May 2013

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Orioles

A little hybrid lineup from Jim Leyland today against O’s right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. With Torii Hunter gone the next couple days, Andy Dirks stays in the second spot, while Omar Infante leads off. Avisail Garcia gets a start against a righty, but also starts in center field, with Don Kelly shifting over to right.

TIGERS (numbers off Gonzalez)

  1. Omar Infante, 2B
  2. Andy Dirks, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (0-for-3, K)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (0-for-2, walk)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (1-for-3)
  7. Alex Avila, C (1-for-3)
  8. Avisail Garcia, CF
  9. Don Kelly, RF (1-for-2)

P: Max Scherzer

ORIOLES

  1. Nate McLouth, LF
  2. Manny Machado, 3B
  3. Nick Markakis, RF
  4. Adam Jones, CF
  5. Chris Davis, 1B
  6. Matt Wieters, C
  7. J.J. Hardy, SS
  8. Chris Dickerson, DH
  9. Ryan Flaherty, 2B

P: Miguel Gonzalez

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

PNC Park 005

Torii Hunter is out of the lineup, and left-handed hitting Andy Dirks is in against Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke. Interestingly, Dirks is in right field, with Avisail Garcia. Other than that, it’s the standard anti-lefty lineup.

Brandon Inge is starting at third base for Pittsburgh tonight.

With so little matchup numbers for Tigers pitchers against Locke, you’re on your own intuition or just standard lefty/righty or home/road splits for Beat the Streak. Or you can just go with the failsafe option: When in doubt, pick Cabrera.

TIGERS

  1. Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-2 off Locke)
  2. Andy Dirks, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-2 off Locke)
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  6. Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
  7. Brayan Pena, C
  8. Avisail Garcia, CF
  9. Doug Fister, P

PIRATES

  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Neil Walker, 2B (1-for-3, 2 K’s off Fister)
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (3-for-3 off Fister)
  4. Garrett Jones, 1B (0-for-3, K off Fister)
  5. Russell Martin, C (2-for-8, K off Fister)
  6. Travis Snider, RF (1-for-10, 3 K’s off Fister)
  7. Brandon Inge, 3B (3-for-9, HR, walk off Fister)
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Jeff Locke, P

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

Pittsburgh 006

Is this the start of a new two-game series, or a continuation of a four-game series? Discuss while you peruse the lineup.

Because of the change of venue, the Tigers lose the DH, which means Victor Martinez is on the bench for this one. Alex Avila is just 1-for-8 off A.J. Burnett, while Brayan Pena is 1-for-9, but catching V-Mart for a start appears to be out of the question at this point in the season. Maybe that changes later.

One thing worth watching is the pitch count on Anibal Sanchez. Jim Leyland said after last start he might be conservative with Sanchez’s pitch count after his no-hit bid last time out, and he backed that up today.

“I’m going to watch him. We’ll watch him close,” Leyland said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re not going to do anything ridiculous.”

The only reliever who might be held back tonight is Joaquin Benoit. Drew Smyly is back and available, and Jose Ortega could be back out there.

As you can tell below, there aren’t many great numbers for Tigers hitters off A.J. Burnett, even among those who faced him for years. Omar Infante’s 3-for-6 off him includes 1-for-3 in a matchup last year. It takes a little projection, but I took a shot with him tonight for Beat the Streak. You can check out other MLB.com writers’ picks here.

If you want to watch the Red Wings tonight but still track the Tigers, you can follow online with Gameday or take advantage of the MLB.com At-Bat app. Better yet, you can get a second screen going with MLB.TV (if you live out of market) or watch Wings-Blackhawks on mute and listen to the Tigers on MLB.com Gameday Audio. Locally, the game is televised on Fox Sports Detroit and broadcast on AM 1270.

TIGERS (with career numbers off A.J. Burnett)

  1. Andy Dirks, LF (1-for-3)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (9-for-33, 2 HR, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-22, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (3-for-11, 2 HR, 2 walks, K)
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS (4-for-19, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  6. Alex Avila, C (1-for-8, walk, K)
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-6)
  8. Don Kelly, CF (1-for-8)
  9. Anibal Sanchez, P

PIRATES (with career numbers off Anibal Sanchez)

  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Neil Walker, 2B (1-for-11, walk, 3 K’s)
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (4-for-11, walk, 5 K’s)
  4. Garrett Jones, 1B (1-for-7, 2 K’s)
  5. Russell Martin, C (3-for-9, 2 K’s)
  6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B (3-for-9, HR, 3 K’s)
  7. Travis Snider, RF (0-for-3)
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS (1-for-3)
  9. A.J. Burnett, P

Leyland on using Ortega in 11th

Neil Walker is a switch-hitter, but his splits have always been stronger against right-handed pitching (.286 career average, .801 OPS) than lefties (.260, .662). Never have those splits been stronger than this year, albeit in limited at-bats after missing time to the disabled list. He’s 5-for-30 so far off southpaws, and 30-for-105 against right-handers, including all three of his home runs.

