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Detroit Tigers Newsletter: Who is to blame for this June swoon of 9 straight losses?

It wasn’t long after the Detroit Tigers’ final at-bat Sunday — no more than 30 minutes, maybe — when Tigers catcher Eric Haase summed up June so far.

“It all sucks, you know, it’s all losing, doesn’t really matter at the end of the year, we’re losing by 10 or one,” Haase told the reporters gathered around his cubby in the Comerica Park clubhouse.

And indeed, while the Tigers haven’t yet lost by 10 over their first nine games of the month, it has all been losing: By three, one, four, five, one, one, five, five and, finally on Sunday, by two runs in a disheartening bullpen blowup that dropped the Tigers to 26-37, 11 games under .500 and 5½ games back in the American League Central (which is, ahem, still really not a good division).

Hello, and welcome to the June Swoon Newsletter!

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jason Foley pitches in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on June 11, 2023.
Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jason Foley pitches in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on June 11, 2023.

So what has gone wrong this month, after a 16-11 record in May promised a summer of, well, maybe not good baseball, but at least the occasional win?

It has been the general policy of this newsletter to try not to look back too hard at the past week’s games — a policy developed during the 114-loss season of 2019, not long after we ranked the first 100 losses that year.

There are always brighter days ahead, is the thinking — even if that brightness is losing a bit of its luster in the midst of the Tigers’ first nine-game losing streak since 2020.

But, well, we’ve seen this week’s schedule — three games against the Atlanta Braves, who are 7-2 in June and possess the best record in the NL, followed by four games on the road against the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins — and, uh, those brighter days might have to wait for next week’s newsletter (and the three-game visit from the Central’s cellar dwellars, the Kansas City Royals).

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So, in an effort to figure out how this skid developed, let's take a quick spin through the nine losses this month to see if there’s a common thread:

June 2: White Sox 3, Tigers 0 — Reese Olson opened his MLB career with five no-hit innings and still took the loss despite allowing only two runs on two hits, thanks to a Tigers offense that went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Blame the … Hitters.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Reese Olson (45) after being relieved against the Chicago White Sox during the sixth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago on Friday, June 2, 2023.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Reese Olson (45) after being relieved against the Chicago White Sox during the sixth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago on Friday, June 2, 2023.

June 3: White Sox 2, Tigers 1 (10) — The Tigers mustered three hits (but none, of course, with two on and no outs in the 10th inning), but held the ChiSox to just four as all three runs scored on wild pitches, including the winner on a José Cisnero sinker that didn’t sink, right into the face of the home plate ump. Blame the … Hitters.

June 4: White Sox 6, Tigers 2 — A 2-2 game entering the ninth became a four-run gut punch on one pitch from Alex Lange (though that followed a single and two walks on full counts as Lange was unable to keep his curveball in the strike zone). Blame the … Bullpen.

June 5: Phillies 8, Tigers 3 — Starter Joey Wentz was not sharp, with five runs allowed over 4⅔ innings … but the Tigers “hitters” (using the term loosely) were no-hit for 6⅔ innings by Aaron Nola,before Nick Maton hammered a breaking ball into the second deck. Blame the … Hitters.

June 6: Phillies 1, Tigers 0 — Four relievers held Philly to three hits. Unfortunately, one of them was a leadoff homer by Kyle Schwarber. Meanwhile, three Phillies held the Tigers to three hits. None of them was a homer. Blame the … Hitters.

June 8: Phillies 3, Tigers 2 — The Tigers were no-hit, this time for 7⅓ innings, but rallied for a 2-1 lead in the ninth … only for Lange to blow it with an inning that started with a Bryce Harper double (understandable) and ended with a Kody Clemens double (less so). Blame the … Bullpen.

Phillies first baseman Kody Clemens is doused by water after hitting a walk-off single during the ninth inning of the Tigers' 3-2 loss on Thursday, June 8, 2023, in Philadelphia.
Phillies first baseman Kody Clemens is doused by water after hitting a walk-off single during the ninth inning of the Tigers' 3-2 loss on Thursday, June 8, 2023, in Philadelphia.

June 9: Diamondbacks 11, Tigers 6 — A Tigers rally left it tied at 2 going into the seventh inning, when the D’backs pounded seven runs out of starter Michael Lorenzen and reliever Will Vest, including a grand slam and a poorly timed interference call on catcher Jake Rogers (who made up for it a bit with a pair of homers). It's a little tough to pick just one, but ... Blame the … Defense.

June 10: Diamondbacks 5, Tigers 0 — Kerry Carpenter singled in the first inning, stopping us from recounting — again — how many innings the Tigers were no-hit for. Starter Matthew Boyd allowed only six hits … but two were homers, accounting for all the runs. Blame the … Rotation.

June 11: Diamondbacks 7, Tigers 5 — A suddenly slender 5-2 lead vanished late when Lange allowed a run in the eighth inning and Jason Foley allowed four more in the ninth despite getting the D’backs down to their final strike. Blame the … Bullpen.

And there you have it, in our highly scientific analysis: Four losses to hang on the Tigers hitters (who have a .176/.247/.297 slash line this month in averaging 2.1 runs a game), three for the bullpen (which still seems likely to produce the Tigers’ lone All-Star) and one apiece for the rotation and the defense.

Happy anniversary, J.V.!

Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander celebrates his no-hitter against the Brewers with catcher Ivan Rodriguez on Tuesday, June 12, 2007, at Comerica Park.
Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander celebrates his no-hitter against the Brewers with catcher Ivan Rodriguez on Tuesday, June 12, 2007, at Comerica Park.

