"We probably let a real good pitcher who wasn't real good tonight off the hook," Leyland said.
Or as third baseman and new No. 3 hitter Carlos Guillen later put it, "It's not Dice-K. It's us."
The wildness certainly was Dice-K, and the Tigers waited him out for it. For a team that's running out of patience with its slow start, the Tigers at least showed some at the plate Monday. With Matt Joyce making his Major League debut in right field, Gary Sheffield in left, Carlos Guillen batting third and Jacque Jones designated for assignment, Detroit walked five times in its first 12 at-bats, producing baserunners it didn't have for most of its weekend series against the Twins at the Metrodome.
Of those five walks, however, only Guillen advanced past first base, and that was only because Matsuzaka walked Magglio Ordonez immediately after him. Miguel Cabrera flew out to end the first and third innings with two runners on, the latter after Matsuzaka struck out Ordonez swinging. Edgar Renteria and Ivan Rodriguez both flew out after Joyce's one-out walk in the second.
"He walked eight guys," Cabrera said. "But when he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch."
Matsuzaka had seven walks by the time he allowed his first hit with two outs in the fourth. Curtis Granderson's line-drive single to center drove in Sheffield following his walk to lead off the inning.
"I thought we actually had pretty good at-bats against Dice-K," Leyland said. "We just couldn't get a hit. We did work his pitch count up. We got a lot of walks. We didn't swing at a lot of bad pitches. Overall, I thought we worked him pretty good. We just couldn't get a gapper with those guys on base with the base hit, and that hurt us."
That, Guillen said, is the point.
"It doesn't matter when you change the lineup," Guillen said. "It's about results, good results."
Much as Leyland explained before the game, Guillen cautioned that it's not as if Tigers hitters aren't trying. He can't pinpoint the issue, but the results aren't going their way. A couple days ago, it was a matter of not being patient enough. Monday, Guillen suggested they might be trying to do too much, though he said that they weren't panicking.
"I don't know," Guillen said. "It's something."
Leyland was hoping they'd have something going Monday, but he wasn't expecting immediate results. He's not sure if there's going to be many results at all, but he wants to give this a shot for at least a prolonged stretch and see what happens.
"I don't think you can expect some miracle to happen in one game or two games," Leyland said. "I think this is something we're going to try, because we want to exercise all our options to try to get a hitter going. We just didn't do much when we got out there. We couldn't get one hit [early] with the guys on.
"There's no magic to it. You're trying something."
By the time they did get the hit thanks to Granderson, the Tigers were already down four runs. In contrast to Matsuzaka, Jeremy Bonderman didn't walk anybody until the fifth inning, but he gave up two leadoff doubles ahead of two-run homers from Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis. Both went out to left, leaving new left fielder Sheffield to just retreat towards the outfield fence and watch.
Not until the seventh did the Tigers finally mount a serious rally, again spurred by walks. Red Sox reliever Craig Hansen seemingly had quelled a Tigers threat off of back-to-back singles by inducing an Ordonez double play, but he walked Cabrera and Sheffield after that. Lefty Hideki Okajima entered to face the left-handed-hitting Joyce, but Leyland pinch-hit with Marcus Thames.
Thames turned on the first pitch he saw from Okajima and lined it sharply to left, driving in two and bringing the potential tying run to the plate. Okajima escaped two pitches later with a Renteria fly out to left.
The Tigers went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners on base. While their .261 team batting average ranks sixth in the American League, and their .427 slugging percentage trails only the Red Sox, their .244 average with runners on base ranks 11th. All of the bottom four teams -- Detroit, Toronto, Seattle and Texas -- ranked last in their divisions entering the night.
That will have to change, no matter what the lineup looks like. Monday was the start of their effort to try to do that. All they needed was a hit.
"You hope something like this gets you started," Leyland said. "We just didn't hit. That's happened a lot with men on base this year, but tonight was especially painful, because Dice-K was not himself, obviously.
"Just a single here or there, it's amazing what it does for you. We just couldn't get it."