ANAHEIM -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland hasn't had to say this in a while. The way things unfolded against the Angels, there wasn't much good to say, so he kept saying it.
"This is the first time we really just didn't play a very good game," Leyland said after the 8-1 loss on Friday night. "We just couldn't come up with the big hit when we needed it, and we just didn't play very well. That's uncharacteristic."
He wasn't blaming the players. Neither was Torii Hunter.
"Honestly, I can tell you this is the first game that I felt like we got down," Hunter said. "That's pretty impressive. Every other game, we were up, ready to go. Today, Game 16, we had one bad game.
"Over 162 games, there's going to be another one. But we just don't want it to be tomorrow."
The Tigers haven't had a good week at the plate, but they've pitched and fielded their way through it. On Friday, a team that had committed only one error all season lost an unearned run to one miscue and had a misplay between Austin Jackson and Matt Tuiasosopo in left-center field cost them a few more runs. A bullpen that hadn't allowed a run in more than 13 innings saw Octavio Dotel give up a five-run eighth inning, aided in part by the aforementioned misplay.
The way they were struggling to hit, the outcome was probably already in hand. The other issues made it look ugly.
"We got hits," Leyland said. "We just couldn't get the big hit."
The Tigers came within an out of their first back-to-back regular-season shutouts in five years. Miguel Cabrera's two-out single with Hunter on second base in the ninth inning scored the first Tigers run since Brayan Pena's RBI groundout in the 14th inning on Wednesday in Seattle. It was Detroit's first run-scoring hit since Cabrera singled in Jackson in the seventh inning of Tuesday's series opener against the Mariners.
Detroit had endured an 0-for-29 slump with runners in scoring position, managing two bases-loaded walks on Tuesday and a pair of RBI groundouts on Wednesday, before Cabrera singled with runners on first and second in the seventh inning on Friday.
Cabrera's hit off Angels left-hander Sean Burnett loaded the bases, but wasn't deep enough to send Jackson around third on strong-armed left fielder Mike Trout. With the potential tying run on second for Prince Fielder, Burnett used a combination of sinkers and sliders to get ground ball for an inning-ending double play.
It was the third double play Angels pitching induced from the Tigers with runners in scoring position on Friday, two of them from Fielder. They nearly got a 6-4-3 triple play for starter Tommy Hanson (2-1) in the fourth inning, but Jhonny Peralta beat the throw to first.
The Tigers are 4-for-38 with runners in scoring position this week, and Cabrera has the four hits. The last hit with runners in scoring position by somebody else was Peralta's eighth-inning RBI single on Sunday at Oakland.
It's an odd stretch for a team that continues to lead the American League with a .285 average while ranking third with 77 runs. With runners in scoring position, though, their average has fallen to .244 (39-for-160), ninth in the 15-team AL.
They pitched their way through Oakland and Seattle, putting themselves in position for their best April trip to the West Coast since 2006. They'll need more scoring to clinch a winning trip against the Angels.
Hunter believes they lost some energy on the trip from Seattle.
"You're going to have some games when you're flying and you're kind of jet-lagged and you're messed up," Hunter said. "And that's what it felt like today. In Seattle, we battled good pitching out there, we went 14 innings. This is the day when we were beat down. It hit us the day after."
Anibal Sanchez (2-1), who began that stingy stretch with seven innings of one-run ball in Oakland last Sunday, couldn't quite duplicate that gem but still finished with a quality start. Two infield singles, a Peralta error and a Trout sacrifice fly saddled him in the third before Brendan Harris' fourth-inning double capitalized on a two-out rally for a 2-0 lead.
Albert Pujols' RBI single chased Sanchez in the seventh with 11 hits over 6 2/3 innings to go with three strikeouts. Hanson allowed four walks and six hits over six innings but survived.
"We opened up as the game went on offensively," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "A one- or two-run lead against those guys over there is not a lot, so Tommy had to keep pitching. We got out of some big jams tonight, but there's no doubt as the game went on I think our at-bats got better and we had our share of clutch hits tonight and it made a big difference."
They'll make a difference again for the Tigers, who won't keep hitting like this. On Friday, their lack of it made everything look ugly.
"We're a very good team. I mean, there's not a lot of rocket science to this stuff," Leyland said. "It's pretty simple. We just didn't have a very good game, all around."