Jim Leyland is playing the reverse lineups today against James Shields, who’s allowing a .198 average to left-handed hitters this year compared to .273 to righties.
With this lineup, Leyland said he was weighing who to lead off. He ultimately went with Avisail Garcia.
TIGERS (career numbers off Shields)
1. Avisail Garcia, cf
2. Torii Hunter, rf (12-for-36, 8 K’s)
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3b (14-for-30, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
4. Prince Fielder, 1b (1-for-8, 2 walks)
5. Victor Martinez, dh (7-for-22, 7 K’s)
6. Jhonny Peralta, ss (10-for-24, 3 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
7. Matt Tuiasosopo, lf (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
8. Brayan Pena, c (2-for-5, walk, K)
9. Ramon Santiago, ss (5-for-19, 5 K’s)
P: Justin Verlander
ROYALS (career numbers off Verlander)
1. Alex Gordon, lf (11-for-51, 2 HR, 4 walks, 19 K’s)
2. Eric Hosmer, 1b (4-for-23, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
3. Salvador Perez, c (3-for-10, K)
4. Billy Butler, dh (23-for-55, 2 HR, 5 walks, 7 K’s)
5. Lorenzo Cain, cf (1-for-3)
6. David Lough, rf
7. Mike Moustakas, 3b (3-for-21, walk, 5 K’s)
8. Elliot Johnson, 2b (0-for-2, K)
9. Alcides Escobar, ss
P: James Shields
The one change for the Tigers today is in center field, where Don Kelly starts the start over Avisail Garcia.
TIGERS (35-27) (career numbers off Wade Davis)
- Andy Dirks, LF (1-for-6)
- Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-10, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-12, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (0-for-2, 2 walks)
- Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-12, 2 walks, K)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (4-for-13, walk, K)
- Alex Avila, C (2-for-7, 2 HR, 4 walks, K)
- Omar Infante, 2B (2-for-6)
- Don Kelly, CF (2-for-5, K)
P: Max Scherzer
ROYALS (29-32) (career numbers off Scherzer)
- Alex Gordon, LF (8-for-20, HR, 6 walks, 4 K’s)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (5-for-15, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Salvador Perez, C (6-for-9, 2 HR)
- Billy Butler, DH (11-for-39, walk, 6 K’s)
- Lorenzo Cain, CF (0-for-3, K)
- David Lough, RF
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (1-for-17, 4 K’s)
- Chris Getz, 2B (4-for-10, 2 walks)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (6-for-22, 2 HR, 3 K’s)
P: Wade Davis
Doug Fister is a 6-foot-8 pitcher who can field his position like an infielder. He can pound hitters into groundouts, or he can use his breaking ball to rack up strikeouts. With a healthy season so far, he’s reminding people how effective he can be when he can take the ball every five games and get the repetitions his health never really allowed him last year until the stretch run and postseason.
What he cannot do at this point is score runs for himself. That, at this point, is the hang-up.
The numbers over Fister’s last four starts are pretty good: 30 1/3 innings, 28 hits, nine runs earned, three walks and 26 strikeouts. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of those four games, pitched into the ninth inning June 5 against the Rays, then pitched an eight-inning complete game loss in Kansas City last night.
“Actually, if we had taken the lead, I was going to put him back out there [for the ninth],” manager Jim Leyland said.
He’s 0-3 in these last four starts, in no small part because the Tigers have scored four runs total over those last four outings. He went back-to-back outings without the Tigers scoring a run for him.
“Man, I feel so bad for him,” Torii Hunter said. “He’s been pitching his butt off. We just can’t get a win for him right now. He keeps going out there, he keeps chucking the ball. Eventually, we’re going to get something going for him.”
His second start in this four-start stretch made him the first Tiger in history (or at least since 1916, as far back as the data goes) to pitch seven or more scoreless innings with 12 or more strikeouts and not get a win. Last night added him to the complete-game loss category, which has been pretty rare for the Tigers under Jim Leyland.
Seven Tigers have pitched complete-game losses since 2006. Justin Verlander has four of them, including two last season. Fister is the first Tigers pitcher other than Verlander to throw a complete-game loss since Armando Galarraga did it in his final start as a Tiger, taking a 2-1 loss at Baltimore on Oct. 2, 2010.
“I felt good, felt strong,” Fister said after the game. “I appreciate the confidence that [Leyland] has in me.”
