Ramon Santiago gets a start at short, with Jhonny Peralta getting the day off.
On the Twins side, Joe Mauer gets a day at DH, with Ryan Doumit behind the plate. Opponents are 8-for-11 stealing bases in his 15 starts at catcher. With this lineup, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Tigers used, say, Omar Infante or Don Kelly to try to create some offense on him.
Omar Infante’s numbers off of Mike Pelfrey, mostly from their days in the National League, make him a pretty easy pick for Beat the Streak.
- Andy Dirks, cf (4-for-6, 2 HR off Mike Pelfrey)
- Torii Hunter, rf (2-for-9)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3b (3-for-12, 6 walks)
- Prince Fielder,
1bdh (6-for-17, 2 HR, 2 walks, K)
- Victor Martinez,
dh1b (3-for-8, walk, K)
- Alex Avila, c (2-for-5, walk, K)
- Omar Infante, 2b (15-for-32, 2 walks, K)
- Don Kelly, cf (2-for-6, walk)
- Ramon Santiago, ss (1-for-2, K)
P: Max Scherzer
- Jamey Carroll, 2B (0-for-5, 4 K’s against Scherzer)
- Joe Mauer, DH (8-for-23, HR, walk, K)
- Josh Willingham, LF (5-for-18, 2 HR, 2 walks, 8 K’s)
- Justin Morneau, 1B (5-for-13, 3 HR, 4 walks)
- Ryan Doumit, C (3-for-13, walk, K)
- Chris Parmelee, RF (2-for-5, walk, K)
- Eduardo Escobar, 3B (1-for-2)
- Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Pedro Florimon, SS (1-for-5, 2 K’s)
P: Mike Pelfrey
The Tigers signed Brayan Pena to ease some of the wear and tear on Alex Avila and give Detroit a viable right-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers.
On Saturday, the switch-hitting Pena started against a right-handed starter for the second time in four days. Add in his start against Minnesota lefty Scott Diamond on Thursday, and Pena has started three of Detroit’s last four games.
Against the two right-handers, he had two three-hit games.
It’s at the point where, for now, the mix of starts Jim Leyland talked about doing with Pena and slumping Alex Avila seems to be reality.
“I’ll catch Alex tomorrow,” Leyland said. “I’m trying to have a little bit of one [day] on, one [day] off just to see if we can get him going a little bit.”
The Tigers face right-hander Mike Pelfrey on Sunday. Avila is 2-for-5 against him. By comparison, he’s 0-for-8 with two walks and a strikeout against P.J. Walters, who started and won for Minnesota on Saturday.
Pena, Leyland said, “has done a very good job settling in the backup role.”
In other words, don’t expect a switch from Pena to starter and Avila to backup. Any change would more likely be in a timeshare like the Tigers have going right now. The goal of the timeshare so far, though, has been to try to get Avila out of his nearly season-long slump by reducing the wear and tear.
Will it work? Leyland tried it in 2008 when Ivan Rodriguez was slumping. When it began, Pudge was batting .245 in early June. By mid-July, Rodriguez had raised his average to .295. Of course, the Tigers traded him at the deadline later that month, when it was clear he was unhappy with playing time.
It would not be a surprise at all if the timeshare continued for a while. Remember, Leyland mixed Avila and Gerald Laird behind the plate for a good chunk of the summer. If Avila gets going and Pena is still hitting, it’s easier to do.
The thing to keep in mind isn’t just Avila, but Pena and his workload. The years when Pena has had the most playing time are the years when he has had lesser production. The years when Pena caught 60-65 games were his best seasons.
Third start in four games for Brayan Pena, and his second of the week against a right-handed starter. But given Alex Avila’s 0-for-8 history against P.J. Walters, it makes a lot sense. That said, Don Kelly is 0-for-6 off Walters, and he’s starting in center field.
Walters is one of those pitchers who has had more success against Miguel Cabrera (3-for-13, HR) than Prince Fielder (5-for-8, 2 HR, 3 walks). Fielder and Andy Dirks (3-for-7) both make for good matchups in MLB.com’s Beat the Streak contest.
