ST. PETERSBURG -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus didn't mind the fact that for the second time in three games his offense led off the first inning against the Rays with a home run and then proceeded to put up zeros on the scoreboard the rest of the way out. He called it part of "the rollercoaster of a baseball season."
It was what Ausmus' team did in the field that had the fourth-year manager fired up after an 8-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday. The loss also handed Detroit its first series sweep at the hands of Tampa Bay since 2010.
"It's got to get better and if it doesn't, there will be changes," Ausmus said. "I'm glad to move on, but I'm not real happy right now."
The Tigers had just two officially charged errors in the three-game set -- including a bobbled ground ball by shortstop Dixon Machado, who was making his first start of the season in place of injured Jose Iglesias on Thursday -- but the team was plagued by mental and physical mistakes throughout the series.
Miscommunication, bad jumps on routine fly balls and players colliding with each other on several occasions gave the Rays several key second chances.
"Defense killed us," Ausmus said. "I'll be honest, this was the worst defensive series I've seen the Detroit Tigers play since I've been here... It cost us pitches, it cost us runs and it cost us games."
On Thursday, the Rays were able to break the game open with two outs in the second inning after a fly ball off the bat of Steven Souza Jr. carried into the right field corner and was misplayed by Tyler Collins. It turned into a two-run triple that gave Tampa Bay a lead it would never relinquish.
"There's no excuse. We all had to deal with it," Collins said of the play.
Collins wasn't the only Tigers outfielder to have trouble playing under the dome, however. Left fielder Andrew Romine and center fielder JaCoby Jones collided with each other on a floater in the gap in the third.
"These are big-league outfielders and they should be able to catch big-league fly balls," Ausmus said. "It's a pretty simple thing to do. The roof is a little bit of a factor but I've played many games here and I've never seen what I've seen here the last two days especially."
Detroit did have one defensive highlight on the the day. In the bottom of the first, second baseman Ian Kinsler made a nifty behind-the-back toss to Machado to get the force out at second base after back-handing a hard ground ball up the middle off the bat of Daniel Robertson.
Tigers reliever Warwick Saupold was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after giving up three solo home runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Rays on Thursday. Saupold had a 6.23 ERA after two appearances. Veteran lefty Blaine Hardy was recalled to take Saupold's spot on the roster.
"We would rather have him down there pitching every fifth day in case we have a need up here in our starting rotation," Ausmus said.
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.