Play of the game: Salvador Perez’s third-inning triple not only drove in two games, it put him in position to score the go-ahead run two batters later on Lorenzo Cain’s infield single. It was a ball hit in right-center field enough that both Avisail Garcia and Torii Hunter went after it until the last second, leaving no one backing up the play once the ball got by Garcia’s diving attempt.
Out of the game: Miguel Cabrera generally pounds Royals pitching, but he’s now 0-for-6 lifetime against Aaron Crow. Ned Yost went to him in the seventh inning after Jeremy Guthrie hit Andy Dirks on a two-strike pitch to put the potential go-ahead run on base and move the tying run into scoring position.
Crow could have opted to walk Cabrera and load the bases after falling behind on a 2-0 count. Instead, he spotted a slider for strike one, got Cabrera to foul back a 95 mph fastball to even up the count, then sent down the Triple Crown winner swinging at another slider to end the inning.
Line of the night: Guthrie didn’t strike out a single batter over 6 1/3 innings, and walked three, but still held Detroit to two runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings to improve to 7-3.
Stat of the night: 6 — Inherited runners stranded by Crow in four June outings. He allowed half of his 10 inherited runners to score in May.
Nothing unusual here. The hitters in the middle of the Tigers order all have some success off of Jeremy Guthrie, who’s holding hitters to a .205 average at Kauffman Stadium this year.
As someone pointed out on twitter, Jhonny Peralta won’t have to worry about Jeff Francoeur’s arm if he wants to go from first to third on a single tonight. David Lough gets the start in right field.
One note for down the road: Jim Leyland gave a heads-up today and said he’s considering giving Matt Tuiasosopo a start against James Shields, who’s currently holding left-handed hitters to a .198 average compared to .273 for righties. He has similar reverse splits for his career, but not nearly so big. Leyland isn’t committed to it, but said he’s pondering it.
The Tigers’ past success off Guthrie led me to try doubling down in Beat the Streak. This time, though, I took a chance and went away from Cabrera in favor of Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta. You can see all the MLB.com beat writers’ picks here.
TIGERS (career numbers off Guthrie)
- Andy Dirks, LF (3-for-10, 2 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (8-for-26, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (9-for-26, 2 HR, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (5-for-9, 2 walks)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-14, 2 walks, K)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (7-for-21, 2 walks, K)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-14, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Omar Infante, 2B (2-for-7, HR)
- Avisail Garcia, CF
P: Doug Fister
ROYALS (career numbers off Fister)
- Alex Gordon, LF (5-for-17, 3 K’s)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (2-for-7, walk)
- Salvador Perez, C (2-for-12, K)
- Billy Butler, DH (6-for-19, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Lorenzo Cain, CF
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (4-for-10, HR, 2 K’s)
- David Lough, RF (1-for-4, K)
- Chris Getz, 2B (1-for-5, 2 walks)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (5-for-18, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
P: Jeremy Guthrie
What do teams look for when they sign minor-league free agents? It depends on the team.
If you’re a rebuilding team, maybe you’re looking for a diamond in the rough.
If you’re a team trying to keep a Triple-A affiliate happy, you’re looking for a player or two to help your farm team win.
If you’re a contending team, maybe you’re looking for a role player.
If you’re a stacked team with a roster that’s pretty well set, you’re usually looking for an insurance policy in case of injury.
The Tigers fell into the latter two categories this past offseason. They ended up filling both. For a contending team with few opportunities to offer minor-league free agents, it’s a pretty big feat.
Add Jose Alvarez’s gem Sunday to the work that Matt Tuiasosopo and Don Kelly have already put in for the Tigers this year, and you have three minor-league free agent signings paying dividends on a team that supposedly didn’t have any opportunities. It won’t win any awards, but so far, it has helped the Tigers win games.
The Tigers essentially put up their sixth starter (seventh if you count Drew Smyly) against an opposing team’s ace and won. The crushing blow came from the guy labeled their 25th man.
“I think the tribute goes to our minor-league manager [Phil Nevin in Toledo] and Al Avila,” manager Jim Leyland said after Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Indians. “You tip your cap to them obviously. I knew Tuiasosopo but I didn’t know much about him, and I didn’t know Alvarez at all.”
Alvarez was a young lefty arm the Tigers thought had some promise. He was a minor-league free agent at age 23, and Tigers evaluators saw more there than the stats showed. There was some early thought he could come to Spring Training and compete for a lefty relief job. When the Tigers had their early list of minor-league signings, he was somebody they were happy about.