On the Twins side, minor-league journeyman Chris Colabello gets his second Major League start, this time at DH. His path to the big leagues included a few weeks in the Tigers farm system after signing out of a tryout camp in 2006. Wilkin Ramirez, who spent a lot more time in the Tigers system, starts in center.
- Andy Dirks, LF (3-for-7, HR, K against Walters)
- Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-2 against Walters)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (3-for-13, HR, 3 K’s against Walters)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (5-for-8, 2 HR, 3 walks against Walters)
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (3-for-9, 3 K’s against Walters)
- Brayan Pena, C
- Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-1 against Walters)
- Don Kelly, CF (0-for-6 against Walters)
P: Doug Fister
- Jamey Carroll, 2B (1-for-8, 3 K’s vs. Fister)
- Joe Mauer, C (4-for-23, 3 walks, 4 K’s vs. Fister)
- Josh Willingham, LF (5-for-18, 2 HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s vs. Fister)
- Justin Morneau, 1B (7-for-19, HR, 5 K’s vs. Fister)
- Chris Colabello, DH
- Chris Parmelee, RF (1-for-2, walk, K vs. Fister)
- Wilkin Ramirez, CF
- Eduardo Escobar, 3B
- Pedro Florimon, SS (0-for-3 vs. Fister)
P: P.J. Walters
It seems like more than four weeks ago that Anibal Sanchez set a franchise record with 17 strikeouts against the Braves. That, too, was on a Friday night, although the weather seemed a lot warmer that night than this one.
That night, Sanchez seemed truly unhittable. It was the perfect combination of Sanchez with nasty stuff against a Braves lineup that would chase it out of the strike zone.
This game was different. It was tough to look at his results early and think he was going to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. He was falling behind hitters early, walking two of Minnesota’s first six hitters, and he wasn’t going to get away with that against hitters like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham. Even Jamey Carroll, given his experience, is not an easy out.
Only the Astros have a worse record than the Twins, but the Twins have a much better lineup. And as well as Sanchez pitched through the middle innings, he was going to have to come back around to get Carroll, Mauer, Willingham and Morneau again.
There’s a reason why Mauer has been in a position to break up three no-hit bids in the ninth inning. Where he hits in the Twins order, a pitcher is going to have to retire him four times unless he has faced somewhere around the minimum number of hitters.
“It’s really hard to face that guy four times or five times in one game and dominate,” Sanchez said of Mauer. “This guy, he’s so smart. I tried to make my best pitch.”
Mauer faced Sanchez in two games last season following Sanchez’s trade from the Marlins. Mauer had four singles, including three line drives to different parts of the outfield, a walk and a groundout. Sanchez retired him three times in the season-opening series in Minneapolis last month, but one was a fly ball to deep center field.
When Sanchez fanned Mauer twice on Friday, he did something very few Tigers starters have been to accomplish against him. His multi-strikeout games against Detroit are few and far between, once a season from 2009 to now until he did it a second time Friday.
Yet if any hitter can shrug that off, it’s Mauer.
“Every time I go up there, I try to get a hit or get on-base or do something positive on the offensive side,” Mauer said. “We got one hit. It doesn’t take away what he did tonight. Sanchez was great. Obviously it nice to get a hit there at the end, but we still lost.”
Mauer said he hit a cutter. Sanchez and Alex Avila said he hit a breaking ball.
“It may have been the only mistake he made all game,” Willingham said.
It had to seem familiar for Gavin Floyd. Mauer got him for a single with one out in the ninth to break up his no-hit bid on May 6, 2008. Two years later, Mauer got Neftali Feliz, the fourth pitcher of Texas’ no-hit bid on August 23, 2010.
Since then, no-hit bids have become a lot more common. Yet as the season heads into Memorial Day weekend, the 2013 season is still awaiting its first no-no. Sanchez was the fourth pitcher this year to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning, all of them broken up. According to STATS, 12 no-hit bids lasted into the eighth inning last year, with half of them being completed.
