Tigers not making most of stretch at home

Detroit drops two of three to last-place Angels at Comerica

Tigers not making most of stretch at home

DETROIT -- Jose Valdez pitched in seven games for the Tigers last year, spending 38 days with the club. He dropped to Double-A Erie this season when Detroit designated him for assignment at the end of May. Yet as he finished the eighth inning for the Angels in Sunday's 5-0 Tigers loss, fielding a Miguel Cabrera grounder and firing to first, he celebrated by whirling and pumping his fist on his way off the field at Comerica Park.

Cabrera stared at him on his way into the dugout. The look might well have summed up the Tigers' weekend.

Saturday's loss was overshadowed by ejections, four in as many innings by home-plate umpire Mike Everitt. On Sunday, with Everitt umpiring at third base and the Tigers at full strength, they were flummoxed by lefty starter Tyler Skaggs, who shut them down for six innings en route to Detroit being shut out for the ninth time this season.

Thus, less than 48 hours after the Tigers celebrated their fifth straight win, they lost two in a row to the Angels, who gave up one earned run in games started by Skaggs and Brett Oberholtzer.

"That just shows you how baseball can be," said designated hitter Victor Martinez. "Last-place team came here and took two out of three."

The Angels had just done the same with the Blue Jays, taking two of three in Toronto as part of their first winning road trip since mid-May. Still, as the Tigers check the scoreboard and the standings, they realized the importance.

"Certainly you don't want to lose a series at home, regardless of who it is," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But when it's a team that's been struggling, you hope to try to take advantage of the fact that they've been struggling.

"Unfortunately, we've said it before: Sometimes it's not who you're playing, it's when you're playing them. And if you catch them when they're pitching well or they're hitting well, sometimes it doesn't matter what their record is."

That has been the theme of the last few weeks. When the Tigers returned home from Texas in mid-August, having posted back-to-back shutouts of the team with the American League's best record, they began a three-week stretch with 13 of 16 games at Comerica Park, seeming poised for a run. With three games to go against the White Sox, they have as many wins on the road as at home (three) in that stretch.

The Royals swept three games in Detroit to charge back into the playoff chase. The Red Sox split a four-game series to maintain their standing. The Tigers have gained a half-game in the AL Central over the last two weeks thanks to Cleveland, which lost Sunday for the fifth time in six games to remain 4 1/2 games ahead. Detroit is two games behind Baltimore in the Wild Card, just a half-game further out than when this stretch began.

With six out of their next nine games against the White Sox, plus a three-game showdown in Kansas City, the Tigers' opportunity remains.

"We're trying to win every game," Martinez said. "It doesn't matter early in the season, late in the season. Obviously at this point in the season you want to win. You're getting close to the standings and you want to win. The only way to get up in the standings is by winning ballgames."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.