Tigers lose ground after dropping twin bill

Tigers lose ground after dropping twin bill

Tigers lose ground after dropping twin bill
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Sunday morning it could be a tough day at Comerica Park. He wasn't expecting this.

He was talking about his starting pitching when he worried about Sunday's day-night doubleheader. He had one starting pitcher coming back from shoulder weakness and another making a spot start for the first time in a month. He wasn't thinking about the offense, not with an MVP candidate on a Triple Crown chase, and a lineup that produced a dozen runs against the Twins a day earlier and 22 runs over three games against a stingy A's pitching staff.

Once Jamey Carroll's 10th-inning single scored Denard Span in Sunday's nightcap, and the Twins were on their way to a doubleheader sweep with a 2-1 win, the offense was all Leyland could think about.

"There's not really much to explain here tonight," he said. "I'm not trying to get rid of you guys. I'm just telling you it's disappointing that we didn't score more runs today. In two ballgames today, I felt that we would certainly score more runs than we did, and we didn't."

As a result, the Tigers dropped a half-game in the American League Central standings on a day when the White Sox lost to the Angels for a series sweep. Detroit heads into its four-game series against Kansas City trailing Chicago by one full game with 10 games left to play, a gap that's far from impossible to clear.

That was the concern at the other end of the clubhouse, where players were trying to look ahead minutes afterward.

"You play 162 games. It's not like we put ourselves in a hole. We're one game out," said Drew Smyly, who allowed an unearned run over 4 1/3 innings in his spot start and ended up with a no-decision. "If [the White Sox] lose and we win, we're right there. I don't think anyone's pressing.

"They've got some big games left. We've got some big games left."

Said Austin Jackson: "I think this team is very capable of reaching our goals and [getting] past [this]."

Eventually, Leyland will move on as well. This one, however, is going to linger for a little bit for him. It marked the Tigers' 11th consecutive loss in one-run games since Aug. 23.

His team's defense, turbulent as it was at several points over the doubleheader -- including Minnesota's first run Sunday -- wasn't his primary concern. Even an add-on run that scored when reliever Brayan Villarreal mistakenly treated a play at the plate like a forceout in the 10-4 day-game loss, an obvious mental mistake, didn't get to Leyland like the bats did.

For the doubleheader, the Tigers scored five runs in 19 innings, two of those runs coming against the bullpen in the ninth inning of the opening game. In the nightcap, a first-inning run was all they got.

"I really can't answer that," Leyland said when asked about any frustration over his defense, which committed four errors, not counting Villarreal's miscue. "What cost us today is we didn't score runs. We have to score more than one run. ... That's why we didn't win the game. We just didn't score runs."

Miguel Cabrera drove in two of the five runs on RBI doubles, one in each game to extend his MLB-leading RBI total to 133, and scored another. His first-inning RBI double in the nightcap hit the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field to score Jackson following his leadoff single. From there, however, P.J. Walters shut them down over six innings, handing a tied game to the bullpen.

"That's what you play the game for -- big games, big moments," Walters said. "Being able to come in here and try to keep Detroit out of the playoffs, it's fun."

For Walters, it was his fifth quality start in 11 outings for the Twins this season. Three of those quality starts have come against the Tigers. He has a 2.95 ERA against Detroit, and a 6.70 ERA in his other eight starts.

"He's a lot like [Doug] Fister," catcher Alex Avila said of Walters. "He's a sinkerballer with a slider and a cutter and a curveball and a changeup. He didn't make many mistakes today. Normally when you see a guy like that, you have to take advantage of the mistakes they make."

The pitching from Walters allowed the Twins to take advantage of fifth-inning defensive miscues to tie it, capped by Avila's throw over first base and into right field on a potential double-play ball as Matt Carson slid into him at the plate.

Span's pinch-hit single leading off the 10th inning set the Twins' offense in motion against Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Ben Revere worked out of a 1-2 count to run the count full, allowing Span to take off for second as Revere grounded out to third. Carroll's ensuing single to right-center allowed Span to score easily.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.