Tigers continue road funk in Arlington

Tigers continue road funk in Arlington

ARLINGTON -- Armando Galarraga is starting to wonder if he's under a hex. Jim Leyland is wondering again if his offense will ever get out of its inconsistent funk.

For some reason, the key hits, clutch outs that seem to identify the Tigers at Comerica Park elude them on the road. Monday's 5-2 loss to the Rangers was far from a debacle, considering how much worse the Tigers have played away from Detroit. But it sure didn't look like a team rolling off of a clutch series victory, either.

The homegrown momentum melted deep in the heart of Texas, and the Tigers were left again trying to figure out why.

"I don't know. Go ask those guys," manager Jim Leyland said, referring to the players portion of the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. "I do the same thing on the road that I do at home."

Carlos Guillen hasn't been on the road with the Tigers for a while. But even he could notice the difference.

"We need to start playing better on the road," Guillen said, unsolicited. "Maybe we're trying to do too much on the road. We've got to play the same way we play at home, with the same confidence. I think that's the most important thing as a player, confidence. You have to make adjustments where you play. Maybe we give at-bats away. We have to stay maybe more aggressive."

Guillen might've had a point.

The Tigers' lone run off Rangers rookie starter Tommy Hunter came on his second pitch of the game, when Curtis Granderson took him deep for his 19th career leadoff home run. Detroit's best scoring chance came in the fifth inning, when a Michael Young leadoff error, Granderson's one-out single and a Placido Polanco walk loaded the bases for the heart of the order.

Clete Thomas swung at a first-pitch fastball and hit a squibber less than halfway down the first-base line. Hunter (3-1) charged off the mound and made a shovel pass out of his glove that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia lunged to grab for the forceout at the plate.

That left it to Miguel Cabrera, who was nearly able to walk in a run. With a 3-0 pitch, however, Leyland gave Cabrera the green light to swing, figuring Hunter would have to give him a pitch to hit.

Cabrera took a fastball around his belt for strike one, then a slider to run the count full. Hunter got Cabrera to swing at a high fastball that might've been ball four, but Cabrera fouled it off. The next fastball was higher, and Cabrera swung and missed to end the threat.

Though Leyland didn't want to single out Cabrera, he couldn't hide his general frustration.

"In the history of my career, I've never given the green light more to hitters than I have since I've come to Detroit," Leyland said. "And I can count on my hand the times that guys have swung [on] 3-0. I'm not talking about Cabrera, I'm talking about in general. Guys just can't seem to discipline themselves. It's like they get tensed up."

At that point, the Tigers still had not only a 1-0 lead, but a dominant pitching performance. Galarraga worked a sharp-moving slider and a good changeup to retire 13 of his first 14 batters, including 12 Rangers in a row.

After Hank Blalock flew out on the first pitch of the bottom half of the fifth, up came Nelson Cruz, who pounced on a 1-0 fastball and put the kind of swing on it that resembled his Home Run Derby performance.

Galarraga quickly rebounded to end the inning, but Elvis Andrus' leadoff double began a Rangers onslaught in the sixth. After Ian Kinsler popped out on a sacrifice bunt attempt, Michael Young's single to right-center led to a pair of costly errors.

Andrus held up at third base as Granderson fired the ball back in, but nobody fielded the throw. Galarraga was left to run down the ball as it rolled into foul territory between third and home. Andrus alertly took off for home; Young advanced to second when Galarraga couldn't field it cleanly.

After David Murphy walked, Galarraga retired Marlon Byrd for the second out before Blalock turned on an offspeed pitch inside and ripped it into the right-field corner for a double to clear the bases.

"I just left the changeup right there," Galarraga (5-9) said. "It was down, but it was more in the middle. It's the pitch to Blalock."

Galarraga lasted seven innings, as he did in two of his other three July outings. But neither he nor the Tigers have won any of them, despite Galarraga's 3.29 ERA for the month.

"I feel good," Galarraga said. "I feel like I had a good game. And then everything happened. Four runs. I don't know. I wish I had better luck, but I don't know."

Leyland can relate.

"There's just no excuse that a team -- as good of a hitting team as we have -- doesn't come up with more than one run," Leyland said. "I tip my hat to the pitcher, obviously. He pitched very well. But particularly in this ballpark, you have to come up with more than one run. There have been too many times where a fly ball, a base hit could break the game open."

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