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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tigers still struggling in one-run games

Winning tight games is supposed to be the hallmark of an excellent team. Those, after all, are the white-knuckle, tense, nail-biting type of affairs that you’ll see in the playoffs.

That, however, has not been a strong point of the Detroit Tigers, who have lost their last 11 one-run games, including Sunday night’s 2-1 loss in extra innings.

They’re 17-27 in one-run games overall, a year after going 29-17 in the same scenario. At one point in August and September this year, seven straight losses were all settled by one run each, and eight of nine by a total of 10 runs. 

“It’s usually a combination of things. You probably didn’t manage good enough, you probably didn’t pitch good enough. Maybe you didn’t close a game. You didn’t get a sacrifice fly with a man on third in the second inning. You probably made an error at a critical time. There’s a lot of combinations that go along with those things,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. 

And the margin for error is virtually nonexistent.

As Drew Smyly, the starter of Sunday night’s game, said afterward: “Well, when it’s 1-0, your margin for error is always pretty slim. You don’t want to let anybody else get on base. So every hitter, you just kind of attack.”

The last time the Tigers came out on top in a one-run game? It was a 3-2, 11-inning win over the Blue Jays on Aug. 23, when Austin Jackson made a stellar diving grab in the 10th inning to keep it tied, allowing Alex Avila to come up with the game-winning RBI single in the 11th. 

But that's when you have the last at-bat at home. The Tigers have also lost 10 straight one-run games on the road, dating all the way back to June. The last time they won a nail-biter in a road park was June 24, when Quintin Berry hit his first big-league home run.

Can it snowball on a team, though? Like have the hangover of one loss lead to another?

“No, I don’t think so. It’s just happens,” Leyland said.

“You gotta do the things that are conducive to winning games. When you start throwing the ball around, or making bad decisions as a manager, make a bad pitch at a crucial situation as a pitcher, you can expect those things might happen.”

By contrast, the Baltimore Orioles, who are are an MLB-best 27-9 in one-run games, won a franchise-record 13 straight one-games.

How much of a difference does it make?

Baltimore came into Monday a game out in the American League East division, and leading the AL Wild Card standings. The Detroit Tigers came into the day one game out in the AL Central, but six games out in the Wild Card race.


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