TORONTO — Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Báez put his hands near his head, signaling his frustration, in the fifth inning. An errant pickoff throw, ruled an error, put a runner in scoring position, leading to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s RBI double and Báez’s visible irritation.
The Tigers entered Sunday with 12 unearned runs over their past five games, and in Sunday’s series finale — a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre — the defense committed four errors but all four runs were earned. The offense posted three hits and one walk.
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“It was shitty,” manager A.J. Hinch said of the defense. “That’s my thoughts. It was inexcusable. Those are sloppy plays that need to be made.”
Detroit’s defense has been sloppy all season, to go with a league-worst offense and an injury-plagued starting rotation. The Tigers (41-62), losers in three of four games, squandered winnable games during their trip to Toronto ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. Next, the team travels to Minnesota for a three-game series with the Twins, beginning Monday.
“It’s frustrating,” Báez said. “But at the same time, yesterday we lost and we had more hits than the other team. Things come back and forth. We’re looking forward to getting better and playing defense.”
Báez isn’t free of fault for Sunday’s woes.
He upped his error total to a team-high 15 this season with a two-error performance.
The former Gold Glove winner was responsible for the second error, beginning the fourth inning by calling everyone off a popup shallow center, then dropping the ball. Left fielder Robbie Grossman accounted for the first error with two outs in the third. The ball off Guerrero’s bat should’ve ended the inning, but Grossman didn’t squeeze his glove hard enough, allowing the ball to pop out. In the eighth inning, Báez registered his second error, throwing a ball in the dirt that skipped past first baseman Harold Castro.
“We’re trying (to coach him),” Hinch said. “He’s been doing this his whole career, and we’re trying. He can make those plays. He knows it. Part of it is mental, part of it is physical. But they are plays that should be made.”
Despite those mistakes, the Blue Jays didn’t score in the third and fourth innings. But Toronto’s high-powered offense capitalized on Garrett Hill’s pickoff error in the fifth and ended up scoring two runs — on RBI doubles from Guerrero and Bo Bichette.
“We can make these plays,” Hinch said. “The one that was very detrimental was the pickoff. It hit him in the foot, and he gets to second and frees Vlad up. Again, we talk about extra bases and extra outs and walks and some errors in there. These are big boys. They can make plays.”
Hill allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with one strikeout across five innings.
He threw 56 of 8386 of 53 pitches for strikes.
“I’m trying to (progress),” Hill said. “I’ve learned a lot from failure, but I think we’re getting close. I’m trying to take whatever I can from previous outings and work to prevent it from happening or happening less. That’s all you can do.”
Buried by Berríos
A single from Teoscar Hernandez in the second inning set the table for Matt Chapman to continue his tear in the four-game series. He hammered Hill’s slider, which hung over the heart of the plate, for a two-run home run and a 2-0 lead.
Chapman had four homers in the series, staying within the park in only Saturday’s game.
“It’s a good-hitting lineup,” Hill said. “It’s the big leagues. Everybody has good-hitting lineups. Just staying focused and executing pitches a little bit better, especially with two strikes. That’s going to be the key, I think.”
The early run support was backed by a dominant performance from Blue Jays right-hander José Berríos. He allowed one run on three hits and one walk with six strikeouts across seven innings, throwing 56 of 80 pitches for strikes.
After Grossman’s leadoff double in the fifth inning, the Tigers stranded him at second base, as Tucker Barnhart (lineout to shallow center), Willi Castro (strikeout) and Riley Greene (groundout) were retired. The Tigers also failed to score following Harold Castro’s leadoff single in the second inning.
“We didn’t have a base runner after the Grossman double,” Hinch said. “That’s a tough way to live.”
The Tigers scored their lone run in the fourth, when Báez received a middle-middle fastball from Berríos — his brother-in-law and the AL leader in homers allowed — and lined it over the wall in right-center. He tied Jeimer Candelario for the team lead with 10 homers in 2022.
“Really good,” Báez said. “I was just trying to be focused on the fastball. I was a little bit late there, but it got all barrel, so it went out. It felt great to hit one out.”
Still, the Tigers trailed 2-1.
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