By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – When a team hits a skid, the brush-off refrain of “It’s baseball” becomes the most popular phrase in the clubhouse. With the Detroit Tigers mired in a 9-19 stretch, manager Brad Ausmus deviated from the usual script Tuesday.
“Quite frankly, I stopped saying, ‘Every team goes through this,’ about a week ago,” Ausmus said. “Teams do go through losing streaks and slumps, but this has been a little bit more than what it should have been, and the question is how do you fix it.
“Anyone that would go through something like this, especially on a team that’s supposed to win, we get sick of it,” Ausmus said. “I’m sick of it, they’re sick of it, fans are sick of it, I’m sure you’re tired of writing about it. We’re just sick of it. I don’t know that there’s a magic spell that can be cast to fix it. If there is, let me know.”
The woes begin with starting pitching. Tuesday night the Kansas City Royals hit up 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer for 10 earned runs, and Monday night longtime ace Justin Verlander allowed seven earned runs. Verlander has allowed five or more earned runs in six of his last seven starts, and Scherzer has allowed four or more earned runs in five of his last six starts.
In a rather unprecedented turn of events, the starting rotation that made Detroit such a legitimate World Series favorite has recently hindered the team more than helped it.
All the Tigers can do is wait for the staff – most notably Verlander and Scherzer – to work out its kinks.
“They’re horses, and this isn’t the way they normally pitch,” Ausmus said. “You certainly can’t take them out of the rotation. That’s not an option. The only option is to fix them.
“I know they’re better than this,” Ausmus added. “Clearly they’re better than this. Everybody in this room knows they’re better than this. They’ve set a high standard, but they set a high standard because they’re good, and you don’t just lose it overnight. I really do expect them to return to form, but it’s been a little slow.”
After initially leaving the diagnosing of Verlander’s pitching woes to the hurler and pitching coach Jeff Jones, Ausmus has recently gotten more involved in the process, watching video with the duo Tuesday. Ausmus said he might do the same with Scherzer.
“It’s a possibility,” Ausmus said. “We’ll discuss that tomorrow. I’ll meet with Jonesy tomorrow about it.”
Verlander was pulled after the sixth inning Monday, and Scherzer completed only four innings Tuesday. As a result, the Tigers have had to use relievers more often, and the increased workload could create problems later in the season.
“It’s a concern long-term for sure, looking ahead to August, September,” Ausmus said. “Somebody had to pitch the ninth, and really didn’t want to have to use [Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain or Joe Nathan, or Ian Krol, for that matter. Somebody had to pitch it.
“It’s a long-term [concern] for anyone who has a bunch of appearances, but I think Albie leads our team in appearances,” Ausmus clarified. “I was specifically talking about Albie.”
With the loss Tuesday night, the Tigers lost their hold on first place in the American League, the first time that has happened since July 2, 2013. The Royals have now won nine in a row and 14 of their last 18.