DETROIT -- The Tigers had more hitters counts than they could count against Ubaldo Jimenez on Tuesday night. Their lack of hits out of them signified a team that might be staggering for the count.
It's the analogy manager Jim Leyland was using after a 4-2 loss to the Indians knocked them five games under .500 for the first time all year and 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland for second place in the American League Central.
"As I told the team, 'Hey, this is a critical time for us,'" Leyland said. "We're in the corner, we're on the ropes and you have to make up your mind. Do you want to come out slugging, or do you want to take the beating?"
It wasn't a team meeting, Leyland said, but a talk in an otherwise quiet clubhouse in defeat. He said he appreciated players for trying to fight through injuries, including Alex Avila, who aggravated his right hamstring midway through Tuesday's game. Then Leyland posed the question to the Tigers, later calling it a crossroads.
"We're against the ropes, a little wobbly," he said, "and you either get your feet underneath you and come out swinging, or you feel sorry for yourself because we've had some injuries and things haven't gone right.
"God knows that things haven't gone right, we haven't been in sync all year. We'll see."
Later, in his office, Leyland answered his own question.
"I'm going to swing," he said. "That's just the way it is. I don't mind getting whooped, but I'm going to swing. I'm not going to give it to him."
The Tigers swung Tuesday at what Jimenez offered. Except for Miguel Cabrera's first-inning RBI double, they didn't land a damaging blow.
They had nine 2-0 counts on Jimenez out of 27 at-bats. They had a walk and eight outs from those at-bats, including six outs on the 2-0 pitch. Some of the outs came on well-hit balls, like Berry's flyout to the depths of center to end the third inning, or Shin-Soo Choo's sliding catch to rob Avila of a leadoff hit in the second.
"Choo made like three sliding catches or something like that," Berry said. "It just was one of those things where we couldn't really catch a break."
The Tigers called Jimenez "effectively wild," but they also called them missed opportunities.
Jimenez was the second consecutive starter to come into town with an ERA over 5.00 and hold the Tigers to a lone run, following in the footsteps of Phil Hughes' complete-game four-hitter. Leyland set the stage for it before the game.
"We know what Jimenez does," Leyland said before the game. "Every player out there will have a report. Every player knows what he's done to him in the past. It's a matter of execution. It's a matter of doing it."
"Right now, the only thing that I take offense to on my own behalf is, it's my responsibility to get the team clicking, and we haven't got it clicking," Leyland said before the game. "And I scratch my head.
"I know there are several reasons why. If you look at the numbers, it explains some things. But I'm still responsible for that. So you have to take your heat. I don't have any problem with that."
Still, Leyland said, it wasn't a question of not trying.
"The effort's not the problem here," Leyland said. "If I thought that was the problem, I'd be in a whole different state of mind, to be honest with you. That's not the problem. We've just got to be a little more disciplined at the plate, we've got to get a few more big hits, we've got to shut some people down. Those are all the combinations that spell wins."
Rookie left-hander Drew Smyly took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits over six innings. Three of those runs scored on triples, with another set up by one.
Jimenez walked 42 batters over 56 innings coming into the night, but his lone walk was to his final hitter, when Ramon Santiago turned a 2-0 count into a five-pitch walk with two outs in the seventh.
That brought the potential tying run to the plate for the second consecutive inning. For the second straight inning, the Indians ended the threat on the next pitch, with Berry flying out to center. An inning earlier, Delmon Young had chased a pitch and flown out to right.
Brennan Boesch had three 2-0 counts and three outs, stretching his skid to 1-for-15. Two of them were badly hit balls to the left side. Jhonny Peralta had the same before getting two hits in his final two at-bats.
"When you have nine 2-0 counts, and some of the balls [hit] are going the opposite way, that's not a good thing," Leyland said.
The Tigers are swinging, literally, but they're not connecting.
Leyland is accepting some responsibility and sharing some. He's putting the challenge on all of them.
At some point, Leyland was asked what happens if they don't come back swinging. He paused.
"Then we're not going to be very good," Leyland said.