DETROIT — There was no question in the Tigers’ clubhouse that Justin Verlander’s ugly performance was the main reason for Monday’s 11-8 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
However, there was also universal agreement that he hadn’t gotten much help from his teammates.
Verlander’s mid-game meltdown cost the Tigers seven runs, but there were also errors, baserunning blunders and mental mistakes in numbers that shouldn’t come from a team aiming for a fourth straight division title.
"No, that didn’t just seem like a sloppy game," said Alex Avila, showing a rare burst of frustration. "It was pretty obvious that we didn’t play well at all. They scored 11 runs, and we kept making mistakes. That’s not how you are going to beat a team that’s coming in here with a winning streak."
The Tigers were only charged with two errors, but both came in a four-run seventh inning that turned a 7-2 deficit into an 11-2 blowout. That turned out to be bigger than it looked, because the Tigers scored six times in the ninth inning to get within three.
Detroit also might have taken some runs off the table with poor baserunning. Rajai Davis got away with a major mistake when he was picked off by Jason Vargas, as he managed to beat Eric Hosmer’s throw to second and turn the play into his 20th stolen base of the season.
Victor Martinez also got lucky in the fourth inning when he considered trying to go from first to third on Torii Hunter’s single to right. Nori Aoki’s strong throw to third would have gotten him by 20 feet, and Martinez was only barely able to slide back into second base ahead of the relay.
Hunter suffered a hamstring cramp on the same play, bringing in J.D. Martinez as a pinch-runner. Austin Jackson singled to centerfield, and both Victor and J.D. Martinez tried to pick up two bases on the hit.
This time, it was Lorenzo Cain with the strong throw that would have probably gotten Victor Martinez, but third baseman Mike Moustakas cut it off and fired to second as J.D. Martinez tried to scramble back. Instead of two runners on with no one out, the Tigers only had Jackson on first with one out, and Vargas was able to get out of the inning without further damage.
All those mistakes, along with other defensive plays that could have been made but not ruled errors, seem like they could have easily changed a three-run loss into a much closer game.
Brad Ausmus, though, wasn’t buying it.
"If that had been a close game down the stretch instead of 11-2, I’m pretty sure Ned Yost would have managed it a lot differently," he said. "I’m sure we would have seen a different group of relief pitchers than we did — they’ve got a couple that are really good out there that they didn’t use."
The Dartmouth grad has a point — Detroit’s six ninth-inning runs came off Donnie Joseph, who was making his season debut in long relief — but that doesn’t mean he was pleased about everything that happened. He just wasn’t willing to take a page out of Jim Leyland’s playbook and let the media know exactly how unhappy he was.
"I love it when you guys ask me if I’m worried or concerned, because it isn’t like I’m going to tell you," he said. "We made mistakes tonight in the field and on the basepaths. I don’t think they cost us the game, but they are certainly things that need to be cleaned up."
Tuesday would be a good time to start, as a ninth straight win for the Royals would also put them into first place in the Central Division. Detroit will have Max Scherzer on the mound, while Kansas City answers with Yordano Ventura and his 102-mph fastball. The game will be shown on FOX Sports Detroit at 7:08 p.m., with Tigers Live airing at 6:00.