OAKLAND, Calif. -- For a moment, when Drew Smyly stepped off the mound in the bottom of the first inning to gather himself after an error put runners on the corners with no outs, he faced the sort of moment that can propel a team forward.
If he survived it.
He did, briefly, keeping the A's from scoring. Smyly set down the meat of Oakland's order under duress not 10 minutes into Monday afternoon's game.
Alas, it led to nothing, not for him--he gave up four solo homers and six total runs--not to his teammates, who managed zero runs on five hits and did nothing to stop the questions about where this offense went.
The Tigers lost, 10-0.
They've lost seven of their last eight. They've given up 10 or more runs in the last three games, 56 runs in the last six.
That's almost inconceivable, considering a week ago they were the toast of baseball, the best combination of pitching and hitting. Now they are doing neither.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus insists both will return.
"I'm still fully confident that the pitching staff is extremely good," he said.
As for runs?
"We will score," he said.
But Ausmus doesn't think this is the primary issue.
"We are just not pitching well," he said.
Smyly looked like he might in the beginning. The early jam he faced was not his fault. Shortstop Andrew Romine misplayed a grounder with a runner on first, and the error put runners at the corners with no outs.
Smyly then struck out Josh Donaldson and got Yoenis Cespedes to pop out to second. After 10 pitches to Jed Lowrie, he finally got the A's shortstop to fly out to right.
"He got out of that jam, and I was hoping there would be a little carryover," said Ausmus.
There wasn't. Smyly gave up a home run to the next batter he faced--Brandon Moss. That seemed to deflate Smyly. From there, he gave up three more solo home runs. He allowed six runs off eight hits.
He did manage to last five innings, helping a bullpen that has been asked to work many innings during this stretch.
Smyly struggled to keep his pitches down in the strike zone. The opposite problem he had his last outing, when he gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings.
He walked five that game against Cleveland. That day he couldn't keep the ball out of the dirt, and the lack of control gave the Indians too many free passes.
It wasn't much prettier against Oakland. The Tigers booted the ball a few times, and Phil Coke continued to struggle, giving up a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth--though in fairness to him, an error and catcher interference hurt.
Meanwhile, the Tigers managed only five hits.
"Of all the games," said Ausmus, "this was probably the most disappointing."
Ten-run shutouts have a way of doing that.
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