September 2013

Friday’s lineups: Tigers vs. White Sox

White Sox rookie Andre Rienzo has five quality outings in nine Major League starts this year. He won’t get a chance at another one tonight thanks to a blister on his ring finger. Dylan Axelrod will make the spot start in his place.

Other than Jose Iglesias, meanwhile, the Tigers have their standard right-hander lineup going, including Andy Dirks starting in left field for the first time since Sunday.

TIGERS (numbers off Axelrod)

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

P: Max Scherzer

WHITE SOX (numbers off Scherzer)

  1. Alejandro De Aza, LF (7-for-29, HR, 2 walks, 11 K’s)
  2. Alexei Ramirez, SS (4-for-39, 5 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Conor Gillaspie, 3B (3-for-8, HR, 2 K’s)
  4. Paul Konerko, 1B (9-for-39, 2 HR, 2 walks, 16 K’s)
  5. Adam Dunn, DH (8-for-32, 2 HR, 4 walks, 15 K’s)
  6. Avisail Garcia, RF (1-for-3)
  7. Jordan Danks, CF (2-for-4, walk, K)
  8. Gordon Beckham, 2B (5-for-29, 4 walks, 9 K’s)
  9. Josh Phegley, C (2-for-9)

P: Dylan Axelrod

X-rays negative on Iglesias’ left hand after HBP

The Tigers’ postseason infield took a scare Thursday with a 95 mph fastball off the left hand of shortstop Jose Iglesias. He left their series finale against the Mariners after the hit-by-pitch, but x-rays taken afterwards came back negative.

Iglesias is listed as day-to-day with a left hand contusion.

Iglesias went to the ground in obvious pain after the fastball from former Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen. He got back on his feet after a quick examination from head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, but promptly left the game and headed to the Tigers clubhouse for further examination.

It was the 11th pitch to hit Iglesias in 105 games this year, the fourth-highest hit-by-pitch total among American League players.

The Tigers have enjoyed a defensive resurgence in their middle infield since Iglesias took over at shortstop six weeks ago for suspended Jhonny Peralta. If Iglesias had a significant injury the prospect of Peralta returning from his suspension next week to play a major role on the Tigers would have taken on new meaning.

The Tigers have already said Peralta will not get his old shortstop job back from Iglesias. They’ve had Peralta taking fly balls in left field in preparation for potential utility work or spot duty as a right-handed bat. His 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal ends in a week.

For Thursday, Ramon Santiago moved over from third base to replace Iglesias at short. Don Kelly pinch-ran for Iglesias and entered the game at third base.

Phil Coke shut down with elbow tenderness

You could see the roll of the eyes from manager Jim Leyland on air when the question about Phil Coke came up. He had a pretty simple answer when asked about him, but that gesture said quite a bit on its own.

“Look, I’ll make this simple: Phil’s just not making good enough pitches to get big-league hitters out right now,” Leyland said. “I mean, he’s hanging his breaking ball, he’s throwing the ball in the middle of the plate. I mean, it’s as simple as that. And certainly nobody’s upset with him, but that’s the simple fact. I’ll answer it that way and we’ll move on to the next question.”

The next question on Coke might have been answered Thursday morning, when Leyland said he reported some elbow tenderness. The Tigers medical staff has shut him down for at least the next couple days to try to address it.

Coke said Thursday morning he has had soreness in his elbow off and on for most of the season, but Wednesday was the first time he felt something more specific. He had trouble finishing his pitches, and while he didn’t want to make it an excuse, he said it got into his head by the time he faced Michael Saunders, who doubled in a run off of him.

“It freaked me out,” Coke said of the feeling in his elbow.

Coke said earlier this week that he’s simplifying things, worrying more about results and less about mechanics. He felt good about the way he was pitching going into this, and he had some success in short, specific outings.