So why did Walker face right-hander Jose Ortega in the 11th inning Tuesday night? It was the situation — one out, nobody on base. Jim Leyland said afterwards that he had Phil Coke ready, and would have brought him in if leadoff man Starling Marte had reached base.

“If the first guy would’ve gotten on, I would’ve brought in Coke to turn Walker around [and] to hopefully hold [Marte] at first base,” Leyland said. “And then you’ve got [Andrew] McCutchen coming up next, so you might have had to make another move, which is all right. But once he got Marte out, I was going to leave him in.”

Drew Smyly was on rest last night. Darin Downs was another option. The main motivation, though, would have been to hold Marte at first.

“If he got on, I was going to bring Cokey in so he could hold him at first, because that guy can really run,” Leyland continued. “If Walker bunts, gets him to second, then you can walk McCutchen and then you’ve got [Garrett] Jones, the left-hander. And then you’ve still got a right-hander ready if they happen to pinch-hit. You’re still ready to do that.”

Putting Tuesday’s 1-0 loss in historical context

Not since Bruce Chen shut down the Tigers at Comerica Park last August 29 had Detroit suffered a 1-0 loss. It was the Tigers’ only 1-0 defeat last year.

Not since Bobby Seay entered a bases-loaded jam in the 12th inning and promptly walked in the winning run had the Tigers suffered a 1-0 loss in extra innings. That was five years ago, on May 26, 2008, at Angel Stadium, squandering seven scoreless innings from Kenny Rogers.

Even then, it was nothing compared to what Rick Porcello gave the Tigers on Tuesday.

A search on baseball-reference.com shows only one other game in modern Tigers history in which a pitcher tossed at least eight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts or more and didn’t get a win. Earl Wilson tossed nine shutout innings on four hits with 11 strikeouts and ended up with a no-decision in a 10-inning Tigers loss to the Angels on July 6, 1966.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Pirates

With the alternating games setup at catcher, Alex Avila gets the start behind the plate against right-hander Jeanmar Gomez (whom the Tigers saw in his Cleveland days). Avila is 2-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout against Gomez, but this could be a big name for him for more than the matchups. The hope is that he shows some progress at the plate. Despite the big RBI bloop single Sunday, he has struck out three times in each of his last two games and is 2-for-29 with 12 strikeouts since May 11.

Miguel Cabrera is 5-for-13 with two home runs off Gomez, by far the best numbers of any Tiger against him. Despite the hitless game yesterday, he’s probably worth sticking with on Beat the Streak. You can check out other MLB.com writers’ picks here.

If you’re watching locally on Fox Sports Detroit or listening on 97.1 FM or AM 1270, or even if you can’t, you can follow along online at MLB.com Gameday. You can also watch online at MLB.TV or listen with MLB.com Gameday Audio.

TIGERS (numbers off Jeanmar Gomez)

  1. Andy Dirks, LF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-5, HR, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (5-for-13, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-2, walk)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-2)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (2-for-9, K)
  7. Alex Avila, C (2-for-4, walk, K)
  8. Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-2, K)
  9. Don Kelly, CF (2-for-7, HR, K)

P: Rick Porcello

PIRATES (numbers off Porcello)

  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Neil Walker, 2B (0-for-3, K)
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (0-for-4, 2 walks)
  4. Garrett Jones, DH (0-for-3)
  5. Russell Martin, C (3-for-11, 2 walks, K)
  6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  7. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
  8. Travis Snider, RF (1-for-8, walk, K)
  9. Clint Barmes, SS (1-for-2, K)

P: Jeanmar Gomez

Game 49: The return of the Old Shoe

Is it time to stop saying Jhonny Peralta is off to a hot start? Because at this point, Jim Leyland is comparing him in the most reliable terms.

“He’s been an old shoe,” Leyland said. “Very comfortable for a manager. He has a routine he goes through every day, like clockwork. He’s really a good player.”

That “old shoe” term is how he used to describe Placido Polanco.

When Peralta hit .292 with a .743 OPS in April, it was the best opening month of his career. It defied his history of slow starts and struggles in cold weather. More importantly, it set him up for May, historically his strongest month.

With four days left in the month, though, he’s hitting .400 (32-for-80) with eight doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs. He had better RBI production in May 2011, but in terms of pure hitting and reaching base, it’s the best single month of his career.

With his first four-hit game as a Tiger, he propelled himself into the mix among the best hitters in the league not named Miguel Cabrera. While Cabrera easily sits 36 points up on the AL batting average league at .377, Peralta is now tied for second with Baltimore’s Chris Davis at .341.

