Defense falters again as Tigers are swept away by Twins

Minneapolis “You try to keep things in perspective at this time of year. If you jump ship in April, you may miss sunny days and fresh water later in the summer. This time last year, remember, the Tigers were 7-11 and would plummet to 9-24 before righting the ship.

Still, it’s hard to watch that brand of sloppy baseball the Tigers exhibit in this series at Target Field and see any light.

“We’re going to play the 140-plus games we have left,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said after the Minnesota Twins finished the sweep Thursday with a 7-1 beating. “I don’t want to rush into too much judgment. But, obviously, that’s what it is. We’ve won the situation we’re in, the hole we’re in.

“We have to play better.”

The Tigers will go on a five-game losing streak and a 6-12 record in Los Angeles, where they begin a weekend streak against the Dodgers on Friday night.

“It’s been tough, but so be it,” Hinch said. “We’ll play in warmer weather tomorrow. But if we don’t play cleaner in any weather, we’re not going to win. That’s the main thing.”

BOX SCORE: Twins 7, Tigers 1

That game got ugly in the fifth, when the Twins exploited three misses for four runs against starter Tarik Skubal, opening a one-run game.

The Tigers sloppy sacrificed bunts on back-to-back hitters. With a runner to start, Harold Castro, making his first start at third base, lined up a Gilberto Celestino bunt. His throw dazzled Celestino. It was Castro’s second pitching error in the game.

Jorge Polanco followed with another sacrificial bunt. This one was picked up by receiver Tucker Barnhart. His throw was also in the runner.

“I misjudged it,” Barnhart said. “I thought he was going to die and he kept rolling and I had to rush the pitch. Unacceptable.”

That loaded the bases for Carlos Correa, who was 0 for 10 in the series up to that point.

Correa lined a fly ball over the head of left fielder Willi Castro. The bullet was smoked – with an exit speed of 108 mph – but Castro did not read well or jump on it. Three points scored on the brace and Correa came third when Castro couldn’t pick up the ball cleanly.

“I just didn’t think I made a lot of quality shots today,” Skubal said. “Not a lot of quality hits, especially in this fifth inning. The pitch (to Correa) caused damage and just didn’t get executed where it needed to be.”

Willi Castro made a huge running catch on a fly foul ball near the tarp roller for the first of the fifth. But Geo Urshela followed with a single ball (105mph speed out) past Harold Castro, who was playing in and even with the sack on third, tackling Correa.

“Any time you shoot yourself in the foot like that, including me, it’s tough,” Barnhart said. “We have to play cleaner. We have to play better all the way.”

Three of the four points were unearned. The Twins’ two runs in the second inning were earned, but the Tigers’ poor defense helped.

The inning started with Harold Castro’s first pitching error, which put Urshela at second base. Skubal walked Kyle Garlick, just the second batter he walked this season. With two outs, left-handed hitter Trevor Larnach ripped a two-strike slider down the center to score a run.

Hill, in center field, got a little overzealous with his throw, sending the cut-off man flying. This allowed Garlick to go to third, putting him in position to score on a slow roll from Celestino that went along the third base line until he reached the sack.

“We just didn’t play well enough to win,” Hinch said. “We saw better things offensively today, which was a good sign. Better balls put in play, better batting, a few walks, but we didn’t get the big hit.”

After a night of just two hits, the Tigers had 11 hits on Thursday — all in singles. They left 12 on base, going 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

“Then we completely fell apart defensively in the fifth,” Hinch said. “When you do that and give them extra chances, give them some momentum – when things go wrong, they keep going wrong.

“Not a great trip.”

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Twitter: @cmccosky

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