While he’s out, there’s a decent chance Jose Alvarez will get an opportunity or two against left-handed hitters.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Mariners

As expected, Victor Martinez is behind the plate, with Cabrera at DH and Ramon Santiago at third.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Omar Infante, 2B
  7. Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
  8. Ramon Santiago, 3B
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Doug Fister

MARINERS

  1. Dustin Ackley, CF
  2. Michael Saunders, RF
  3. Kyle Seager, 3B
  4. Kendrys Morales, DH
  5. Raul Ibanez, LF
  6. Justin Smoak, 1B
  7. Nick Franklin, 2B
  8. Mike Zunino, C
  9. Carlos Triunfel, SS

P: James Paxton

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Mariners

It’s a different looking lineup today as Jim Leyland weighs trying to play some right-handed hitters against right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma — who has actually been slightly tougher on left-handed hitters (.217 average, .603 OPS this year) than he has on righties (.235 average, .698 OPS) — with wanting to rest a couple right-handed hitters for Thursday’s matinee against lefty James Paxton. Torii Hunter is off, and Don Kelly gets a second consecutive start. Matt Tuiasosopo gets another start as Leyland gives him a chance to get going. He was already set to play left field Thursday, so he’ll get three consecutive starts in four days to try to make his case for postseason consideration.

Omar Infante is feeling OK despite sore quadriceps, but Leyland decided to give him the night game off before the day game against Paxton. Hernan Perez gets the start over Ramon Santiago.

The Mariners lineup features 42-year-old Henry Blanco behind the plate. Kendrys Morales is back in the cleanup spot, and his numbers off Verlander aren’t bad at all.

The bullpen is pretty close to full strength with Benoit and Smyly back from their days off. The one key out is Bruce Rondon, and it sounds unlikely he’ll be available this homestand. He threw long toss today and felt fine, but he’ll need to do that again tomorrow before being scheduled to throw off a mound again this weekend.

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

TIGERS (career numbers against Iwakuma)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (0-for-4, K)
  2. Don Kelly, RF (0-for-2)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (1-for-3)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (2-for-4, K)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-1, walk)
  6. Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-4, K)
  8. Hernan Perez, 2B
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-2, K)

P: Justin Verlander

MARINERS (career numbers against Verlander)

  1. Dustin Ackley, CF (2-for-6, 2 K’s)
  2. Franklin Gutierrez, RF (9-for-35, 2 HR, 2 walks, 10 K’s)
  3. Kyle Seager, 3B (3-for-4)
  4. Kendrys Morales, DH (8-for-21, HR, 5 K’s)
  5. Justin Smoak, 1B (3-for-8, HR, walk, 5 K’s)
  6. Michael Saunders, LF (2-for-14, 4 K’s)
  7. Nick Franklin, 2B
  8. Henry Blanco, C (1-for-3)
  9. Carlos Triunfel, SS

P: Hisashi Iwakuma

Larry Parrish back as Mud Hens manager

From the moment the Tigers parted ways with Phil Nevin as Mud Hens manager, Larry Parrish seemed like the obvious candidate to replace him. He had the job for nearly a decade, becoming the Hens’ winningest manager in the process, and the Tigers value both him and his evaluations on players. The move became official today.

Parrish left Toledo after the 2010 season to take a job as Atlanta Braves hitting coach, a position he held for a year. He returned to the organization this year and managed at low Class A West Michigan, but his value and his temperament best fit Triple-A and its combination of older prospects and veterans.

It’ll be the third stint in Toledo for Parrish, who managed the team from 1994 to ’97 and again from 2003 to 2010. He missed the 2007 for health reasons.

The one new face in Toledo will be the pitching coach. Al Nipper, who had been the Tigers’ roving pitching coordinator, essentially will swap spots with A.J. Sager, who had been the Hens pitching coach since Jeff Jones was promoted to Detroit in 2007. Leon Durham returns as hitting coach.

Game 151: Cabrera gets his swing back

Yes, it seemed like a long time to Miguel Cabrera, too.