Peralta entered Monday 10th in the batting race at .326 and raised his average 15 points.

“A lot of guys are going to fly under the radar when you’ve got a Miguel Cabrera and a Prince Fielder,” Leyland said. “Guys are going to fly under the radar. But this guy’s a really good player.”

Does this mean he’s headed for the contract year of all contract years? Not necessarily. But if Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer, he has arguably has gotten beyond the point of a hot start.

“He’s swinging a magic wand right now,” teammate Torii Hunter told reporters. “He can poke the bat out and get a hit. He can swing hard and get a hit. It’s a lot of fun to play the game like that.”

His track record and his age strongly suggest he’s not this good for an entire season. However, he’s also not as bad as his stats suggested last year, either. He might well be good enough for his second All-Star selection in three years.

When one considers Derek Jeter is out and Elvis Andrus’ offensive numbers are a little down, Peralta might even be in position to make a case for the start.

 

Hunter to miss two games for kids’ graduation

If you’ve been reading the site this season, you hopefully read the Mothers Day package and Torii Hunter’s tribute to his wife and the job she did raising their sons, including Torii Jr. They’re headed off to college, and Torii and his wife will be able to visit Torii Jr. at Notre Dame this fall, which was one reason he signed with Detroit.

Before that, however, comes graduation from high school. That’s this coming weekend, and Torii Hunter plans on being at home in Texas to watch his sons receive their diploma.

“This is just once in a lifetime,” Hunter said. “I hope people forgive me for it.”

Most fathers hopefully will understand.

Hunter plans on heading home after the Tigers’ series in Pittsburgh Wednesday and Thursday. He’ll miss the games Friday and Saturday in Baltimore, then return for Sunday’s series finale against the O’s.

I don’t know of any special list that would allow the Tigers to deactivate Hunter and call up another player for a couple days. Essentially, this would be like a day-to-day injury that costs a player a couple games. The Tigers have survived plenty of those the last few years, and they’ll get through this one, too. You can’t fault the reasoning.

Monday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Pirates

Standard anti-lefty lineup for the Tigers against a familiar foe in an unfamiliar uniform. Francisco Liriano owns a 5-7 record and a 5.93 ERA in 23 career appearances against Detroit, including a 6.18 ERA at Comerica Park. The last few years have been particularly rough for him against them. That said, this is a much different year for him, so we’ll see how different he is.

Brandon Inge was not originally in the Pirates lineup, but with Starling Marte scratched for migraine symptoms, the shuffling results in Inge starting at third base. It will be Inge’s first start at Comerica Park since the Tigers released him last April, and he’ll get to face Justin Verlander.

Some very good numbers for the Tigers against Liriano, especially Victor Martinez (11-for-24). Still, it’s probably worth sticking with Miguel Cabrera for Beat the Streak. He’s 9-for-26 off Liriano, and he carries a 12-game hitting streak into this afternoon. You can see other MLB.com writers’ picks for other games here.

You can follow the game online via Gameday, watch online through MLB.TV or listen on MLB.com Gameday Audio. Locally, you can watch on Fox Sports Detroit and listen on 97.1 FM and AM 1270.

TIGERS (with career numbers against Francisco Liriano)

  1. Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-9, 3 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (4-for-13, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (9-for-26, 2 HR, 8 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (3-for-19, 2 walks, 8 K’s)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (11-for-24, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (10-for-34, 2 HR, 6 walks, 13 K’s)
  7. Matt Tuiasosopo, LF (0-for-5, 2 K’s)
  8. Brayan Pena, C (4-for-13, 3 K’s)
  9. Avisail Garcia, CF (0-1, walk, K)

P: Justin Verlander

PIRATES (with career numbers against Verlander)

  1. Starling Marte Travis Snider, LF (3-for-9, HR, 3 K’s)
  2. Neil Walker, 2B (0-for-6, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (2-for-11, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Garrett Jones, DH RF (2-for-9, HR, 3 K’s)
  5. Russell Martin, C (5-for-17, HR, walk, 5 K’s)
  6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B DH (1-for-7, 4 K’s)
  7. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
  8. Travis Snider, RF Brandon Inge, 3B
  9. Clint Barmes, SS (1-for-6, 2 K’s)

P: Francisco Liriano

Game 48: Could Max Scherzer be an All-Star?

Max Scherzer, All-Star? (AP)

Max Scherzer, All-Star? (AP)

The question came up after Max Scherzer’s latest victory moved his record to 7-0. Jim Leyland wasn’t having anything to do it. He’s the manager for the American League All-Stars this year by virtue of the Tigers’ AL pennant last fall, but the decisions on the pitching staff come down to player voting.

“I can’t control that stuff,” Leyland said. “I’m the manager, but I don’t have much control.”

