August 20th, 2011

Saturday: Tigers vs. Indians

As expected, Magglio Ordonez and just-recalled Brandon Inge are in the Tigers lineup today against Cleveland left-hander David Huff. As suspected, the lineup critiques are probably going to come in about why Leyland isn’t playing his best possible lineup in the middle of this AL Central showdown.

But here’s the thing: There’s a pretty decent chance that Leyland is doing just that.

Leyland said he looked at this matchup earlier in the week and decided this was a spot for Ordonez. He’s 2-for-5 off David Huff. So is Inge. They’re small sample sizes, obviously, but they’re also feeding into a righty-heavy lineup against Huff. His stats through four starts for Cleveland this year actually show he’s been better against righties than lefties, but his numbers through 18 starts for Triple-A Columbus show right-handed hitters hit him for more damage and more power, even though batting average favored left-handed hitters.

Wilson Betemit, meanwhile, is batting .235 against left-handed pitching this year, compared to .309 against right-handers, with nearly a 300-point difference in OPS.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Brandon Inge, 3B
  9. Ramon Santiago, 2B

P: Doug Fister

INDIANS

  1. Michael Brantley, LF
  2. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  4. Travis Hafner, DH
  5. Carlos Santana, C
  6. Kosuke Fukudome, CF
  7. Matt LaPorta, 1B
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
  9. Luis Valbuena, 2B

P: David Huff

What Inge’s return means for Tigers

Brandon Inge’s return from exile will come a little earlier than expected. Not only will the Tigers purchase his contract from Triple-A Toledo Saturday, they’ll put him in the starting lineup against Indians lefty starter David Huff Saturday night. From there, a very interesting mix at third base is going to unfold for the stretch run.

Jim Leyland made the announcement on the Inge move, and he explained it as this: The Tigers expect to see four or five left-handed starters between now and Sept. 1, when Inge was expected to come up. Inge has been pounding left-handed pitching while with the Mud Hens, 15-for-38 (.395) with three home runs and nine RBIs against lefties when you add in his rehab assignment in June. Yes, those are Triple-A lefties rather than David Price, whom the Tigers are scheduled to face next week. But they’re also signs of a comfort level.

Though Wilson Betemit’s a switch-hitter, his splits are much stronger against righties (.313) than lefties (.238, 34 strikeouts in 90 plate appearances). He also had been giving up starts to Don Kelly for defensive purposes.

Leyland floated the idea Wednesday. He followed through on Friday.

The move to send down Andy Dirks is more procedural than performance. The Tigers can option him out and bring him back Sept. 1 with no problem, and they should might be able to get him eligible for a postseason roster spot if they choose, in case of a player on the DL. And with the slate of lefties they have ahead of them, though Dirks has fared pretty well against southpaws, they’re not going to sit Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young or Magglio Ordonez to get Dirks a spot against them.

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