Bumbling Tigers swept away by Rays

Associated Press • Apr 21, 2017 at 12:04 AM

St. Petersburg, Fla. — When they boarded a team plane on April 1 for Chicago after seven long weeks of spring camp, the Tigers were thrilled to be leaving Florida.

They were even more relieved Thursday to bid farewell to the Sunshine State. They lost the third and final game of their series against the Rays, 8-1, which gave Tampa Bay a sweep the Tigers hadn't exactly anticipated when they left Cleveland on Sunday, flush with an 8-4 record and what felt like some honest-to-gosh momentum on their side.

But that crashed at Tropicana Field, which not only was the site for three deflating losses, but for some of the worst baseball the Tigers could have imagined playing.

They had more defensive issues Thursday, some of which had to do with Tropicana's rubbery turf, and some of which was their own doing.

BOX SCORE: Rays 8, Tigers 1

But gaffes aside, Thursday wasn't the Tigers' day in any category.

Daniel Norris had some of the requisite bad luck in which the Tigers seemed to specialize this week, and he was gone early in the fifth inning, having been slashed for eight hits and five runs (four earned).

Warwick Saupold relieved him and was stung for three home runs.

Meanwhile, the lineup did pretty much squat against Rays starter Erasmo Ramirez and his partners.

The Tigers got five hits: a leadoff home run from Ian Kinsler, two singles by Nicholas Castellanos, and a single apiece from Dixon Machado and James McCann.

It was simply a forgettable 72 hours of baseball for a Tigers team that is now 8-7 heading to Minneapolis for a three-game weekend set against the Twins.

The Tigers played minus two regulars Thursday, Jose Iglesias and Justin Upton, each of whom was lost to base-path collisions — Upton on Tuesday night, Iglesias on Wednesday.

But even with some dangerous bats still in the order, the Tigers couldn't put together anything approaching a rally. They hit some balls hard. They hit some pitches far. But it wasn't going to be enough the way the Tigers too often pitched — and fielded — during a miserable 72 hours in Florida's Bay region.

The Tigers hurt themselves in the first when Machado, who was playing in place of Iglesias, threw wildly on a ground ball, which led to a Rays run and a 1-1 score.

Tyler Collins then got burned by Tropicana's turf in the second when a bloop single bounced over his head for a triple.

In the fifth, Alex Avila, playing first base as Victor Martinez rested and Miguel Cabrera worked at designated hitter, was set to make a foul-ground grab of Tim Beckham's pop-up.

Norris, though, is quite the athlete. And quite the frisky defender.

He raced like Secretariat from the mound across the first-base line and all but smothered Avila, who was distracted, as the ball fell safely for a no-play blunder.

It was that kind of day. That kind of series. And that kind of week, one the Tigers will hope to repress as they head for a set against the Twins.

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