DETROIT – When the Detroit Tigers arrived in Kansas City this weekend, they did so with an opportunity to take advantage of a last-place team and climb even closer to that elusive .500 record.
Detroit kicked off the second half of the season with seven straight victories against the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers to pull within four games of .500, which is incredible on its own considering the team was once 15 games below.
But now, the Tigers find themselves seven games back after getting swept out of town by a team that was in last place when they arrived.
The series began with a hard-fought loss at the hands of Kris Bubic, which was disappointing only because the winning streak came to an end and Wily Peralta had been so consistent.
Ryan O’Hearn delivered the fatal blow in the fourth inning — a three-run blast to center field that gave Kansas City a 4-1 lead it would never relinquish.
The real heartbreaker came on Saturday, though, when the Tigers squandered a 6-0 lead with their ace on the mound.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Casey Mize throws against a Kansas City Royals batter during the third inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, July 24, 2021. (The Associated Press 2021)
Casey Mize trotted onto the field in the bottom of the fifth with a six-run lead after cruising through four clean innings. But another three-run bomb, this time by Salvador Perez, capped off a four-run inning that changed the feel of a game that moments ago felt like a blowout.
Carlos Santana delivered Kansas City’s third three-run homer of the series two innings later against Kyle Funkhouser, and the blown lead was complete. The Royals scored nine straight runs — four in the fifth and five in the seventh — and even an Akil Baddoo homer in the ninth came a little too late.
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By Sunday, the Tigers looked like a team that couldn’t wait to get out of town. Tarik Skubal allowed four runs before recording an out, and the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of Daniel Lynch, who came into the game with a 15.75 ERA. The offense managed just five hits and zero runs against the rookie in eight innings.
Between Saturday’s blown lead, Sunday’s clunker and the shocking contrast between the home stand and the team that showed up in Kansas City, it was probably the most disappointing series for the Tigers all season — and that includes a four-game sweep at Minnesota before the All-Star break.
The Tigers had a chance to go into this week just a couple of games away from a .500 record, but instead, they’ll have to win seven straight against the Twins and Baltimore Orioles to get there before the schedule gets much tougher. They’re obviously capable of a winning streak, but another one of that length is very unlikely.
Most importantly, the Tigers need to stop the bleeding this week in Minneapolis. The Twins just traded away Nelson Cruz and have fallen into last place in the AL Central. The Tigers need to snap their seven-game road losing streak and find a way to win two of three before heading home.
In the grand scheme of the rebuild, reaching .500 in the middle of 2021 doesn’t actually matter. But it would be an exciting accomplishment for a team that hasn’t had much to cheer about since 2014. At the very least, it gives Detroit something to root for.
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