runs and 23 hits during a four-game losing streak to fall within a half-game of basement-dwelling Kansas City in the AL Central.
A recently completed 3-6 road trip saw the Tigers hit .206 and score two runs or fewer five times, leaving Leyland to say he was “befuddled” by the team’s offense. He might have hoped that feeling would start to go away Friday with Detroit opening a 10-game homestand, considering the team was hitting .291 at home while averaging 6.0 runs, compared to a .235 average and 3.6 runs per game on the road.
Instead, Leyland’s frustration only continued as the Tigers managed five hits in a 4-2 defeat to the Indians (28-33).
“It’s a mystery to me why we can’t score runs on a consistent basis,” Leyland said. “Saying that I’m shocked by this might be a little strong, but it is pretty close.”
The hitting slumps stretch up and down Detroit’s lineup.
Magglio Ordonez has one hit in 14 at-bats during this four-game slide and he’s gone homerless with three RBIs in his last 11 games. Fellow slugger Miguel Cabrera is 2-for-14 during the losing streak and has just two home runs since May 1.
A lack of run support cost Detroit’s Kenny Rogers (4-4, 5.54 ERA) chances to win his last two outings. The Tigers totaled two runs in those games, though he did not get a decision either time as he allowed two runs in 14 innings.
Rogers, who is facing the Indians for the first time this season, is 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA in his last four starts against them. The left-hander is 17-16 with a 5.12 ERA in 57 career appearances - 34 starts - versus Cleveland.
He will be opposed by Aaron Laffey (3-3, 3.02), looking to bounce back from his worst game as a major leaguer. In his 16th career start and seventh this season, Laffey allowed eight runs and 11 hits - two homers - in five innings of a 13-9 win at Texas on Monday.
The rookie right-hander had given up a total of two home runs over his previous 89 big-league innings, and had never yielded more than five runs or eight hits in any outing. Laffey had posted a 0.79 ERA in five starts in May.
Laffey, who has never faced Detroit, hopes Cleveland’s corner infielders can stay hot.
First baseman Ryan Garko homered and scored two runs in Friday’s victory, and is 12-for-23 (.522) with eight RBIs in his last five games. Third baseman Casey Blake, who has three homers and 12 RBIs in his last seven games, had a two-run double Friday as the Indians improved to 4-4 on their 11-game road trip.
“This was a good ballgame,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “We stayed focused and we were able to get good at-bats when we needed them.”