A night off for Torii Hunter means a night in the lineup for Avisail Garcia against a right-handed pitcher, Samuel Deduno. Don Kelly starts in center, with Garcia in right.
Deduno has pitched effectively against the Tigers, and he has pitched colossally bad, like someone averse to the strike zone. The trouble for the Twins tonight is that their bullpen has logged a lot of innings lately. If the Tigers wait out Deduno and try to run up his pitch count, and he can’t throw strikes, it could put the Twins in a really bad spot, not just for tonight but for Saturday afternoon.
As for the Tigers bullpen, the one guy on break tonight is Jose Valverde, who finished out the last three games. Joaquin Benoit will get the save opportunity if there is one. What happens against right-handed batters leading up to the ninth could be more interesting, with Leyland potentially mixing Jose Ortega and Luke Putkonen. It could also end up being a night when Anibal Sanchez gets a bigger pitch count.
The one Tiger with good numbers off Deduno is leadoff man Andy Dirks. Still, it’s tough to go against Cabrera in MLB.com’s Beat the Streak game, even though you know his run will end for a night at some point.
- Andy Dirks, LF (3-for-6 off Deduno)
- Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-4 off Deduno)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (1-for-5, walk, K off Deduno)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-3, 2 walks, K off Deduno)
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (1-for-3, 2 walks, K off Deduno)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-4, walk, K off Deduno)
- Don Kelly, CF
- Avisail Garcia, RF
P: Anibal Sanchez
- Jamey Carroll, 3B (3-for-9, 2 K’s off Sanchez)
- Joe Mauer, C (4-for-8, walk, K off Sanchez)
- Josh Willingham, DH (2-for-12, 8 walks, 5 K’s off Sanchez)
- Justin Morneau, 1B (3-for-10, walk off Sanchez)
- Oswaldo Arcia, LF (0-for-3, K off Sanchez)
- Chris Parmelee, RF (1-for-8, 3 K’s off Sanchez)
- Eduardo Escobar, SS
- Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-4, walk, 2 K’s off Sanchez)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (0-for-5, 2 K’s off Sanchez)
P: Samuel Deduno
It’s the standard anti-lefty lineup for the Tigers, which means a second consecutive night off for Alex Avila. Brayan Pena actually has fared worse against Scott Diamond (0-for-5 with three strikeouts) than Avila (1-for-3, two strikeouts) has, but it’s a very small sample size. Interesting that a fair number of Detroit’s right-handed hitters haven’t hit Diamond well at all.
One guy who has fared well is Miguel Cabrera, 8-for-16 against him. If he homers tonight, he’ll tie his career-best streak of four consecutive games with a home run, set back in 2004 with the Marlins. If you’re playing Beat the Streak, it’s tough not to pick him between the matchups and the way he’s going.
As for the weather forecast … well, considering how off it was last night, let’s just not even get into it.
- Omar Infante, 2B (2-for-7, HR off Scott Diamond)
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-6, 2 K’s off Diamond)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (8-for-16, HR, 2 K’s off Diamond)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-11, walk, 4 K’s off Diamond)
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-8 off Diamond)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (3-for-15, 2 walks, K off Diamond)
- Matt Tuiasosopo, LF (0-for-2 off Diamond)
- Brayan Pena, C (0-for-5, 3 K’s off Diamond)
- Avisail Garcia, CF (1-for-5, walk, K off Diamond)
P: Rick Porcello
- Jamey Carroll, 3B (7-for-19, walk against Rick Porcello)
- Joe Mauer, C (7-for-27, 3 walks, 2 K’s against Porcello)
- Josh Willingham, LF (6-for-10, HR, 4 walks, K against Porcello)
- Justin Morneau, DH (6-for-26, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s against Porcello)
- Ryan Doumit, RF (4-for-10, walk, K against Porcello)
- Chris Parmelee, 1B (0-for-2, K against Porcello)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-5, HR against Porcello)
- Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-3 against Porcello)
- Pedro Florimon Jr., SS (0-for-2 against Porcello)
P: Scott Diamond
Miguel Cabrera tends to stay humble when he talks about home runs after a game, but his face usually tells the story on the swing. The look on Cabrera’s face as he rounded first base in the eighth inning Wednesday night was genuine surprise. (You can see it on the replay here.)
