April 12th, 2014

Saturday: Justin Verlander takes his hacks

SD 001

For the first time on this trip, Victor Martinez is the odd man out of the Interleague-shortened Tigers lineup. Alex Avila is back behind the plate to catch Justin Verlander, while Nick Castellanos returns to the lineup at third base. Expect Martinez back in the lineup Sunday, possibly behind the plate for Max Scherzer.

Meanwhile, Torii Hunter returns to the lineup after missing the previous couple games with soreness in his left knee. Don Kelly has soreness in his right shoulder and knee after his collision with the right-field fence last night, so it’s unclear whether he’ll be available.

TIGERS (numbers off Ian Kennedy)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-4, double)
  3. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-2, double)
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-4, triple, walk)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-3, K)
  8. Alex Gonzalez, SS (1-for-3, HR)
  9. Justin Verlander, P

PADRES (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Everth Cabrera, SS
  2. Chris Denorfia, RF
  3. Seth Smith, LF (3-for-21, HR, 6 walks, 7 K’s)
  4. Jedd Gyorko, 2B
  5. Chase Headley, 3B (0-for-3, 3 K’s)
  6. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  7. Yasmani Grandal, C
  8. Will Venable, CF
  9. Ian Kennedy, P

Game 8: Cabrera says his swing is “terrible”

Miguel Cabrera says he feels healthy. Let’s get that out of the way now.

He feels good. His defense at third base Friday in San Diego seems to back it up. His Spring Training performance at the plate and in the field definitely backed it up.

It’s his swing that is ailing.

“I’m feeling good,” he said, “but my swing is not right.”

His swing isn’t doing too well, physically or mentally — yes, mentally, because his swing seems to have a mind of its own.

It’s not as if Cabrera forgot that opposite-field power is his ticket to Cooperstown. He remembers virtually every pitcher he faces. How is he going to forget himself?

His swing forgets. His swing falls into bad habits, maybe habits he developed while playing hurt last year. His swing wants to keep his top hand on the bat, apparently.

“My swing, he wants to pull the ball right now,” Cabrera said.

His swing is seemingly worse than his statistics. For someone who endured an 0-for-21 slump in April the year he won the Triple Crown, an 8-for-32 start through eight games isn’t the end of the world. He’s 2-for-16 with a pair of singles over his last four games.

Here’s the thing: Everything he has hit over those four games have gone to the left side or up the middle. The closest he has come to going opposite field has a comebacker to the pitcher. He hasn’t gone oppo since he flew out to right on Saturday.

“In BP and when I work in the cage, I feel normal,” he said. “When I come into the game, I see how I pull a lot of balls to third base and shortstop.”

Asked if it’s more about mechanics or timing, Cabrera said both.

“My mechanics are terrible right now,” he said.

He’s less certain about where it comes from. He allows for the possibility that he developed bad habits last year that he’s having a hard time shaking, but again, he didn’t have the issue in Spring Training.

“I don’t know. Sometimes you have, like, bad habits,” he said. “I don’t know if I took that from last year when I got injured, but I feel good. My mechanics are not very good but hopefully I can keep working, trying to swing more consistently.”

That’s all he can do. He’s not going to panic, because he knows better, even if his swing doesn’t. He’s been stuck here tomorrow, even if the last few years suggest he’s been perfect.

“I mean, last year at some point, it was like that,” he said. “Every year, you have to make adjustments. You come through hard times once every year. It’s a hard game.”

Brad Ausmus wasn’t around for those hard times. He’s around now. He’s trusting his MVP hitter.

“I mean, hitters are going to go through periods of time where they hit the ball, they don’t hit the ball well, they get hits, they don’t get hits,” Ausmus said. “I realize it doesn’t happen to Miggy as often, but it’s still going to happen.”

When it happens, things can get ugly offensively, like they did Friday against Andrew Cashner and the Padres.

Play of the game: Again, it goes to Cabrera, who stepped to bat in the sixth inning with runners at the corners and one out. He swung a first pitch fastball that missed the outside corner and got a little more of the plate. Cabrera swung over top of it and grounded it to third, where Chase Headley started an inning-ending double play that erased the last runner the Tigers would get on base.

Outs of the game: Not only did Cashner strike out the side in order in the third inning, he did so on the same pitch, spotting three fastballs close enough to the outside edge for called third strikes to Rick Porcello, Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler.

Line of the night: Duh. Cashner needed just 108 pitches to deliver a complete-game one-hitter with two walks and a career-high 11 strikeouts. Add in 13 ground-ball outs, and Cashner wasn’t losing this one.

Stat of the night: 53 — Strikes Not in Play (SNIPs) by Cashner, according to brooksbaseball.net and MLB.com’s Gameday application. Compare that to just 10 swings and misses, and it’s clear that location was the key for Cashner.

Print it: “I think Jim Leyland said it to me: You know a guy’s a basestealer when everyone in the stadium knows he’s trying to steal a base and he still does.” — Ausmus on Rajai Davis, who stole second and third base after breaking up Andrew Cashner’s no-hit bid with a sixth-inning single.