One day it’s the struggles of the starting pitcher. The next it’s a lack of hitting.
Name your malady and the Detroit Tigers seem to contract it whenever they face the Cleveland Indians.
Cleveland right-hander Shane Bieber (4-0) was effective and efficient Saturday while striking out 11 batters and handing the Tigers a 3-1 loss at Comerica Park.
Bieber allowed three hits with one walk in seven innings.
The Tigers managed just four hits and struck out 12 times in the game.
It was the Tigers’ fourth straight loss and dropped their record to 9-9.
The loss also extended the Tigers’ franchise-record losing streak to 19th straight defeats at the hands of Cleveland. They haven’t beaten the Indians since April 11, 2019.
Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull (2-1) didn’t pitch poorly but he wasn’t as effective as he was his last time out, when he picked up his second win by allowing one earned run in seven innings Sunday at Pittsburgh.
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Turnbull lasted 4 ⅔ innings Saturday against the Indians, allowing three runs on six hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
The Tigers scored an unearned run in the ninth when pinch-hitter JaCoby Jones smacked a double to left and scored Willi Castro.
Here are some observations from the game:
Bieber was on fire early. He struck out the side in order in the fourth inning. At that point he finished off a streak of going through the Tigers’ order with eight strikeouts and one walk (Niko Goodrum). He also had allowed just one hit through four innings: Jonathan Schoop’s double in the second inning. He started the fifth inning striking out Christin Stewart for his 10th punchout.
Right-hander John Schreiber, who threw a scoreless inning of relief Wednesday against the White Sox, did a nice job limiting the damage Saturday. He relieved Turnbull with two out in the fifth inning and got out of the frame when Franmil Reyes flied out. He worked a clean sixth and struck out one in 1 ⅓ innings.
Right-hander Bryan Garcia got himself out of his own bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning. He walked Franmil Reyes, then he threw Tyler Naquin’s comebacker into centerfield. He walked Bradley Zimmer to load the bases. After a visit from pitching coach Rick Anderson, Garcia settled down and got Sandy Leon on a pop-up behind home plate. He struck out Oscar Mercado and got Cesar Hernandez on a deep fly to center to keep the deficit to 3-0.
In the second inning, Stewart made a great throw from left field. Domingo Santana scorched a two-out single off the left-field wall and tried to stretch it into a double, but Stewart threw a laser to Schoop who tagged Santana out. Santana was left lying on his back with a smile and not much to argue about.
The Tigers won’t be confused for the Dodgers’ great infields of the 1970s and ’80s, but they’re making strides, especially playing out of position. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario has taken over at first base with C.J. Cron electing to have season-ending knee surgery.
Candelario made some nice plays Friday, including staying with a bobbled foul pop-up, and on Saturday he made a nice pick on Goodrum’s throw in the dirt in the fourth inning. Castro, along with Dawel Lugo, has taken over at third and he made a nice play in the second inning when he bobbled Reyes’ sharp grounder but stuck with it to throw him out at first. Ron Gardenhire’s specialty is teaching infield and it looks to be paying off.
Miguel Cabrera continues to struggle. He went 0-for-4 with one strikeout. He’s 0-for-8 in the series and 1-for-18 on the homestand.