June 2013

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Orioles

Jim Leyland had a couple of choices to make today. He had to choose between Matt Tuiasosopo or Avisail Garcia for left field, and he had to decide whether Brayan Pena would still be his catcher against left-handed starting pitchers. Pena, as mentioned yesterday, has been stronger against righties this year, and Bryan Holaday’s strength at the plate in Toledo was against southpaws. The fact that Tuiasosopo gets the start in left makes one wonder whether Garcia is simply a placeholder for the next couple days until Jose Alvarez arrives, since the Tigers clearly don’t need an extra reliever these days.

If it was another pitcher going for Detroit, maybe Holaday would get the start, because Leyland suggested he would get the start against Boston’s Jon Lester this weekend. But catching Justin Verlander is a whole other matter.

On the other side, the O’s have brought up Travis Ishikawa, giving them a left-handed bat to help get some production out of the DH spot. Chris Dickerson’s three-strikeout game last night dropped him to 5-for-31 in June with two doubles, no home runs, no RBIs and 15 strikeouts.

Austin Jackson doesn’t hit a lot of left-handed pitchers too well, but he hits this one, so he gets my pick in Beat the Streak. You can check out other picks around the league here if you want, but you probably don’t have to. This one’s solid.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers off Britton)

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

P: Justin Verlander

ORIOLES (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Nate McLouth, LF (2-for-9, walk, K)
  2. Manny Machado, 3B (1-for-6, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Nick Markakis, RF (10-for-41, 2 walks, 10 K’s)
  4. Adam Jones, CF (2-for-24, walk, 8 K’s)
  5. Chris Davis, 1B (3-for-14, 2 walks, 8 K’s)
  6. Matt Wieters, C (3-for-17, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  7. J.J. Hardy, SS (6-for-28, 2 HR, walk, 6 K’s)
  8. Travis Ishikawa, DH
  9. Ryan Flaherty, 2B (0-for-4, K)

P: Zach Britton

Game 68: It’s not just about wins with Scherzer

Max Scherzer pitches his way into Wabash George territory. (AP)

Max Scherzer pitches his way into Wabash George territory. (AP)

Max Scherzer clearly doesn’t want to be known as the guy who just wins games. He called wins and losses a “flukey” stat when he picked up his ninth win last Tuesday in Kansas City, and he brought out the term again when he beat the Orioles Monday night.

At 10-0, though, the narrative is hard to control. At this point, he’s better off enjoying the history.

“When you start realizing the history of this organization, to be 10-0, it’s great,” Scherzer said. “But at the same time, win-loss is kind of a flukey stat. Sometimes when you play with a good offensive team, you can run into these types of streaks.

“The reason I’m pitching well isn’t because I’m 10-0, it’s because of the other things I’m doing. I’m inducing quick outs, pitching deeper into games, generating strikeouts, minimizing walks, doing all the little things it takes to be a good pitcher. So that’s what I hang my hat on of being a good pitcher.”

The only other starting pitcher in Tigers history to go 10-0 to start a season was George Mullin in 1909. He went 11-0 on his way to a 29-8 season that year. A bio from David Cicotello from SABR says he was known for a “fearful fastball and biting curve.”

That said, Mullin struck out 124 batters over 303 2/3 innings in that 1909 season, posting a 29-8 record with a 2.22 ERA. Scherzer will have a chance to match or top that strikeout total in his next start, having fanned 116 batters over 96 1/3 innings so far.

His curveball, a pitch he developed last year, is now a legitimate part of his arsenal, and a big reason in Scherzer’s view behind his success. Leyland sees better pitching overall.

“I think his command is better,” Leyland said. “I think that other pitch has helped him. Those are two things that would add up it a little more. I think he has a terrific fastball. I think it’s harder to pick up and it’s hard to say something’s sneaky when it’s 94 or 95 but I think it kind of is. Some guy’s deliveries, you can see it all the way, there’s not much deception. But I think his is almost, it kind of shoots out. It’s a little different.”

As his strikeout of Chris Davis with the bases loaded in the fifth shows, Scherzer can throw his fastball right where he wants it, too. He threw to Pena’s mitt on his 1-2 and 2-2 fastballs, and Pena barely made a move. His 97 mph fastball on the full count, after Davis had fouled off a changeup, would’ve been ball four had Davis held off. But he chased it.

“It was a ball,” Davis said. “Like I said, when you’re throwing that hard and you’re throwing a number of pitches for strikes, you assume that he’s going to throw a strike. I was looking for a ball over the plate. He got me to chase.”

