08/08/08 10:54 PM ET
Tigers can't convert on opportunities
Team that hits lefties well falls to southpaw; Rogers takes loss
By Scott McNeish / MLB.com
This season, the Tigers have feasted on left-handed pitching. They own the best record in the Major Leagues against southpaws and faced lefty Dallas Braden in the opener of a crucial 10-game homestand. They also faced a team that had lost 10 straight.
Add Tigers starter Kenny Rogers, who has the second-highest career win total in history against the A's, and all signs pointed toward a solid start to the next 10 days.
But there would be no feast. Only famine.
The Tigers dropped the opener of a three-game set, 4-2, before a sellout crowd of 41,457 fans at Comerica Park. They dropped three games below .500 and 8 1/2 games behind the White Sox in the American League Central.
"We just didn't do anything offensively," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "If you look at that right-handed-hitting lineup we had, you'd have to say it was impressive. There's no excuses for this one."
Braden had the longest outing of his young career. He earned his third win of the season after allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings.
Right-handed hitters entered Friday's game hitting .310 off Braden in his career.
"He pitched well, used his changeup, kept the ball down," Leyland said. "You have to tip your hat to him for his performance. But with that right-handed-hitting lineup, you would think you could get more than two runs off him."
Rogers didn't gain on former Tiger Frank Tanana on the all-time list for victories over Oakland. He still has 21 and trails Tanana by two.
While Leyland pointed to the offense as the cause for the loss, Rogers pointed at himself.
"I didn't pitch well enough to win," said Rogers, who allowed four runs -- three earned -- in seven innings. "I gave up four runs and didn't have the luxury to give up that many. Sometimes all you have to work with is two runs. I need to pitch better."
Marcus Thames opened the scoring with a 433-foot home run into the second tier of bushes beyond the center-field fence to make it 2-0 Tigers. Thames, who tied a team record earlier this season after homering in five straight games, hit his first home run since July 27, a 24-at-bat drought.
He now shares the team lead with Miguel Cabrera and needs five more to tie his career-high set in 2006.
But the Tigers would not score again. In fact, they had no hits after the fifth. A lot of that had to do with Braden.
"If you're going to go out there and give up a home run, and that's going to bother you, you're in the wrong profession," Braden said. "I pitched inside. When you don't throw a million [mph], you've got to be able to hit your spots and just let them know you're going to control that part of the plate."
Reigning AL Player of the Month Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, who entered Friday's game tied with the Yankees' Johnny Damon for second in AL average, combined for just one hit.
The top of the order -- Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco -- went hitless on the night.
Worse, All-Star third baseman Carlos Guillen came out of the game in the eighth with lower back spasms. He is day-to-day. Guillen described his back as "tight" after the game.
Rogers cruised early, allowing just one hit over four innings, but ran into trouble in the fifth. It started with a bunt single by Carlos Gonzalez that Rogers misplayed. A walk to Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton's groundball single loaded the bases with no outs.
"I loaded the bases without letting a ball off the grass," Rogers said. "I can't do that."
Oakland's Rajai Davis smacked a first-pitch single to right to plate a pair and tie the game. After Jack Hannahan struck out, Mark Ellis singled through the left side to give Oakland the lead.
"It's all about how many runs you give up, and I gave up too many," Rogers said. "I would have liked to minimize the damage in the fifth, but no matter how you slice it, you have to win with what you're given, and I didn't do that."
The next inning didn't start much better for Rogers. Emil Brown led off the sixth with a tape-measure shot just to the right of the flagpole in left-center field.
Granderson got a one-out walk in the eighth, but the Tigers couldn't capitalize, as pinch-hitter Matt Joyce flied to center to end the inning. Then in the ninth, Ordonez, Cabrera and Gary Sheffield went down in order.
"We were very porous with our offense, and that's why they won the ballgame," Leyland said.
Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.