June 2014

Monday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

Two things going on today with the lineup: First, Austin Jackson is batting ninth for just the second time in his career, the other time happening way back on May 1, 2011. Brad Ausmus said it was a one-day thing based on the fact that Rajai Davis, who normally would’ve hit ninth, is 9-for-18 off A’s starter Scott Kazmir.

The other spot in play is the cleanup spot, where Victor Martinez has been scratched with back and side soreness. It doesn’t appear to be major; Martinez was moving around decently well in the clubhouse before batting practice. However, Ausmus didn’t want to take any chances.

“He didn’t want to come out,” Ausmus said, “but we can’t lose Vic for an extended period.”

With Victor Martinez out, J.D. Martinez moves into the DH spot and cleanup slot. He was scheduled to get a day out of the lineup for the first time in two weeks.

TIGERS (career numbers off Kazmir)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (9-for-18, 3 doubles, triple, HR, 6 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-33, 2 doubles, HR, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-23, double, triple, HR, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (7-for-24, 2 doubles, HR, 3 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-3, K)
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Austin Jackson CF (3-for-15, walk, 9 K’s)

P: Anibal Sanchez

ATHLETICS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)

  1. Coco Crisp, CF (6-for-15, 3 doubles, HR, K)
  2. John Jaso, C (1-for-10, 4 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-15, 5 K’s)
  4. Brandon Moss, 1B (3-for-19, double, HR, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
  5. Josh Donaldson, DH (6-for-16, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  6. Stephen Vogt, RF (1-for-4, triple, 2 K’s)
  7. Jed Lowrie, SS (1-for-16, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  8. Alberto Callaspo, 3B (1-for-5, HR, walk, K)
  9. Eric Sogard, 2B (2-for-7, double, K)

P: Scott Kazmir

All-Star voting update: Cabrera widens lead, Kinsler and V-Mart fall further behind

While the gap increased for Miguel Cabrera on his way to his second consecutive All-Star voting victory, the gap also opened on Ian Kinsler behind Robinson Cano at second base, as well as Victor Martinez behind Nelson Cruz and David Ortiz at designated hitter.

All three races headed into the final days of All-Star balloting online at MLB.com. Balloting ends Thursday evening at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Cabrera, looking to become just the fifth Tiger ever to be voted into the All-Star lineup multiple times, now has about 1.5 million votes more than his closest competitor at first base, White Sox rookie slugger Jose Abreu. Ivan Rodriguez was the most recent Tiger elected multiple times, voted as the starting catcher three times in a four-year span from 2004 to 2007. Lance Parrish and Lou Whitaker were both voted in three years in a row from 1984-86, while Bill Freehan was voted the starting catcher in 1970 and 1972.

Kinsler’s gap widened from nearly 670,000 last week to more than 871,000 votes now, despite a solid road trip in Texas that included a go-ahead home run with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday against the Astros.

Martinez sits just 120,000 votes behind Ortiz in balloting at DH, but both are about a million votes behind Cruz. At this point, the more realistic race could be which of the two earns a spot on the AL All-Star reserves. Martinez entered this week batting .323, 80 points above Ortiz, with an OPS advantage of 137 points.

Report: Leaked Astros docs suggest Houston wanted Nick Castellanos, Jake Thompson last summer

Deadspin reports that about 10 months’ worth of Astros internal communications surfaced online, including discussions over potential trades. The timeline covers last summer, including the trade that sent Jose Veras to Detroit for prospects. The documents suggest that Houston was looking for a bigger deal before the Tigers talked them down.

According to the documents, the Astros were initially interested in Nick Castellanos when Jeff Luhnow and Dave Dombrowski talked on July 22. The Astros, according to the documents, were willing to trade starting pitcher Bud Norris and Veras for Castellanos, and would consider Norris for Tigers pitching prospect Jake Thompson. Dave Dombrowski, listed as DD on the documents, wasn’t interested in starting pitching at that point.

The next day, according to the documents, the Tigers declined Thompson for Veras. Six days later, the trade talks rekindled. According to the documents, the Astros were willing to consider Danry Vasquez for Veras but would have to include a secondary prospect, such as injured pitcher David Paulino. That deal took on momentum, and was eventually completed.

Since Paulino was coming off Tommy John surgery, the deal was built to include him as a player to be named later. The other option, according to the documents, was Tigers rookie league pitcher Emanuel Chavez.