Maybe Scherzer can dismiss 10-0 as flukey. His numbers over the past 365 days are tougher to brush off. He’s now 21-3 with a 2.78 ERA since last June 17, striking out 259 batters over 213 2/3 innings.

Pitch of the game: Scherzer claims it was the 3-1 pitch to Nick Markakis with two on and one out in that fifth inning.

“I felt like it was a fastball count, and I was ready to throw a fastball,” Scherzer said. “I’d just missed with a 2-1 changeup low in the zone, and he did a great job of taking it, because I felt that was a great pitch. It was 3-1, first and second one out. I mean, that’s a bad situation to be in. And Pena put down changeup again. It took a second, but all of a sudden I trusted him.”

Everyone else said it was the at-bat against Davis, and staying composed to execute a fastball on 3-2 that was good enough to get a swing and miss.

“The fact that Davis got pretty good at-bats against us the previous two at-bats, for Max to strike him out with a fastball, that says a lot about Max,” Pena said. “He showed there that he’s one of the best, if not 1-2, I think, him and Justin. He’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable, the fact that he was giving us everything that he got in that inning, especially after those two very close calls.”

Line of the night: As good as Scherzer was, you have to give the pitching line of the night to Drew Smyly, who threw three perfect innings in relief of Scherzer for his second save of three or more innings this year.

Stat of the night: 7 – Sacrifice flies by Victor Martinez this year, tying him for the Major League lead with Albert Pujols. Martinez is 2-for-11 with a runner on third base and less than two outs this year, but he has 12 RBIs thanks to the sac flies.

Print it: “The 2-2 was the [close] one. I turned around, not trying to show him up, because I would never do that, but he screamed. He usually screams before he rings somebody up. That’s why I thought that he was ringing him up, but he didn’t.” — Pena on the close call on the 2-2 pitch to Davis.

Monday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Orioles

As you probably heard, Alex Avila is on the disabled list, leaving the Tigers mixing Brayan Pena and Bryan Holaday. Pena makes his first start since last Wednesday in Kansas City.

Not a lot of experience for Tigers hitters against O’s starter Jake Arrieta, so I ended up going with the hot bat with leadoff man Austin Jackson in Beat the Streak. MLB.com writers’ picks can be found here.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers vs. Jake Arrieta)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-3, K)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-7, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (1-for-3)
  7. Andy Dirks, LF
  8. Omar Infante, 2B
  9. Brayan Pena, C

P: Max Scherzer

ORIOLES (career numbers off Scherzer)

  1. Nate McLouth, LF (0-for-8, 5 K’s)
  2. Manny Machado, 3B (0-for-4, 2 K’s)
  3. Nick Markakis, RF (4-for-13, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  4. Adam Jones, CF (8-for-15, HR, 4 K’s)
  5. Chris Davis, 1B (5-for-14, 5 K’s)
  6. Matt Wieters, C (5-for-14, 2 K’s)
  7. J.J. Hardy, SS (3-for-20, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
  8. Chris Dickerson, DH (0-for-6, 4 K’s)
  9. Ryan Flaherty, 2B (0-for-3, K)

P: Jake Arrieta

Tigers place Sanchez, Avila on 15-day DL

As you probably heard already, the Tigers made two DL moves today, placing right-hander Anibal Sanchez (right shoulder strain) and catcher Alex Avila (deep contusion on left forearm) on the 15-day disabled list.

Both are expected to be minimal DL stints. Sanchez returned home on Sunday for an MRI on his right shoulder. The results showed no structural damage. Avila was still waiting for x-rays as of Monday afternoon, but a preliminary exam taken after Sunday’s game came back negative for structural damage.

“I think they will both be ready in two weeks,” Leyland said.

In Avila’s case, both Leyland and Avila think he could be ready in a matter of days, but they can’t afford to go more than a couple days with only one catcher.

“I don’t think it’s broken,” Avila said, “but obviously it’s something that’ll probably take a few days and we can’t leave the team short-handed.”

Bryan Holaday has been recalled from Triple-A Toledo to take Avila’s place. His average has dropped since his torrid May hitting, but with a .259 average and .702 OPS, he’s still enjoying his best offensive season as a pro.

He will not be an emergency catcher. He’s going to play some games, though the mix isn’t quite clear.

“The playing time will be just kind of a gut feel thing for me,” Leyland said.

