The Tigers nearly rallied from a five-run deficit in the ninth inning and were the victim of several rally killing defensive plays by the Angels in a 6-3 loss on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
"We hit the ball hard all night, probably throughout the game, as hard as we've hit it all year," manager Jim Leyland said. "We didn't have much to show for it, but to their credit, they made some defensive plays."
The loss snapped a four-game home winning streak for the Tigers, who had won nine of their last 10 at home.
The Tigers had simply outhit their opponents in most of those games, averaging 6.6 runs over the last 10 home games. And the Tigers appeared to do the same on Tuesday, if not for the defense of the Angels.
It started in the second, when they loaded the bases on three walks by John Lackey. Brandon Inge hit a sinking line drive to center field that likely would have meant big trouble for the Angels and an early lead for the Tigers. Instead, Gary Matthews Jr. made a shoestring catch to keep the game scoreless.
"If [Matthews] doesn't make [that play], it gets by him and it rolls way deep into center field and gets at least three runs in," Leyland said. "That's why they're a good team, though."
While the Angels defenders were busy keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard, the hitters did a good job putting the ball where Tigers couldn't make equally good plays.
Three different Angels hit a home run, including Mike Napoli's solo shot to lead off the third and Orlando Cabrera's two-run homer two batters later for a 3-0 Angels lead.
"He just didn't keep the ball in the ballpark," Leyland said simply of starter Mike Maroth's outing. "I thought he threw pretty decent, it's just when they hit it, too many of them left the yard and that's just a part of the game."
Magglio Ordonez cut the lead to 3-1 in the fourth with a leadoff homer, but the Angels took a 6-1 lead by the sixth thanks to two sacrifice flies and a solo home run by Robb Quinlan.
Maroth walked a season-high five the last time he faced the Angels on April 23 and pitched just 4 2/3 innings because of control problems. He worked his way through seven innings, though he battled a different type of control problem on Tuesday, as he missed his location over the plate on crucial pitches.
"My control was there, but being able to locate and hit the corners, I didn't do a bad job," Maroth said. "I just left some balls over the plate and they capitalized on them."
Maroth battled through seven innings though, and Jason Grilli and Jose Mesa both threw a scoreless inning of relief, meaning the Tigers had a chance for a comeback in the ninth.
Sean Casey led off the ninth with a walk and Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge followed with consecutive singles off Darren Oliver to load the bases with no outs.
In came Francisco Rodriguez, who had given up just one run in his last 10 appearances and has blown just one save this season: on April 24 against the Tigers.
After Rodriguez struck out Curtis Granderson for the first out, he allowed an RBI single to Placido Polanco and a bases-loaded walk to Ordonez that cut the lead to 6-3 and brought Carlos Guillen up as the go-ahead run. Guillen hit a solid line drive that likely would have scored at least two runs, but fittingly, shortstop Cabrera made a leaping catch to end the game.
"You gotta give them credit, they were diving all over the place making plays," said Gary Sheffield, who was held hitless for just the second time in eight games. "Outfield, infield, and they kill rallies like that. For the most part we swung the bats pretty well, we just came up short."
That was a sentiment shared by Leyland.
"They made a lot of good plays tonight, I have no complaints," Leyland said.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.