The Tigers are the only team that comes up in the documents in discussions about Veras. Norris eventually went to the Orioles on July 31.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros

A day after Ian Kinsler powered the Tigers to a win with his ninth-inning home run, he will have just his second day off this season. Andrew Romine gets the start at second base. Meanwhile, Rajai Davis returns to the bench for the third time in four days, as Austin Jackson returns to the lineup. Neither Davis (4-for-16, double, three strikeouts) nor Jackson (2-for-11, triple, walk, four strikeouts) have hit Scott Feldman particularly well, but Jackson sat yesterday.

Interestingly in the shakeup, Austin Jackson returns to the leadoff spot he owned for years.

With lefty Drew Smyly on the mound, the Astros bring out backup catcher Carlos Corporan, whose three home runs in 18 career at-bats against Detroit mark his highest total against any opposing team. And that doesn’t count his two-homer game at Lakeland in Spring Training in 2013.

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

TIGERS (career numbers vs. Scott Feldman)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-11, triple, walk, 4 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (9-for-21, 4 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (9-for-15, 2 doubles, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-5, HR, walk)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (3-for-5, HR, walk)
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Andrew Romine, 2B

P: Drew Smyly

ASTROS (numbers off Smyly)

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B (1-for-3, double)
  2. George Springer, RF (1-for-2, HR, K)
  3. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
  4. Jesus Guzman, DH (1-for-3)
  5. Matt Dominguez, 3B (0-for-3)
  6. L.J. Hoes, LF (2-for-2)
  7. Jonathan Villar, SS (0-for-3)
  8. Carlos Corporan, C (0-for-2, walk, K)
  9. Alex Presley, CF (1-for-2, K)

P: Scott Feldman

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros (updated with Jackson out)

UPDATE: Rajai Davis was originally set to sit once again, which would’ve been paritcularly interesting against a left-hander. However, Austin Jackson was scratched, earning Davis his first start since Wednesday at Texas. He’ll lead off and play in center field.

Miguel Cabrera gets his occasional start at designated hitter, with Victor Martinez starting at first base.

The Astros made a change in starting pitcher, scratching Dallas Keuchel and moving in Brett Oberholtzer, who was roughed up a bit May 6 in Detroit. Keuchel reportedly is dealing with inflammation in his wrist. But the Tigers are still facing a lefty, so the matchups shouldn’t drastically change. Bryan Holaday will start at catcher for Detroit, giving Alex Avila a day off.

Still no Dexter Fowler, who was scratched from Houston’s lineup last night with back issues.

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

TIGERS (numbers off Oberholtzer)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-7, double)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (2-for-3, HR)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B (1-for-2, walk)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-3, K)
  6. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-2, double)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3, K)
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Max Scherzer

ASTROS (numbers versus Scherzer)

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B (0-for-7, K)
  2. George Springer, RF (1-for-3, K)
  3. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
  4. Jason Castro, C (0-for-6, 5 K’s)
  5. Alex Presley, CF (1-for-9, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Matt Dominguez, 3B (1-for-9, 4 K’s)
  7. Chris Carter, DH (0-for-6, walk, 3 K’s)
  8. Marwin Gonzalez, SS (0-for-2)
  9. L.J. Hoes, LF

P: Brett Oberholtzer

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros (updated with Fowler out)

Rajai Davis sits for a second consecutive game. His numbers aren’t good against Astros starter Brad Peacock (0-for-5, walk, K), but Torii Hunter is hitless off him as well. Austin Jackson has yet to face him.

On the Astros side, you’ll notice that Dexter Fowler has been scratched, reportedly with back tightness, replaced in the lineup by L.J. Hoes and in center field by Alex Presley.

TIGERS (career numbers off Brad Peacock)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-3)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-3, HR, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-3, HR)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3, K)
  7. Austin Jackson, CF
  8. Alex Avila, C (0-for-3, K)
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Justin Verlander

ASTROS (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF Jose Altuve, 2B
  2. Jose Altuve, 2B George Springer, RF
  3. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
  4. George Springer, RF Matt Dominguez, 3B
  5. Matt Dominguez, 3B Jason Castro, C (0-for-2, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Jason Castro, C Jesus Guzman, DH
  7. Jesus Guzman, DH Alex Presley, CF (2-for-6, double, walk, K)
  8. Alex Presley, LF L.J. Hoes, LF
  9. Jonathan Villar, SS

P: Brad Peacock

Torii Hunter on Zubaz: Never again

Cleveland 005The last time the Tigers got on a roll like this to start a road trip, they gained some attention for themselves and for Zubaz gear by tweeting several photos coming out of Fenway Park. They had just swept the Red Sox on national television in a weekend series to move to 6-0 on a nine-game, three-city road trip, and they were rolling. They donned their Zubaz, headed for the airport, encountered a problem with their plane, spent the night in Boston waiting for a replacement, got into Cleveland a few hours before game time to start their next series, and ended up getting swept to begin a 9-20 skid that knocked them out of the AL Central lead.