While we’re on the topic of frequent no-hit bids (as well as brighter days), today marks the 16th anniversary of Justin Verlander’s first no-no, thrown on June 12, 2007, against the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park. Verlander walked just four while striking out 12, all while not allowing a runner past first base. He has gone on to throw two more — one with the Tigers (May 7, 2011) and one with the Houston Astros (Sept. 1, 2019) — but you never forget your first time. Head here to relive J.V.’s greatest hits (and no-hits) as a Tiger. (He’s still looking for his first no-no as a Met, though he held the Guardians to three hits over eight innings on May 21.)

Tigers birthdays this week: Avisail Garcia (32 on Monday), Tyler Holton (27 on Tuesday), James McCann (33 on Tuesday), Drew Smyly (34 on Tuesday), Mike Fiers (38 on Thursday), Tony Clark (51 on Thursday), Lance Parrish (67 on Thursday), Ron LeFlore (75 on Friday), Andrew Chafin (33 on Saturday).

A Carpenter and his tools

First baseman Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on as Kerry Carpenter of the Detroit Tigers and first base coach Alfredo Amezaga celebrate a single during the third inning at Comerica Park on June 11, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.
First baseman Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on as Kerry Carpenter of the Detroit Tigers and first base coach Alfredo Amezaga celebrate a single during the third inning at Comerica Park on June 11, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.

There was at least one bright spot — brighter days! — over the weekend, as Kerry Carpenter returned from the injured list after missing 36 games with a shoulder injury. He hit the ground running … or at least hitting, going 8-for-12 with a double, a walk and two strikeouts. The lefty hitter struggled with his timing early in his his Triple-A rehab stint, but told the Freep’s Evan Petzold on Friday, “I feel pretty good.” Head here to check out how he recovered from the injury.

Greene energy

Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene (31) loses his helmet at bat in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park in Detroit on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene (31) loses his helmet at bat in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park in Detroit on Sunday, May 28, 2023.

Carpenter wasn’t the only ailing outfielder back in the Tigers clubhouse over the weekend: Riley Greene rejoined the team when it returned from its road trip. He’s still a few weeks away from returning to action, but he’ll be contributing “liveliness around the dugout” (according to manager A.J. Hinch) until then, including on the Tigers’ upcoming trip to Minnesota. Head here to find out from Our Man Petzold what Greene did on his week away from the team.

Less than Jake

Jake Marisnick of the Detroit Tigers catches the fly out by Andrew Vaughn of the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning of a game at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 4, 2023 in Chicago.
Jake Marisnick of the Detroit Tigers catches the fly out by Andrew Vaughn of the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning of a game at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 4, 2023 in Chicago.

Filling in for Greene in center field is Jake Marisnick, who went 2-for-4 and doubled on Sunday for his first extra-base hit in the majors since July 2022. Marisnick isn’t with the Tigers for his bat, however; he’s expected to provide top-notch defense until Greene’s return. Head here to find out from Our Man Petzold how he’s achieving that.

3(+1) to watch

Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Maton sits in dugout in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Comerica Park, June 11, 2023.
Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Maton sits in dugout in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Comerica Park, June 11, 2023.

Brighter days ahead, we tells ya! Brighter days!

AKIL BADDOO: Another outfield injury means the third-year player will be out for a while.

NICK MATON: Finally, a homer off a non-fastball!

MATT MANNING & EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ: The Great Healing has begun (sorta).

Unbroken Colt

The difference is subtle, but Detroit Tigers prospect Colt Keith adjusted his swing mechanics from late April (right photo) to early June (left photo) by eliminating the crouch in his stance.
The difference is subtle, but Detroit Tigers prospect Colt Keith adjusted his swing mechanics from late April (right photo) to early June (left photo) by eliminating the crouch in his stance.

With all the injuries the Tigers have suffered this season, it seems like we’ve been forced to follow the farm system a little bit more than usual. But, hey, there are actual prospects down there, too! Like, say, 21-year-old Colt Keith (he turns 22 in mid-August), whose red-hot run for Double-A Erie — a .423/.494/.747 slash line with 10 walks and 13 strikeouts over his past 17 games — suggest a promotion to Toledo could be in line soon. Our Man Petzold has the story here on the swing change last month that made everything click for Keith.

Mark your calendar

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning on June 2, 2023, at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning on June 2, 2023, at Chase Field in Phoenix.

As we noted earlier, the Tigers have a full seven-game slate this week, starting with a visit from the Braves at 6:40 p.m. Monday. Head here to get a scouting report on the NL East leaders and starting pitcher Charlie Morton who, at 39 years and 212 days old, is merely the ninth-oldest player in the majors this season, and 208 days younger than the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers have also faced MLB Old Men Nos. 1 (Rich Hill), 3 (Adam Wainwright), 4 (Justin Verlander) and 8 (Zack Greinke) this season, in case you were wondering. That series is followed by a four-gamer in Minneapolis starting Thursday against the AL Central leaders, who lost Sunday to fall back to .500 at 33-33.

TL;DR

Tigers' Mickey Stanley steps between Willie Horton, right, and Angels' Frank Tanana (40) during the fourth inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader June 11, 1975 at Tiger Stadium. Benches cleared, Horton was ejected and action was halted for 20 minutes.
Tigers' Mickey Stanley steps between Willie Horton, right, and Angels' Frank Tanana (40) during the fourth inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader June 11, 1975 at Tiger Stadium. Benches cleared, Horton was ejected and action was halted for 20 minutes.

We’ll wrap up with this: The Tigers are mired in their 11th skid of at least nine games this century alone — though four of those streaks came during the franchise’s 119-loss 2003 season. Compare that to the mere 20 such skids in the first 100 seasons of the franchise.

At least the Tigers have a couple weeks to go before approaching the franchise record — the 1975 Tigers lost 19 straight from July 29-Aug. 15, en route to a 57-102 record. Brighter days ahead!

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers Newsletter: 9 games in June, 9 losses — who to blame?