08/03/08 10:02 PM ET
Bullpen unable to hold lead in extras
Rodney allows two runs, three walks in 10th inning
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
The skipper had spent most of Sunday's pregame session with the media lamenting his team's lackluster production this season, which most recently had resulted in two consecutive disappointing losses to the Rays.
Sunday's matinee -- piled high with missed opportunities and mounting walks -- was just another reoccurring episode in what is becoming a harrowingly familiar display of Detroit baseball.
"You guys saw it," a visibly frustrated Leyland said to the media following Sunday's 6-5, extra-innings loss to the Rays. "Write whatever you want. Report whatever you want."
The Tigers skipper would say no more. Possibly because there wasn't much left to say that wouldn't be a repeat recording of his pregame speech, in which Leyland warned that change would be coming if his club didn't start producing.
If the Tigers knew they were on thin ice, they paid no heed, as the club continued to sputter in front of a crowd of 33, 438 at Tropicana Field.
Despite outhitting the Rays, 12-8, the Tigers missed chances for the big hits in the big situation, going 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranding 11.
But while the offense showed slight signs of resuscitation -- most notably a trio of homers to send the game into extra innings -- the Tigers' bullpen remained the club's Achilles' heel.
Making just his second appearance for Detroit, Kyle Farnsworth certainly didn't look like the stopper he was advertised to be in the Tigers-Yankees swap on Wednesday.
In the eight, the right-hander allowed a leadoff homer to Eric Hinske, and another two-run shot to B.J. Upton two batters later. Fernando Rodney, who has struggled with a high pitch count since his return from the disabled list last month, was unable to shut down the Rays in the 10th. He walked Willy Aybar to open the inning, hit Shawn Riggans and issued another pair of free passes -- Upton and Carlos Pena -- to walk in the winning run.
Three walks and a hit batter were all it took to make the Rays walk-off winners and hand the Tigers their first sweep since June 2-4 in Oakland.
Exactly how tough was the last 20 minutes of Sunday's game?
"It's tough," Farnsworth said. "Guys came back and battled back and forth and we let them down. It was tough."
"Very tough loss," reliever Bobby Seay said.
The left-handed reliever was on the mound to start the fateful 10th inning, but was replaced in favor of Rodney when the Rays inserted Aybar as a pinch-hitter. Seay said he knew going out onto the mound, that if left-handed hitter Gabe Gross came up to bat, he would face him, and if not, the club would opt to go with Rodney's right arm.
The move was a question of matchups, as the switch-hitting Aybar entered the game batting .260 off southpaws and .186 vs. right-handed pitching.
Despite the outcome, Seay -- who tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts -- didn't seem upset by the move. Instead, he struggled to summarize what the last few days have been like for the Tigers.
"It's a hostile place to play and they put pressure on us," he said. "Just couldn't get the [last] out."
The first 21 were considerably easier, as Armando Galarraga turned in an All-Star performance that was lost in the game's gloomy outcome. The rookie right-hander held the Rays to one hit through the game's first six frames, before allowing a leadoff ground-rule double to Upton. Galarraga gave the Tigers seven strong innings -- for the first time since July 23.
"He deserved a win," Seay said.
And the rest of the team badly needed one, as the Tigers dropped their fourth consecutive game and fall seven games behind the American League Central-leading White Sox. Prior to Sunday, the Tigers hadn't lost four straight games since June 2-6, as Detroit was 32-11 in June and July and slowly gaining ground in the division.
Detroit has Monday's off-day to let the effect of the Rays' comeback subside and prepare for a critical three-game series vs. the White Sox.
"No one's giving up yet," Seay said. "Last time I looked, we are still mathematically in it. So we just got to keep grinding and hoping the ball will bounce our way."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.