Usually players don’t vote until late June or early July, so there’s still a long way to go and several starts for Scherzer to make before the All-Star pitching staff gets filled.

Considering how many other pitchers are off to excellent starts, it’s a good thing players don’t have to decide yet.

Scherzer got off to a 6-0 start two years ago, yet was never much of a consideration for the Midsummer Classic. He had a 9-3 record at the end of June, but a 4.47 ERA and more hits allowed than innings pitched. Jeremy Bonderman won his first eight decisions in 2007 and sported an 8-1 record at the end of June, but his 3.90 ERA left him out of much consideration. He was one of the final candidates for the AL Final Vote, but Hideki Okajima won that going away.

Scherzer is one of four AL starters tied with seven wins entering Memorial Day. Only Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore has more. Of those five, however, Scherzer has the highest ERA (3.42). For that matter, four of the five AL pitchers with six wins have better ERAs. Anibal Sanchez has a 5-4 record, but an ERA better than a run lower.

Yet the strength for Scherzer so far is in his secondary numbers: 47 hits allowed over 68 1/3 innings, and a 16:81 walk-to-strikeout ratio. His .195 average allowed ranks sixth among AL starters, while his 0.92 WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched) ranks third. His 10.67 strikeouts per nine innings comprise a ratio good for fourth in the league, while he ranks fifth with 6.19 hits per nine innings.

The secondary numbers have a lot of similar names. Yu Darvish is in the group. So is White Sox lefty Chris Sale. So are Moore and Hisashi Iwakuma.

That’s one way of thinking. Here’s another: As good as the Tigers rotation has been this season, one of them should be expected to make the All-Star team. The question is which Tigers starter.

Despite four consecutive selections to the Midsummer Classic, it’s no longer an automatic that Justin Verlander is an All-Star — not based on his statistics so far this year, maybe not given what happened with Verlander’s start in last year’s All-Star Game, and especially not given the depth now in the Tigers rotation. Sanchez is making a very good case alongside Scherzer.

The Tigers had two starters on the 2009 All-Star team. haven’t had more than one starting pitcher on the All-Star team during this run of excellence, not even with Verlander and Kenny Rogers were doing so well in 2006 (Rogers made the team and got the start). Other teams have put two starters on, including the Angels (Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson), White Sox (Sale, Jake Peavy) and Rangers (Darvish, Matt Harrison) last year.

To answer the question, yes, Max Scherzer could be an All-Star, and Sunday’s performance certainly helps. Still, he has a long way to go, and not the easiest route for it.

Play of the game: The beauty in Avisail Garcia’s bases-clearing, pinch-hit triple was two-fold. First, he batted lefty Caleb Thielbar for seven pitches. Second, he reached down and got a 72 mph breaking ball for the pitch he could hit into the gap. Essentially, that ended the game right there, and everyone knew it. Leyland was going to send Scherzer back out to begin the seventh until that change and that hit, then he went to his bullpen instead.

Out of the game: Scherzer had a run in, runners at the corners and two out in the fifth inning against Justin Morneau, 5-for-13 with three home runs off Scherzer entering the game. Scherzer, however, had a curveball.

“I thought today was another test with it,” Scherzer said. “I’d faced Minnesota a few starts ago and really pitched with it well then, so obviously they knew about it coming into today’s start. And to still have success with that pitch against that lineup, it shows that pitch is very good, that it really is what I think it is. It’s a change of pace pitch and just gives me another pitch to throw against lefties. And that makes me a better pitcher.”

Scherzer mixed fastballs with a changeup, then threw Morneau a 2-2 curve. Morneau hit it to Torii Hunter for the out.

Strategy: Casey Fien’s walk to Omar Infante to load the bases in the sixth inning left Ron Gardenhire with a decision whether to have Fien face Don Kelly or bring in lefty Caleb Thielbar to face Avisail Garcia. He chose the latter, opting to put pressure on the rookie rather than play the numbers with the veteran. Leyland said he was not surprised by the move.

One thing to keep in mind about a decision like that is that it’s not just about the hitter, but the pitcher. Fien just entered the game and walked Infante on five pitches, and kept missing the outside corner. If Gardenhire couldn’t trust his reliever to throw strikes with the bases loaded, then Garcia wasn’t his biggest problem.

Line of the night: Prince Fielder is now 6-for-6 with eight RBIs over the last six games when he comes to bat following a walk to Miguel Cabrera, intentional or otherwise.

Stat of the night: Alex Avila’s blooper to left was not only his first run-scoring hit since May 10, but just his second hit of any kind in that span.

Print it: “Joe West was joking with me asking me if I wanted to get the ball, keep it as a souvenir.” — Alex Avila on his sixth-inning RBI single, a blooper into short left field.

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