Tigers fall to Brewers on late homer

Tigers fall to Brewers on late homer

DETROIT -- Mike Maroth put on a display in damage control on Wednesday. Then the Brewers inflicted their damage on the Tigers bullpen.

One night after Justin Verlander made his date with history by throwing a no-hitter, the Brewers exacted their revenge with one big hit. It didn't come off Maroth, whose nine hits allowed produced just one run in seven innings. It came off of Fernando Rodney, whose struggles as Detroit's eighth-inning man continued with Bill Hall's go-ahead two-run homer in a 3-2 Tigers loss at Comerica Park.

It was an ironic turn for a team that has spent most of the season working with a short bullpen and overcome relief injuries to setup men Rodney and Joel Zumaya. When Rodney came off the 15-day disabled list little more than a week ago, it was hoped to be the first step towards restoring stability in the later innings rather than having to mix and match for every inning in front of closer Todd Jones.

Rodney is back, and he's trying to mix his fastball and changeup. So far, just as before his DL stint with shoulder tendinitis, his pitches and his situations have not found a match.

"I don't know what it is right now," Rodney said afterwards. "I feel good and I'm ready to pitch."

This was not the wild-throwing Rodney who has struggled to find consistency in his pitches and spot his fastball to set up his changeup. On this night, Rodney was very much around the strike zone, throwing his first nine pitches of the inning in there for two outs and a single. It wasn't overpowering, but it wasn't wild, either.

Another few inches on the corner with two strikes on two earlier pitches, and it might not have reached that deciding pitch.

The Tigers held Milwaukee scoreless for the first 14 innings of the series, but they have yet to retire Hall. He walked in all three of his plate appearances against Verlander Tuesday, then doubled twice with a walk in his first three appearances a night later. Yet with three straight fastballs, all of which Rodney spotted with a little less velocity, he had Hall in a 1-2 count.

One strike from taking the lead to the ninth, Rodney tried to finish Hall off with a fastball, but barely missed the outside corner.

With a 2-2 count, Hall fouled off a backdoor slider before Rodney missed outside with a changeup to run the count full.

"That was a pretty close pitch," Hall said. "I saw it out of his hand, knew what it was, and I felt like it wasn't a good pitch to hit. I'll take my chances that [home-plate umpire Dale Scott] will call it a ball."

Said Rodney: "We threw two very good pitches outside the zone, then we came inside. We like to throw that pitch in this count."

The pitch was another fastball, which Rodney (1-5) hoped to run in on Hall but which found too much of the plate. Hall drove it into the left-field seats for his seventh homer of the season.

With that, Rodney's loss total drew even with his combination of holds and saves in a season that has grown equal parts frustrating and perplexing for him. He says he feels healthy despite his struggles and his previous injuries, from his bout with tendinitis to early-season neck soreness.

The later innings have been tough on manager Jim Leyland, too. However, he had no problem with the pitch selection.

"It looked like early in the count, he was sitting on the changeup," Leyland said. "He threw a 2-2 change that he fouled off. By then, he was back to the fastball and he was on it. Part of the game."

It was the one big hit in a game in which Maroth scattered a lot of little ones.

Maroth limited the damage by holding the Brewers to 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. He stranded two runners in the opening inning, left a runner on third with one out in the next, watched a sacrifice fly opportunity turn into a double play in the third, then left the bases loaded in the fifth.

He escaped the latter two jams by striking out Prince Fielder, the National League's home run leader, swinging at offspeed pitches in the dirt.

"I made some pitches when I needed them," Maroth said. "Got some ground balls when I needed them."

Not until Hall's one-out double in the sixth and Johnny Estrada's ensuing RBI single through the middle did the Brewers finally score a run in the series. That briefly tied the game before Curtis Granderson's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh pulled Detroit back ahead.

The Tigers lost just 12 games all of last year when tied or ahead after seven innings. Wednesday marked their ninth such loss this season with 98 games to go. The difference largely points to the bullpen.

It isn't nearly the situation that Leyland faced two weeks ago, when he used Jones in the eighth inning. But without an effective Rodney, who has allowed a run in each of his four appearances since coming back from the DL, it's still not where the Tigers need to be.

Hall's home run made a winner out of Chris Spurling (1-0) in his return to Detroit for the first time since the Tigers let him go on waivers last September. He retired both batters he faced in the seventh as the third reliever after spot starter Carlos Villanueva, filling in when scheduled starter Chris Capuano was injured just before the game, held Detroit to a run on five hits in five innings.

"It was a good ballgame," Leyland said. "Both teams had their chances. They had 11 hits and we had 10. Neither team could do much with it. They just happened to hit it over the fence at the right time."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.