If it’s a platoon, ironically, it could put Brayan Pena in a stronger role. Though Pena was signed to spell Avila against left-handed starters, he has actually hit better against right-handers (15-for-40, 2 HR, 9 RBIs) this year than lefties (11-for-48, 3 RBIs). Holaday hasn’t faced many lefties in Toledo, but he’s batting .308 (12-for-39, two doubles, triple) against them.

As for Sanchez’s spot, Jose Alvarez will be called up from Triple-A Toledo on Thursday to start the series opener against the Red Sox. Alvarez, of course, made a huge impression in a spot start last homestand, tossing six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts against the Indians June 9.

“It looks like we should miss Anibal for two starts and he’ll be right back in there,” Leyland said.

Tigers agree to terms with Knebel

The Tigers added to their draft signings by agreeing to terms with Corey Knebel, the 39th overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft two weeks ago.

The former University of Texas closer said on draft night that he expected a deal to be completed shortly, so a deal had been expected. It took a little longer than fellow Tigers first-round pick Jonathon Crawford, but Knebel is in the fold. Baseball America’s Jim Callis first reported the deal Monday.

Major League Baseball’s slotting system pegged the signing bonus for Knebel’s slot at $1,433,400. Knebel got the full slot value, according to Callis.

Tigers vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd said earlier this month that the team envisions Knebel as a starter. For the time being, though, he’ll begin his pro career in the bullpen. Knebel is eventually expected to join Crawford and other Tigers draft picks at short-season Class A Connecticut, but will begin working out in Lakeland.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

Torii Hunter returns to the lineup as expected, making for a pretty standard lineup. Prince Fielder is DHing today, something Jim Leyland has been looking to do for a game since Kansas City.

Meanwhile, Alex Avila makes his third consecutive start behind the plate, his slump now at 0-for-19 and his average down to .163 — his lowest since mid-April. His 0-for-8 history against P.J. Walters doesn’t bode well for breaking that today. After alternating starts with Brayan Pena for stretches over the last few weeks, this might be Plan B.

No Josh Willingham again for the Twins. MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports he received a cortisone shot in his left knee yesterday.

Those who have seen the Tigers against P.J. Walters would not be surprised by the numbers. Prince Fielder is the major exception. He was the obvious Beat the Streak pick, which of course might leave him hitless. You can see other picks around the league here.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers off P.J. Walters)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-6)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-5, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-16, HR, 4 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, DH (5-for-11, 2 HR, 3 walks)
  5. Victor Martinez, 1B (1-for-3)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (4-for-12, HR, 3 K’s)
  7. Andy Dirks, LF (4-for-10, HR, 2 K’s)
  8. Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-4, walk)
  9. Alex Avila, C (0-for-8, 2 walks, K)

P: Doug Fister

TWINS (career numbers off Doug Fister)

  1. Clete Thomas, CF
  2. Joe Mauer, C (7-for-27, HR, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
  3. Ryan Doumit, DH (2-for-9, K)
  4. Justin Morneau, 1B (8-for-22, HR, 5 K’s)
  5. Oswaldo Arcia, LF
  6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (2-for-14, HR, K)
  7. Chris Parmelee, RF (2-for-5, walk, K)
  8. Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-6, K)
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS (0-for-6, 3 K’s)

P: P.J. Walters

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

Jim Leyland said a few days ago that he planned on giving Torii Hunter the Saturday game off. He didn’t want to do it Wednesday against James Shields, and he sure wasn’t going to do it Friday against Twins lefty Scott Diamond. As promised, Hunter is out of the lineup. Don Kelly takes his place in right field, batting seventh.

The Twins welcome back Trevor Plouffe from the disabled list, but Josh Willingham (2-for-16 off Anibal Sanchez with seven strikeouts and eight walks) is off.

I took a chance with the small sample size and went with Jhonny Peralta on Beat the Streak. Andy Dirks would’ve been the true splits play, in hindsight. You can check out all the picks from MLB.com’s beat folks here.