Tuiasosopo’s signing has been well-documented from Spring Training, a guy who sent out emails looking for a chance and found an opportunity in Detroit, where the Tigers had tried to sign him a year earlier. It’s doubtful anyone imagined him having the kind of impact two months in that he has.
The Tigers obviously knew what Kelly could do. They weren’t sure they would re-sign him, but the lack of better opportunities elsewhere led him back.
Leyland bristles at the notion that they brought back Kelly because he likes him.
“I’m almost tired of reading that, how I like Don Kelly and I like Jose Valverde,” Leyland said. “I mean, of course I like Jose Valverde. He’s done a terrific job. But that has nothing to do with it. To be honest with you, if Quintin Berry could’ve played the infield and the outfield like Donnie Kelly is, he’d have probably made the team because of his speed. It doesn’t work that way.
“People keep talking about these things. What’s our better option than Valverde? What’s our better option than Donnie Kelly right now for the 25th player? If you had those options, you’d take them. But I do have a soft spot for him as a human being, yes, because he’s a wonderful, wonderful kid, the same as Valverde. But I don’t know what people think these alternatives are. They just throw stuff out there, like I should close with Rick Porcello. I mean, come on. People just talk. They don’t think about it.”
The fact that Avisail Garcia is garnering the bulk of the playing time in center field shows some response to Kelly’s slow start at the plate. But when Leyland looked for left-handed hitters to stack in his lineup against Justin Masterson, who’s holding right-handed batters under .200, Kelly was going to start.
He wasn’t expecting Kelly could take a slider low and in and send it out, but he’s not complaining.
“That was a huge hit for us,” Leyland said. “He’s done that some in the past. His average isn’t good, but that’s a pretty nice 25th player. I can bring him in to second, first, third, center, right, left, throw him in there against a tough righty like I did today. That’s a tough right-hander he hit it off of today.
“That’s not just some donkey he gets to hit. That’s not a fifth starter that he got to play against today. That’s a No. 1 guy. That’s pretty good.”
Jim Leyland has always taken a lefty-heavy approach against Justin Masterson. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But with right-handed hitters batting just .198 (23-for-116) off Masterson this season and .232 last year, compared with .237 and .296 respectively from left-handed batters, it’s worth a shot.
That is why you see Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago in the lineup. Jhonny Peralta is just 1-for-15 with six strikeouts for his career off Masterson. Santiago isn’t much better at 1-for-11, but at least has three walks mixed in. Kelly, meanwhile, is 6-for-17 off Masterson.
Terry Francona, meanwhile, is throwing right-handed hitters at Jose Alvarez, aside from Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis at the top of the order. Left-handed hitters batted just .145 off Alvarez this year, compared with .236 from right-handed batters.
After backing away from Miguel Cabrera on Beat the Streak yesterday for fear of his numbers off Carlos Carrasco, I went back to Cabrera (11-for-28 off Masterson) today. You can look at MLB.com’s beat writer picks here.
TIGERS (career numbers off Masterson)
- Andy Dirks, LF (5-for-19, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (9-for-22, 3 HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (11-for-28, 2 HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (4-for-11, HR, 2 walks, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (6-for-15, 3 walks, K)
- Don Kelly, CF (6-for-17)
- Alex Avila, C (6-for-19, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Ramon Santiago, SS (1-for-11, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-8, walk)
P: Jose Alvarez
- Michael Bourn, CF
- Jason Kipnis, 2B
- Nick Swisher, 1B
- Mark Reynolds, 3B
- Carlos Santana, C
- Jonny Gomes, DH
- Ryan Raburn, LF
- Mike Aviles, SS
- Drew Stubbs, RF
P: Justin Masterson
Originally, this was supposed to be Justin Masterson’s start for the Tribe. Instead, Masterson is starting Sunday, and Carlos Carrasco is making the start today. The Tigers have way fewer at-bats against Carrasco, but he held Miguel Cabrera to 1-for-7 in 2009 and 2010. Torii Hunter, on the other hand, is 3-for-6 with two home runs off of him. I had both of them on my Beat the Streak list when Masterson was the scheduled starter, but decided to go with Hunter by himself when the pitching change happened.
