DETROIT -- The momentum was there for a three-game sweep, but a familiar problem prevented the Tigers from putting further distance between one of their chief competitors in the American League Wild Card race. Curtis Granderson put his name into the Major League record books with his 20th steal, but a bad outing from Jeremy Bonderman and the rest of the Tigers bullpen led to a 14-7 loss to the Mariners on Sunday at Comerica Park. "If you get beat, you get beat, but it's kind of disappointing when you get beat and you get six runs off [Mariners ace Felix] Hernandez," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's how I feel about this game."
The Tigers won the first two games of the three-game set against the Mariners and now hold a one-game lead over Seattle for second place in the AL Wild Card. The Tigers trail the Yankees in the Wild Card standings by four games after New York beat the Royals on Sunday. For the 18th time in Bonderman's 28 starts, he gave up at least one first-inning run, this time on a two-run double by Jose Guillen. He has now given up 39 first-inning runs this season. Bonderman's first-inning struggles have been a continual concern this season. And of late, questions about a sore right elbow have also been raised. One of those questions was answered after the game when Leyland said he planned to shut down Bonderman, possibly for the remainder of the season. "I wanted to find out if I could pitch," said Bonderman, who lost for the eighth time in 10 games. "I wanted to find out if I could help the team. I knew I had some [injury] stuff going on, but I wanted to go out and give it a chance. The biggest thing is, I went out and hurt the team. I really didn't help anybody. It's frustrating, but at least now I know I gotta find a reason why it's happening." Despite the struggles from Bonderman, the offense still offered some hope for a fifth straight win. Granderson led off the bottom half of the first with a single and stole second base on a 1-2 pitch to Placido Polanco. Granderson joined Willie Mays and Frank "Wildfire" Schulte as the only players in big league history to record 20 homers, 20 triples, 20 doubles and 20 steals. That -- along with four run-scoring hits from Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, as well as a sacrifice fly from Timo Perez -- led to some excitement in the Tigers dugout and a 4-2 Tigers lead. "I think [Sean] Casey hugged me about 20 times throughout the course of the game," said Granderson, who went 4-for-4 and also added his 21st homer in the second inning. "Everybody was pumped up about it," Leyland said. That good feeling didn't last long, as Bonderman retired just one more batter and gave up three more runs before Leyland pulled the struggling righty after 45 pitches and a 6-4 Tiger deficit. "I couldn't locate stuff," Bonderman said. "I gotta figure out what I got going on." Jason Grilli gave up three runs, Clay Rapada gave up a homer to the only batter he faced in his Tigers debut and Virgil Vasquez allowed three runs in his 4 1/3 innings of relief as the Mariners scored multiple runs in each of the first four innings to build a 13-5 lead. "Grilli wasn't sharp, you could see that right off the bat, so I wasn't going to waste his pitches," Leyland said. The Tigers bullpen has actually turned into one of their strengths over the recent weeks, while starting pitching has begun to struggle. Losing Bonderman clearly won't help, though at least the team now knows its options to close out the season. "I've tried everything I can do to go back out there and give our team a chance to win and be successful," Bonderman said. "Right now, I'm just not able to do that."
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.