These 4 moments are why Detroit Tigers don't have winning record
Tigers are 15-21 after 13-game stretch against losing teams
DETROIT – This has been a really strange season for Detroit Tigers -- and we're not even halfway through May.
After 36 games, the Tigers sit well below .500 at 15-21, but they've been surprisingly competitive. Of their 21 losses, 14 have been by two runs or fewer. The record has been boosted by 20 games against the three worst teams in the American League, but the Tigers were widely expected to be the worst team in baseball.
Over the last two weeks, the Tigers missed their last realistic chance to have a winning record at any point this season. They played 13 straight games against teams with losing records and seven against the punchless Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.
Detroit needed to go 8-5 to come out of the stretch with a .500 record. Instead, the Tigers went 5-8 and are as far from .500 as they've been all year.
Looking at the road ahead, the record's probably only going to get uglier. In the next month, the Tigers play 25 games against teams with winning records. Of those 31 games, 28 will come against teams with a better record than the Tigers.
The Tigers will likely finish the 2018 season without ever having a winning record. In the grand scheme of the franchise's rebuild, that doesn't mean very much, but it's disappointing for the young players trying to make a name for themselves in the big leagues.
If they could have won four of the games they lost up to this point, the Tigers would be 19-17 heading into this difficult stretch. Here's a look back at four moments that, if they all went the other way, would have left the Tigers with a winning record.
1. Opening Day: Play at the plate
The first few days of the season set the tone for the Tigers, as the original Opening Day was rained out and the following day's makeup game had a little bit of everything.
The Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates went back and forth during the first eight innings and sat at 6-6 heading into the ninth. The Pirates put together a huge rally in the top half, scoring four runs that appeared to put the game away. But Detroit answered with a pair of two-run doubles to send the game into the 10th inning tied at 10-10.
Detroit appeared to kick off the season with a victory when JaCoby Jones ripped an RBI single to left field, scoring Nicholas Castellanos. Castellanos appeared to slide in just before the tag, and the Tigers ran onto the field to celebrate a walkoff victory.
But the celebration was muted as the players waited for a long umpire review. Despite how close the play appeared to be from multiple angles, the umpires determined there was conclusive evidence that Castellanos had been tagged on the jersey before touching home plate.
The Tigers would lose the game three innings later, in the 13th.
2. April 20: Shane Greene vs. Abraham Almonte
Shane Greene hasn't been terrible as the Tigers' full-time closer this season, but he hasn't been completely reliable, either.
Greene's worst moment came at a critical time for the Tigers and might have altered what was a promising trajectory for the young team.
After falling five games below .500 during a stretch against the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, the Tigers won four straight games and had a chance to sweep a doubleheader against the Royals. The win would have gotten them back to .500 on the season.
Thanks to a combined gem from Daniel Norris, Buck Farmer and Alex Wilson, they were in prime position to win the game with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning.
But it fell apart in the top of the ninth, as Greene allowed three hits, a walk and two runs. An error by Niko Goodrum contributed to the disaster, but Greene's inability to put away the bottom of the weak Kansas City lineup was the real problem.
Specifically, the at-bat from Abraham Almonte changed the inning. With two runners on and one out, Greene got ahead of the light-hitting Almonte 0-2 before an eight-pitch battle that turned into an RBI single. Almonte fouled off three two-strike pitches and worked the count to 2-2 before the base hit. If Greene had put him away with two strikes, the Tigers likely would have won the game.
In his career, Almonte has 224 hits and 235 strikeouts.
3. April 26: Bases loaded, no outs
The Tigers made a return trip to Pittsburgh a few weeks after the Pirates swept the Tigers in the season's opening series. Detroit took the first game but lost the second, and had a great opportunity to win the rubber match and leave town with a series win.
Michael Fulmer and Ivan Nova turned in scoreless starts, and the game was tied 0-0 heading into the ninth inning.
The Tigers couldn't have asked for a better scoring chance in the ninth, as two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. But James McCann, Victor Martinez and Jose Iglesias all made weak outs to let the Pirates off the hook.
Moments later, Corey Dickerson hit a walkoff home run to right center, and the Tigers were sent home with a series loss.
4. May 7: Michael Fulmer's one bad inning
Michael Fulmer has been excellent for the Tigers this season, but the end of his most recent outing was one to forget.
The Tigers built what felt like a commanding 5-1 lead over the Texas Rangers in the opening game of the series Monday. Fulmer cruised through the first five innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out seven batters.
After issuing a leadoff walk to Delino DeShields, Fulmer got the next two batters to fly out and appeared to be on the verge of getting easily through the sixth inning.
But in the blink of an eye, Fulmer gave up a single and two doubles to the next three batters. Alex Wilson came in and gave up another single. The Rangers pushed across four runs and the game was tied.
In the seventh inning, the Rangers scored the two eventual winning runs.
With a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning and their ace on the mound, the Tigers felt great about their chance to win the game. But that four-batter stretch was the difference and Texas stole the series opener.
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