“It’s been a long time [that] I don’t hit a home run,” Cabrera said after his solo homer Tuesday night. “It feels good right there. A long time.”

Three weeks, 14 games and 47 at-bats, to be more accurate.

The lead Cabrera’s 44th home run of the season created didn’t last long. The Mariners, who had tied the game in the sixth inning before Cabrera pulled the Tigers ahead, tied it again in the next inning.

The sense of relief over Cabrera’s first home run since Aug. 26 lasted a lot longer than the lead it created.

“I hit a couple balls in Chicago and here [last week] that maybe [had a chance to] go out,” Cabrera said, “but something was wrong with my swing. The ball didn’t carry very well. Right now I feel much better, and I feel on my swing the ball’s carrying again.”

After a first-inning walk, Cabrera flew out to center his second time up Tuesday, taking a fastball from Brandon Maurer before getting under a slider. He didn’t swing at a fastball until he goe one with a 2-2 pitch in the sixth inning. The result was a no-doubt launch to right-center field.

“He’s a great hitter. He’s just been missing,” manager Jim Leyland said.

Cabrera tied his career high in homers set last year. He briefly moved with six of Chris Davis’ AL lead before Davis hit his 51st home run minutes later. With 11 games left, Cabrera would need a miraculous finish to make up that kind of gap, even if Davis didn’t hit another home run the rest of the way. At this point, a third consecutive batting title looks like his eventual crown.

The big-picture goal, getting Cabrera back in form for the postseason, seems more attainable than it did even just a few days ago. He has been moving around better on his own, even dancing a bit around the clubhouse, in recent days. The only time he seemed noticeably hampered moving around was when he charged in from third on Michael Saunders’ fifth-inning bunt.

“I think that’s the only play [where] I’ve got problems right now,” Cabrera said. “The rest I feel very good.”

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Mariners

The only Tiger with any at-bats against M’s starter Brandon Maurer is Jose Iglesias, and that consisted of one at-bat before his trade over from Boston. However, there are no discernible trends to his pitching. Hitters have had a good amount of success against him from both sides of the plate, and he has given up a lot of home runs — 14 of them over just 72 2/3 innings.

The one surprise is Don Kelly getting the start over Andy Dirks, which Leyland attributed to just giving Kelly a game. Dirks did not look injured or anything when he went out for batting practice.

As expected, the Tigers bullpen is short again, but it gains an arm back. Jeremy Bonderman (thumb) felt fine throwing his bullpen session yesterday, so he’s available in relief tonight. Bruce Rondon (elbow tenderness) is scheduled to throw tomorrow, it turns out, not today. Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly are both on rest after their work in last night’s win, so look for Jose Veras to get a save chance if the opportunity arises.

Heads-up for Thursday: Leyland said today that he’s going to put Victor Martinez back behind the plate for Thursday’s series finale. Miguel Cabrera will get to DH that game, while Ramon Santiago will most likely get the start at third.

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

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Don Kelly, LF
  7. Omar Infante, 2B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-1 vs. Brandon Maurer)

P: Anibal Sanchez

MARINERS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Abraham Almonte, CF
  2. Franklin Gutierrez, RF (0-for-3)
  3. Kyle Seager, 3B
  4. Raul Ibanez, DH (7-for-26, 5 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Justin Smoak, 1B (0-for-6, 3 K’s)
  6. Michael Saunders, LF
  7. Mike Zunino, C
  8. Nick Franklin, 2B
  9. Carlos Triunfel, SS

P: Brandon Maurer

Reminder: Division Series tickets on sale at noon

Just a friendly reminder — especially for those of you who might have tried logging on or calling early — that tickets for Division Series games at Comerica Park go sale today at noon. They’re available online at tigers.com/postseason and by phone at 866-66-TIGER.

For Division Series tickets, there’s a limit of six tickets per order, per game.