TIGERS (numbers off Carrasco)
- Andy Dirks, LF
- Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-6, 2 HR, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (1-for-7, walk, K)
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-2)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (2-for-3)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-3, K)
- Omar Infante, 2B
- Avisail Garcia, CF
P: Rick Porcello
INDIANS (numbers off Porcello)
- Michael Bourn, CF
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (5-for-18, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Nick Swisher, 1B (6-for-22, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Michael Brantley, LF (7-for-25, HR, 3 walks, K)
- Mark Reynolds, 3B (4-for-10, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Carlos Santana, DH (9-for-27, 3 HR, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Yan Gomes, C (2-for-4, K)
- Ryan Raburn, RF (0-for-2, K)
- Mike Aviles, SS (2-for-6)
P: Carlos Carrasco
The Tigers were one of the last couple teams in the big leagues to get through the season with just five starters so far. The way their rotation has been pitching, they didn’t look like they had any changes coming soon. With an injury to Anibal Sanchez, however, they’re about to need a spot starter.
Jim Leyland announced this afternoon that Sanchez will not make his scheduled start Sunday. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand characterized the injury as shoulder stiffness, while Sanchez said it was more around his upper back.
Sanchez said he had the same injury last year in spring training with the Marlins, but skipping a start cleared it up. The fact that he was able to throw his side session yesterday makes it sound like much the same thing, but time will tell.
With Sanchez out, the Tigers are calling up left-hander Jose Alvarez from Triple-A Toledo to make what they hope is a spot start. Had this whole thing happened early in the year, Drew Smyly would’ve probably filled in. At this point, however, Smyly isn’t stretched out enough to cover more than a few innings.
The Tigers signed Alvarez as a minor-league free agent last offseason. He currently leads the International League with 76 strikeouts while ranking second with a 2.42 ERA and third with 74 1/3 innings.
By now, you know the deal with Jim Leyland and his handshakes. It’s his way of congratulating his starting pitcher on a good effort. If he gives his starter a handshake on his way into the dugout at the end of an inning, he’s done. It’s the way to tell whether the Tigers are going to the bullpen for the next inning.
The Tigers starters obviously know it, too. On Friday, Justin Verlander tried to circumvent the system, as he put it. His manager didn’t take too kindly to it.
Verlander had just thrown a seven-pitch seventh inning and had 108 pitches on the night. That was clearly enough for Leyland, who was waiting at the dugout steps to greet him like he always does. Verlander was headed that way when he took a right turn and swerves towards the other dugout steps.
“Leyland always stands right there at the end of the stairs,” Verlander said. “He put me back out for the seventh, and I only threw like four or five pitches, so I tried to circumvent the system, and not get the customary handshake that you’re done. So I tried to go the other way and sneak around him, but he was too quick for me and caught me at the bottom of those stairs anyway.”
He was smiling about it. It didn’t become apparent until after the game that Leyland didn’t find it funny.
“You might think that was comical,” Leyland said, “but I don’t think that was comical at all.”
That was all Leyland wanted to say about it, apparently realizing what kind of attention that was about to bring.
“I’m not getting into that,” Leyland said a minute later. “I’ve made my statement about that. Let’s move on. I’m not talking about silly stuff. Let’s talk about baseball.”
Leyland, of course, does his postgame interview before Verlander. When Leyland’s reaction was relayed to Verlander, you could see Verlander genuinely surprised.
“If he wants to be mad, he can be mad,” Verlander said, “but I mean, I wanted to stay in the game. I had a quick inning and I wasn’t trying to play a joke on him. I just wanted to stay in the game. You know he always stands there and sticks out his hand so I figured if I snuck around him he’d let me go back out there.”
If Verlander was trying to send a message, Leyland sent his.
Not much new to report on the Tigers’ rehab front. Austin Jackson took batting practice with the team again on Friday, but there was no discussion about an impending rehab assignment. I’m sure that’s frustrating for Tigers fans, but the team medical staff wants to be sure when he gets going again that he’s at minimal risk of re-injuring his left hamstring.
The choices are about to get tougher for the Tigers as far as where to send him, because all three nearby minor-league teams are going to be on the road for a good chunk of next week. The Toledo Mud Hens begin a nine-day road trip Saturday, so Jackson would be in Rochester or Syracuse with the team if he went on assignment with them next week. The Erie SeaWolves are home for the weekend, then take off for Portland (Maine) and New Hampshire. West Michigan is home through Monday, then will be in Midland for three games against the Great Lakes Loons.
As for Octavio Dotel (remember him?), he still has to progress to the point where he can begin a rehab assignment. He hasn’t thrown a mound session in a couple days, but is still pain-free and working out in Lakeland according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. Dotel has missed a month and a half now with right elbow inflammation.