He did not think he had hit that ball out to center field. Technically, he was right.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I was like so surprised. Wow, that’s the first time that happened to me. It doesn’t happen very often.”
For someone with the power to hit the ball out to all fields, and often with tape-measure distance. That’s saying something.
It was a first for Michael Bourn, too.
“Never had it happen, man,” he said. “I guess they say first time for everything, huh?”
It’s not a first for many Tigers who fans, who remember Miguel Olivo getting a home run off the bounce from Ryan Raburn’s glove in left field two years ago. This was the flip side for them, and because it was Cabrera’s homer for two huge insurance runs, it was that much bigger.
“It’s one of those freak things that happens,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “You see that now and then. You don’t see it that often. That was just a freaky game.”
Cabrera’s four homers over his previous two games included two line drives that carried out to center field. This one off sidearming lefty Rich Hill went out to center, but more on a fly ball that seemingly hung in the air and gained distance.
Bourn had spent most of the evening running down drives all over center and left-center field, stealing at least two extra-base hits in the process to slow the Tigers offense a bit. He had Cabrera’s fly ball lined up better than any of those, and had seemingly timed his reach — not even a jump so much as a reach.
“I watched it,” Cabrera said. “I said he got it and then the last time I looked back, it wasn’t the same.”
Bourn was direct about it.
“I just missed it,” Bourn said. “There wasn’t no excuses. I had my balance, I was good and it just came out of my glove.”
That’s the thing. The ball was right in Bourn’s glove before it popped out. It wasn’t much of a deflection.
“I don’t know how it came outta there,” Bourn said, “but it did. And then it bounced over the wall. That’s the thing about it. I could see if it stayed in play, but it went over the wall. It happened.”
The look when Cabrera realized it was over the wall resembled a game-show contestant who wins a prize on a lucky guess. He was still smiling in the dugout about it as he recreated the swing.
“I thought it was an out there,” Cabrera said. “I was very lucky there. It’s better to be lucky than good.”
Considering he’s a home run away from leading all three of the Triple Crown categories again says he’s pretty good, too. Only Baltimore’s Chris Davis, with 14 home runs, has more than Cabrera’s 13 among American League hitters. His 52nd RBI put him 11 up on the next AL competitor, also Davis.
It also marked the 10th time in Cabrera’s career that he has homered in three consecutive games. If he can homer Thursday against the Twin, he’ll tie his career-best four-game homer streak set April 10-14, 2004 as a Florida Marlin.
The reverse splits that Corey Kluber had going into last night’s start (splits that largely didn’t hold true, unless one counts Cabrera) are nowhere to be found with Ubaldo Jimenez. He’s holding right-handed hitters to a .175 average (10-for-57) this season, compared with a .256 average (23-for-90) for left-handed batters. The big hope for right-handers is the walk total, 12 out of 71 plate appearances. With the at-bats that Tigers hitters have been putting together recently, that could be a factor, but Jim Leyland is going to his left-handed hitters for this one where he can — except one.
Alex Avila, 1-for-21 in his last seven games, gets the night off with Justin Verlander on the mound. Brayan Pena, a switch-hitter who normally gets against lefties, is behind the plate for Verlander for the fourth time this season.
Not a whole lot of good numbers by Tigers off Jimenez. Miguel Cabrera’s 13-for-38 includes a 10-for-30 clip since Jimenez jumped to the American League. Fielder, despite the lefty strength, went 4-for-16 against him last year before doubling off him in Detroit a few weeks ago. I went with Cabrera in Beat the Streak, for what it’s worth.