Quick reminder that tonight’s game is on FOX, not FS Detroit as usual. If you’re stuck in a region getting another game (and there are about five regional games tonight), I wish I could help you. You can follow along online with Gameday, or listen to the broadcast here

TIGERS (career numbers off Sam Deduno)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-5, HR, walk, K)
  2. Andy Dirks, LF (6-for-10)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (2-for-8, walk, K)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-4, 4 walks, K)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-3)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (3-for-6, 2 walks, K)
  7. Don Kelly, RF (1-for-3, HR)
  8. Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-6, walk)
  9. Alex Avila, C (1-for-7, walk, 3 K’s)

P: Anibal Sanchez

TWINS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Clete Thomas, CF
  2. Joe Mauer, DH (5-for-12, walk, 3 K’s)
  3. Ryan Doumit, DH (3-for-14, walk, 7 K’s)
  4. Justin Morneau, 1B (3-for-14, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Oswaldo Arcia, LF (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
  6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (2-for-8, 2 K’s)
  7. Chris Parmelee, RF (1-for-10, walk, 3 K’s)
  8. Brian Dozier, 2B (0-for-7, 2 K’s)
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS (3-for-7, K)

P: Sam Deduno

Friday: Tigers at Twins

I’m off this weekend, but as usual, I’ll try to post the lineups here. In the case of Friday’s series opener, it includes Austin Jackson back atop the batting order.

One other interesting change: Alex Avila, not Brayan Pena, is catching tonight with left-hander Scott Diamond on the mound for the Twins. Avila will bat ninth.

On the Twins side, former Tiger Clete Thomas is starting in center field with Aaron Hicks on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

TIGERS (career numbers off Diamond)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (4-for-18, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (10-for-19, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-14, walk, 4 K’s)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-11, K)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (4-for-18, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  7. Matt Tuiasosopo, RF (1-for-5)
  8. Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-10, HR)
  9. Alex Avila, C (1-for-3, 2 K’s)

P: Rick Porcello

TWINS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Jamey Carroll, 3B (9-for-22, walk)
  2. Joe Mauer, C (9-for-30, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Ryan Doumit, RF (4-for-13, walk, K)
  4. Josh Willingham, DH (7-for-13, 2 HR, 4 walks, K)
  5. Justin Morneau, 1B (7-for-29, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  6. Oswaldo Arcia, LF
  7. Clete Thomas, CF
  8. Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-8, HR, K)
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS (1-for-3)

P: Scott Diamond

Tigers sign top pick, 18 other selections

The Tigers have agreed to terms with top pick Jonathon Crawford, the former University of Florida right-hander who went 20th overall in last week’s First-Year Player Draft.

The deal had been expected, both for the spot where Crawford was drafted and its accompanying draft slot. Terms weren’t announced, but the 20th overall selection carried a slot of $2,001,700.

Most likely, Crawford will report to short-season Class A Connecticut. Tigers VP of amateur scouting David Chadd said last week that he expected Crawford and the other pitchers they selected on the first day of the draft — right-hander Corey Knebel from the University of Texas went with the 39th overall selection, while Vanderbilt left-hander Kevin Ziomek went with the 58th pick — to begin their careers there. Neither Knebel nor Ziomek have signed yet.

The Tigers announced deals with 18 other selections from the draft Friday, but none earlier than the fifth-round selection. Among the other signings:

  • 5th rounder Buck Farmer, RHP, Georgia Tech
  • 6th rounder Calvin Drummond, RHP, Arizona Christian
  • 8th rounder Zach Reininger, RHP, Hill (TX) JC
  • 10th rounder Kasey Coffman, CF, Arizona State
  • 12th rounder Dominic Ficociello, 3B, Arkansas
  • 13th rounder Austin Green, C, Univ. of San Diego
  • 14th rounder Ben Verlander, OF, Old Dominion
  • 16th rounder Duncan McAlpine, C, Dallas Baptist
  • 18th rounder Jonathan Maciel, RHP, Cal State Long Beach
  • 19th rounder Austin Pritcher, RHP, The Citadel
  • 21st rounder Curt Powell, SS, Georgia
  • 25th rounder Johnnie Kirkland, RHP, Southeastern
  • 27th rounder Joe Mantiply, LHP, Virginia Tech
  • 28th rounder Scott Sitz, RHP, Florida State
  • 30th rounder Ryan Beck, LHP, New Mexico State
  • 31st rounder Brett Huber, RHP, Mississippi
  • 32nd rounder Tanner Bailey, RHP, Mississippi
  • 40th rounder Taylor Johnson, 2B, St. Edwards

Jackson activated from DL, Garcia to Toledo

After a month on the disabled list, Austin Jackson is back in the Tigers lineup. The team recalled him from his rehab assignment and activated him from the DL on Friday ahead of the series opener against the Twins.

Avisail Garcia, who filled in at center field and eventually became close to an everyday presence in the Tigers lineup, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo to make room. He batted .288 (19-for-66) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs and 10 RBIs with the Tigers.

For now, Garcia’s move down preserves the mix of Andy Dirks and Matt Tuiasosopo in left field.