Defense not helping struggling Tigers

Austin Jackson steals second base ahead of the tag by Detroit Tigers short stop Andrew Romine.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — It’s well-documented that the Tigers’ offense hasn’t been great since the All-Star break, but the defense isn’t helping either.

In Sunday’s 8-1 loss to the Mariners, the Tigers committed three errors, one each from first baseman Victor Martinez, left fielder Rajai Davis and third baseman Nick Castellanos.

Those errors led to four unearned runs for the Mariners.

"It was a bad day, all the way around," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We didn’t have good at-bats, generally speaking. We didn’t pitch very well, and we didn’t play very good defense. That’s a recipe for disaster."

Davis, who left the game after six innings because of a left thumb contusion, said the injury did not cause him to drop Kendrys Morales’ ball in the sixth.

"I’m not going to blame it on that," Davis said. "I should’ve made the play. A major-league baseball player, you have to make that play. I didn’t make the play."

In August alone, the Tigers have committed 14 errors in 17 games.

"That’s very surprising to me because I really like this defense," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "The last couple days, maybe the last couple weeks, it’s not been the same."

When the offense is not hitting well enough to overcome those errors, they become magnified.

"The way we’re losing, it’s not us," Hunter said. "Offensively, you struggle, but my concern is not that. It’s defensively. That should never slump, defense never slumps. We’re in a slump with defense. When you’re in a slump with defense, things happen. Offense comes and goes but defense never goes anywhere and we need to work on that."

The Tigers currently are 11th out of the 15 American League teams in defense. 

They have 78 errors compared to top-ranked Seattle’s 57.

Although players work very hard at separating their offense from their defense, it is possible that a few are carrying their offensive woes with them to the field.

"I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, three out of 10 you’re a hero," Hunter said. "You’re going to fail at the plate, no matter what. You’re going to strike out, you’re going to pop up, you’re going to hit four balls hard, you’re going to be 0-for-4. That’s why I’m not a stat guy. I don’t believe it because the whole story’s not told with stats. 

"But defense should never slump. Never. Unless you lose a ball in the lights, or hit a nasty pebble and hits you in the face, stuff you can’t control. But there’s so much you can control on defense and we have to control it."

Hunter said he believes the defensive mistakes are primarily mental.

Perhaps the loss of center fielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners has contributed to the defensive slump.

"Jackson was great," Hunter said. "He’s a pure center fielder, played great for the Tigers for years. Anytime you let an Austin Jackson go, premier center fielder, good center fielder, it hurts a little bit. I think these guys can hold it down."

If anything, Hunter said, the Tigers who are struggling the most offensively should be even more motivated on defense.

"If I’m struggling at the plate, I’m really trying to take away hits from you," Hunter said.

Although probably not in Sunday’s loss, that one play on defense could end up being the difference between winning and losing a game.