The Indians, meanwhile, present us with our first matchup between Verlander and former Tiger Ryan Raburn. Michael Brantley, 11-for-26 lifetime against Verlander, is batting cleanup.
- Andy Dirks, LF (4-for-24, 5 K’s off Jimenez)
- Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-13, 2 K’s off Jimenez)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (13-for-38, HR, 6 walks, 6 K’s off Jimenez)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (10-for-35, 6 walks, 7 K’s off Jimenez)
- Victor Martinez, DH (6-for-18, 2 HR, 1 walk, 2 K’s off Jimenez)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (7-for-23, HR, 4 walks, 2 K’s off Jimenez)
- Brayan Pena, C (4-for-5 off Jimenez)
- Don Kelly, CF (2-for-11, walk, K off Jimenez)
- Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-14, 3 K’s off Jimenez)
P: Justin Verlander
- Michael Bourn, CF (2-for-5 off Verlander)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-12, 4 walks, 4 K’s off Verlander)
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (8-for-47, 4 walks, 19 K’s off Verlander)
- Michael Brantley, LF (11-for-26, 3 walks, 3 K’s off Verlander)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (4-for-20, 2 HR, 4 walks, 4 K’s off Verlander)
- Jason Giambi, DH (4-for-17, 2 HR, 2 walks, 9 K’s off Verlander)
- Michael Reynolds, 3B (3-for-15, HR, 9 K’s off Verlander)
- Ryan Raburn, RF
- Yan Gomes, C
P: Ubaldo Jimenez
Max Scherzer deserved more mention than he received out of Tuesday’s 5-1 Tigers win over the Indians, but some guy named Cabrera stole the show with a line-drive home run to straightaway center at Progressive Field.
He didn’t see it. He heard the swing and the crowd reaction and knew what happened. But he has seen plenty of them over the years. He knows enough about them to realize if he could hold the Indians down after their first-inning run, he had a very good chance of ending up on top.
“Their starter was throwing the ball well, keeping our hitters at bay. I just knew if I could continue to throw up zeroes, eventually we’ll get to him,” Scherzer said. “I just have confidence in our hitters like that, because they’re so good. At any point, they can strike.
“Tonight was a perfect example. Dirks hits a home run, Torii hits a double and then Miggy hits a bomb, and all of a sudden, we’re losing 1-0, now we’re up 3-1. That’s what makes us so dangerous.”
That’s what makes Scherzer’s outings so production. With eight innings of one-run ball, he’s 6-0 for the second time in three years.
It was an unusual outing for him. It’s not that he has never been on a roll like that before, but his roll of 22 consecutive outs began without a strikeout for the first 10 hitters of that stretch. In most outings, he gets into rolls like that because of the strikeout, even if it costs him pitches. Then he struck out seven of the last 12.
“I was throwing the ball well tonight. I thought Alex [Avila] and I were sequencing [pitches well],” Scherzer said. “They did hit a couple balls hard at people. That’s just baseball. Today they got caught. And the other batters, I did a good job of locating the ball in and away and changing speeds. I thought that’s what allowed me to be successful tonight.”
Scherzer tried to be less predictable, throwing back-to-back changeups when hitters might be expecting fastballs, or throwing his recently-developed curveball more often against left-handed hitters. All of his pitches were working, he felt.
He felt like he settled into a groove as soon as the leadoff hitter in the second inning, Jason Giambi, who fouled out behind third base on a 3-1 pitch.
“I felt I was able to slow the game, take a deep breath and execute that 3-1 pitch,” Scherzer said. “I felt like after that, I was able to settle down and locate my fastball. From then, I was able to execute pitches. I felt like I had all four pitches, fastball, curveball, changeup, slider. That’s what allowed me to be successful.”
For those watching, it looked like playing catch at times. For Scherzer, his groove was a thought process more than anything.
