Tigers’ 2022 season ends in loss to Mariners

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SEATTLE – The Tigers started their season six months ago with a single to right field in the ninth and went 5-4, so maybe it was fitting that they end their season with the same, this times in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park. But the final round as a whole felt like a microcosm of the season.

Even with nothing on the line but pride and draft chances, the Tigers raced to the finish, taking a fifth-inning lead on a Javier Báez RBI single before tying the game again in the seventh on a single by Riley Greene. With the game 4-4 in the ninth, Detroit turned to Gregory Soto, as it has done so many times all year.

When a one-out walk, Soto throwing error and wild pitch moved Seattle’s winning run to third base, manager AJ Hinch dipped into his bag of strategies and moved rookie right fielder Brendon Davis to be part of a five-man infield against Mariners rookie left-handed hitter Jarred Kelenic.

“Just for old times,” Hinch joked. “Kelenic is going to have to shoot [a ball against] Soto, which is one of the hardest things to do. Strategically it’s one of the most fun, despite having your back against the wall and in the most vulnerable position imaginable when you have to put a fifth guy in there.

Five pitches later, Soto had walked Kelenic to load the bases, and Davis – who had swapped gloves in the dugout for the infield at five – traded again to return to right field for Ty France, whose ball on the ground which ensued tucked inside the first base line and past Spencer Torkelson for the winning run.

The Tigers’ third straight loss at T-Mobile Park closed their season at 66-96. They will have the sixth-best odds in the first-ever MLB Draft lottery this offseason.

Soto became the sixth pitcher in AL/NL history — and the second in the past 43 years — to finish with 30 saves and 11 losses in the same season. Only three of those losses occurred in backup situations. The other eight came when entering a draw or when eligible for a comeback win.

“It’s a shame because it doesn’t really show what he can do or how he can do it,” Hinch said. “The volatility of this role is tough, especially on the road when you have starts like that. I hate that his season ended like this. Obviously, he’s an important figure in the bullpen for us. I think it’s important that we come into the offseason and clean ourselves up – certainly from the last two losses, but more importantly from the general atmosphere.

Soto said through the Tigers’ bilingual media coordinator Carlos Guillen that he will focus on the positive side: total saves.

“That’s what will balance it out at the end of the season for me,” Soto said. “I don’t want to focus on anything negative.”

When asked if this was Soto’s best version, he didn’t need a translation.

“No,” Soto said directly. “The best comes next year.”

He clearly has company in that regard. Báez finished the season leading the Tigers in most cumulative offensive categories, including 27 doubles, four triples (tied with Greene), 17 homers, and 67 RBIs. But despite a solid finish, he clearly expected more.

“I’m not really happy with my numbers,” Báez said. “I had a pretty warm September and October, but it’s not like I’m helping to get [the team] get back on track or make the playoffs or something. I was just playing hard and taking a lot of pressure off. It’s something I have to do all year round.

It’s not just the players who expect more of themselves than has been shown this season, but also Hinch, who just suffered his worst record as a manager.

” I do not like losing. I’m not good at it,” Hinch said. “I don’t answer it very well. But I’m the leader, and so I have to stand up and defend what we’ve done well and challenge us on the things we’ve done wrong.

“Everyone is looking forward to these playoffs, and there will be a number of teams playing. In my stomach, I hate that we weren’t one of them. We had aspirations to make the playoffs and to be more of a factor, and the result is that we didn’t because we didn’t play well. I take it personally.

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