The A’s actually lost to the Angels last night, so the gap between Detroit and Oakland for the American League’s second-best record is down to a game. Oakland’s magic number is also down to seven now because the Rangers keep losing. At this rate, the A’s might be able to clinch before the Tigers do. Add in Oakland’s remaining schedule — two more at home against the Angels, four against the Twins, three in Anaheim and three in Seattle — and it’s hard to tell which way the second seed is going to go.

This year’s Division Series return to a 2-2-1 format for home-and-road games. The schedule was released last week:

  • Game 1: Friday, Oct. 4 (TBS or MLB Network)
  • Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 5 (TBS)
  • Game 3: Monday, Oct. 7 (TBS or MLB Network)
  • Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 8 (TBS)
  • Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 10 (TBS)

If the Tigers get one of the top two seeds, they’ll host Games 1, 2 and 5. If they have the worst record of the three division winners, they’ll host Games 3 and 4.

Rick Porcello and the strikeout rate

Rick Porcello didn’t crack five strikeouts per nine innings for a season until his third year in the Major Leagues. That was two years ago. He bumped his strikeout rate a little bit from there to 5.5 last year. After Monday’s six-inning, 10-strikeout performance, he’s up to 6.96 this season. With matchups against the White Sox and Marlins due up to finish out his season, he has a legitimate chance to end the year averaging seven.

This is no longer the sinkerballing Porcello we’ve come to expect. This is more like the pure pitching Porcello some saw out of the draft in 2007. The sinker is still his dominant pitch, but it’s no longer the only thing he can throw for outs.

“You’ve got to be able to strike guys out, especially in the American League,” Porcello said after Monday’s 4-2 win. “With the type of hitters they have in big, strong guys, we have to be able to get swings and misses when you need them. I’ve been to do that a little bit better this year than I have in year’s past. It is a weapon.”

Mariners manager Eric Wedge would probably agree. His last year in Cleveland was Porcello’s first in Detroit, so he had a chance to watch him a lot as a rookie.

“He wasn’t really making mistakes,” Wedge said. “He’s more of a complete pitcher now than he was three or four years ago when he was younger. He just has more weapons.”

If you count his sinker and his power fastball as two different pitches, then he threw a five-pitch arsenal as the M’s on Monday. Yes, the sinker was the workhorse pitch, comprising 38 of his 105 pitches. His next-favorite selection, however, was his curveball, the onetime show-me pitch in his arsenal. He threw 22 of them, 12 of strikes, five for swings and misses, according to brooksbaseball.net. All five whiffs came from left-handed hitters, who had four more off his changeup.

“I think coming into the game, knowing they had a lot of left-handed hitters, knowing that breaking ball was going to be a big pitch for me to be effective tonight, we really used it a lot early,” Porcello said. “Started to get some swings and misses and some effective outs with it, so we kind of kept going to it and it worked out.”

He struck out seven of Seattle’s first 19 hitters, three of them on curves. Other times, the curve and changeup set up hitters for the fastball, which Porcello was able to spot.

“I knew that offspeed pitches were going to be real big today,” he said. “They only had two right-handed hitters in the lineup. A lot of times, a lineup that’s right-handed heavy I can rely on my sinker a lot more but when we get left-handed hitters up there, they seem to hit the sinker a lot better. The offspeed pitches were big and we knew that going in and that was our game plan was to keep it those down. Alex [Avila] called a great game and we were both in sync.”

Porcello said he thought the curveball was the key pitch for him, while Jim Leyland thought it was the changeup. Either way, the two gave him a chance against lefties.

“I think he’s executing pitches better,” Leyland said, “and that’s a weapon against a left-hander. He can throw a sinker down and away and got some ground balls, but you also have to have something to get [hitters] off the sinker, because you keep throwing sinkers and you throw a high sinker, they go a long way. His offspeed stuff is getting better as we speak. That’s been a big key for him.”

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