“For me, you’re just concentrating on which hitter’s up and the sequencing you need to do, what pitches you want to start him with and what pitches you want to finish him,” Scherzer said. “You’re constantly working with Alex, what his game plan is, what my game plan is, how we wanted to attack them. Tonight I felt like we did a good job of blending the two games together. There’s times I trusted him and there’s times I felt like I had the right pitch. And between the two of us, we were able to consistently throw the right pitch. When you have that type of execution, good things can happen.”
Play of the game: It would be difficult not to give that honor to Cabrera for his go-ahead two-run homer on a pitch diving down and away. Check out the game story for more.
Outs of the game: Scherzer told manager Jim Leyland he was fine to pitch the eighth, and he didn’t disappoint. Knowing it was his last inning, he combined his adrenaline with his philosophy that the last 15 pitches are the most important of the game. He then proceeded to strike out of the bottom third of the Indians lineup in order.
“I definitely had the adrenaline flowing in that situation,” Scherzer said. “With Giambi up, you know he’s a great hitter, anytime he can strike. I think I started him off with two changeups and was able to finish him with a fastball. Those types of sequencing in those type of at-bats, when you go back in that situation when you know that’s your last inning, to go back and throw as hard as you can, you try to collect outs.”
Strategy: After Torii Hunter’s ninth-inning groundout advanced Andy Dirks and Omar Infante to second and third base, respectively, Terry Francona opted to intentionally walk Cabrera and take his chances against Prince Fielder. Fielder’s single scored another vital insurance run, making it a 5-1 game. It’s the second time in four games Fielder has followed an intentional walk to Cabrera with an RBI hit.
Line of the night: Scherzer’s pitching’s line was just outanding — 8 innings, 2 hits, a run, a walk and 7 strikeouts.
Stat of the night: 28 — career home runs for Miguel Cabrera against Cleveland, most for him against any opponent.
Print it: “He’s a hard guy to get out. No matter when he’s up there, no matter what the situation is, he’s a tough guy to get out. When he grinds that at-bat out, it’s something to see.” — Jim Leyland on Cabrera
Small sample size, but right-handed hitters are batting way higher (20-for-56, .357) off Corey Kluber than left-handed hitters (14-for-57, .256). It’s big enough for Jim Leyland to take a shot and start Matt Tuiasosopo against a right-hander for a change. With Tuiasosopo in left, Andy Dirks will make his first start in center since Sept. 26, 2011.
On the Indians side, Nick Swisher is out of the lineup tonight after his wife gave birth earlier today. He has been placed on the paternity leave list.
No word yet whether he’ll go on the paternity list.
You’ve got a couple of good choices if you want to play a Tiger in MLB.com’s Beat the Streak game. Both Miguel Cabrera and Omar Infante have very good numbers off Corey Kluber. Cabrera is coming off a red-hot series in Texas, while Peralta is facing his old team. That said, Peralta went just 1-for-27 at Progressive Field last season. I still went with Peralta.
- Andy Dirks, CF (2-for-11, 3 K’s off Kluber)
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-3, K off Kluber)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-9, HR, walk, 3 K’s off Kluber)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (2-for-7, HR off Kluber)
- Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-3, walk off Kluber)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (4-for-7, walk, K off Kluber)
- Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
- Alex Avila, C (2-for-7, walk, 2 K’s off Kluber)
- Omar Infante, 2B (2-for-6 off Kluber)
P: Max Scherzer
- Michael Bourn, CF (1-for-11, walk, 4 K’s vs. Scherzer)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-14, 2 walks, 4 K’s vs. Scherzer)
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (7-for-29, HR, 2 walks, 11 K’s vs. Scherzer)
- Michael Brantley, LF (7-for-25, HR, walk, K vs. Scherzer)
- Carlos Santana, C (3-for-23, 4 walks, 3 K’s vs. Scherzer)
- Mark Reynolds, 1B (0-for-8, walk, 5 K’s vs. Scherzer)
- Jason Giambi, DH (0-for-3, 2 K’s vs. Scherzer)
- Mike Aviles, 3B (4-for-10, K vs. Scherzer)
- Drew Stubbs, RF (0-for-3, K vs. Scherzer)
P: Corey Kluber