Baseball / Sports

Torii Hunter: We're OK despite 'weird' skid

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Torii Hunter has a tidy little description for his team's recent struggles.

"This?" he said, nearly chuckling when asked about the stretch of double-digit losses and walk-off balks, "it's weird. It's been seven days from hell."

Technically, it's been eight days, but then who's counting?

Probably not anyone hanging around in hell. It's hot there, I hear. Besides, the length of a week was constructed in a slightly cooler place, where it's easier to ponder the details.

Like how the Tigers, heading into Tuesday night, had lost seven of eight and had given up 56 runs in their last six games. And how these games came on the heels of an 11-game road winning streak, a march that carried the Tigers to the best record in baseball. It's hard to fathom such dominance followed by such ineptitude.

As Hunter said, it's weird.

He also said it's scary.

Not that he hasn't seen losing streaks before. He has. And while on good teams, too--he played for both the Twins and the Angels.

Even the Oakland A's, who beat the Tigers, 10-0, Monday afternoon, entered that game on a four-game losing streak. But those losses were by 3-1 or 3-2 or 5-2, not 12-2 and 12-4.

"That's baseball," Hunter said of the losses.

In other words, that's expected. The best teams lose 60 games or more a year. Fine.

But this?

"It's not a skid," he said.

It's nearly inexplicable.

Hunter's best guess is that a couple of pitchers had off days and it grew from there. He knows the offense has not been great but has scored enough runs in several of these losses to win.

"It's all mental," he said, speaking of the dynamics of a clubhouse, and how easy it is for a team to spill from one corner to the next. "You are so closely knit. When someone is tired, everybody is gonna get tired. If there is a sickness in the clubhouse, everybody is gonna get sick."

Hunter said the best teams are often like families, that they survive not just on talent but on chemistry and camaraderie.

"We are so close," he said, "just like your family. One kid gets sick, the others do, too. Same thing happens on the field (with us)."

Right now it's the pitchers--and several of the hitters, including Hunter, who has cooled off after a blistering start to the season.

"We've been hit," he said, "all of us."

So what can be done?

"This is a veteran ball club," he explained. "We've been around. We've seen some failure. We will make the adjustment. Every day come in and do some things to kind of get this ball rolling."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus addressed the team Sunday back in Detroit. He said he had no message Monday, other than to remain the same and keep moving forward.

Ausmus knows he has a roster that has seen many things over the course of a season. He understands that veterans like Hunter know this is part of surviving a six-month season.

But even the savviest players fight themselves during stretches like this.

"When you are hot, you don't think. You don't work on mechanics. You just go out and play and it's fun," he said.

And when you get beat 10-0, for what seems like forever€¦ or at least for a week?

"You can start over-thinking, so you start working a little harder to figure it out, and maybe you start thinking about your mechanics in the field, and that's when you get in trouble," Hunter said.

He doesn't think this team is there yet. One good outing, one timely hit, and the winning starts. The fun returns. The clubhouse finds its level.

"I think we are OK," he said.

I think he's right.

For now.

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