The lengthy losing streak is hard enough to swallow, but that wasn't the only blow the Tigers took on Monday night. Veteran third baseman Brandon Inge left the game in the third inning after being hit by a pitch in the left hand. X-rays indicated a non-displaced fracture to the fifth metacarpal -- essentially a broken bone below the base of the left pinky finger -- and he's expected to be sidelined for four-to-six weeks.
"As players, we talked a little bit after the last game in Cleveland," Inge said of the team's struggles. "We had a little player meeting, kind of had things where we hashed out some stuff, which was good for us. I know we were all playing hard, we were all on the same page, and then coming out of the game, coming back and watching, those guys played their tails off. They played as hard as they could. They battled as much as they could. Just didn't come out on top."
Nelson Cruz played hero for Texas in the 14th inning, lining a two-run homer off Tigers reliever Enrique Gonzalez (0-1) to snap the Rangers' 11-game losing streak at Comerica Park dating back to Sept. 11, 2007.
The Tigers had several chances to win the lengthy game, none better than in the 11th inning. Johnny Damon reached on a walk, and advanced to second base on a wild pitch to Miguel Cabrera. Once Damon moved into scoring position, the Rangers opted to intentionally walk Cabrera and take their chances against rookie Brennan Boesch with one out. Boesch delivered with a bloop base hit to right-center, but Damon was unable to get a good read on the ball and got a late jump, resulting in third-base coach Gene Lamont holding him at third.
It was a play Damon acknowledged he should have scored on after the game.
"Well, obviously, if you know the ball is going to drop in there [you need to score]," Damon said. "But with the swing that Brennan had, it was a full swing. He got it off the end of the bat. When I was trying to locate the ball, it was right in the lights. With [right fielder Cruz] deking me like that, I had no clue where the ball was. That's the unfortunate thing. With one out, you can't make a mistake and just go right there. That's what happened. Obviously, we wish we could have that back. We would be home by now."
The Tigers still had the bases loaded with one out after the fluky play. But Carlos Guillen grounded into a double play on a 2-0 pitch to end the Tigers' hopes of a walk-off victory.
The 11th inning was a prime example of the Tigers' struggles to bring runners home. Detroit stranded 26 runners over its four-game sweep at the hands of the Indians, including 11 in their extra-innings loss Saturday night.
"That's part of baseball," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "When you are going good, you get them in. When you're not, you don't. We had some opportunities to do that. We didn't do it tonight. That's part of it. When you are struggling, that's what happens."
One Tiger who broke out of his struggles was Cabrera. After going 2-for-14 in the four-game series at Cleveland, the All-Star first baseman recorded two homers, his 17th career multi-homer game. Magglio Ordonez chipped in a homer in the fifth, which was immediately followed by Cabrera's second blast of the night.
But all three homers were solo shots off Rangers starter Scott Feldman, who lasted five innings and gave up five runs before giving way to reliever Dustin Nippert, who took a line drive off the right side of his head in the sixth inning. It was a scary moment for both teams, but Nippert walked off the field and was taken to Henry Ford Hospital where he was evaluated and released.
Three relievers followed for the Rangers before Matt Harrison (2-1) threw four shutout innings despite four walks and 80 pitches.
Between Inge's injury, and a taxed bullpen that used up five relievers following Jeremy Bonderman's sixth-inning exit with five runs allowed, the Tigers could be feeling this loss long after they left the ballpark early Tuesday morning. But Inge tried to put it in perspective.
"Someone said on the bench: If you don't have casualties, it means you're not playing hard," Inge said. "Obviously, we're playing hard. I think this is a stretch where it could take you in two different directions, and I know we're not going to go in the negative direction. This is one where I think we're all going to mesh and come a little closer together as a group and we're going to start playing hard. It kind of separates the men from the boys at this time of year. You can harp on the negatives and harp on the bad things that happen, or you can move on. You can better your team and go out and play hard."