As they readied to exit Globe Life Park in business suits, having just swept the Rangers for their second straight road series sweep, it was much more subdued, almost businesslike, to go with their suits.

“It’s business,” Torii Hunter said. “We know that things can turn around just like that. Just stay focused, come every day prepared. We’re still having fun, don’t get it twisted, but I think we’ve been humbled a little bit.”

That apparently means no more Zubaz.

“We’re not doing those,” Hunter said. “Never again. Zubaz is out.”

In fairness, nobody’s going to wear Zubaz in Texas in the summer. It just doesn’t look like a good idea in hot weather. Still, it’s an apparent change in mindset from last homestand, when Hunter was decked out in all Zubaz before a victory and proclaimed the Zubaz had nothing to do with their struggles.

Nobody on the team is saying they are now. Still, this team is superstitious enough (albeit in a fun sort of way) that Joba Chamberlain has been delivering the lineup card before every game for a week now.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers at Rangers

In Game 2 of the Tigers outfield rotation, it’s Rajai Davis’ turn to sit. It’s not so much based on matchups against Nick Martinez (there aren’t many), more based on J.D. Martinez being a must-play, Torii Hunter just back and Austin Jackson having sat yesterday.

TIGERS (numbers off Nick Martinez)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-3)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-3)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (0-for-2, walk)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-3, double)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3, K)
  7. Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-3)
  8. Alex Avila, C (1-for-3, K)
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Rick Porcello

RANGERS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Leonys Martin, CF (3-for-7, triple, walk, K)
  2. Elvis Andrus, SS (3-for-20, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  3. Shin-Soo Choo, LF (10-for-31, 4 doubles, 4 walks, 7 K’s)
  4. Adrian Beltre, 3B (8-for-23, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Alex Rios, RF (9-for-41, double, 3 HR, 8 K’s)
  6. Carlos Pena, 1B (4-for-14, 2 HR, 2 K’s)
  7. Robinson Chirinos, C
  8. Michael Choice, DH
  9. Luis Sardinas, 2B

P: Nick Martinez


Tigers outright Evan Reed to Toledo

Evan Reed is headed back to Triple-A Toledo. The right-handed reliever, designated for assignment by the Tigers last week to make room for Chad Smith, cleared waivers and had his contract outrighted to the Mud Hens.

Reed spent most of last season in Toledo, save for a few stints in Detroit. The 28-year-old cracked the Tigers’ Opening Day roster this year by showing an effective breaking ball to go with his upper 90s fastball, but struggled over the past month or so.

Because Reed had been designated for assignment previously, he had the option of declining the outright and becoming a free agent. To do that, however, would require him to give up his Major League contract.

Game 74: V-Mart rejoins 20-homer club … by July

Below is the list of players in Tigers history to hit 20 home runs by the All-Star break at age 35 or older, courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Also included are Victor Martinez’s stats going into Wednesday night:

1 Hank Greenberg 1st Half 1946 70 22 70 293 256 55 37 43 .270 .362 .613 .975
2 Gary Sheffield 1st Half 2007 82 21 80 371 307 58 52 33 .303 .410 .560 .970
3 Norm Cash 1st Half 1971 71 20 64 274 232 49 35 45 .293 .388 .608 .996
4 Victor Martinez 1st Half 2014 73 19 72 310 277 50 29 22 .329 .387 .599 .986
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/26/2014.

As you can see, it’s not a long list. All three of the other guys, however, had 40-homer seasons on their resumes already. Victor Martinez hasn’t hit more than 25 in a season.

And that’s not just a rarity for the Tigers. Of the other 35 players since 1990 to hit 20 homers by the All-Star break at age 35 or older (35 at 35, I know, but V-Mart makes it 36 now), there’s only one other player who had never had a 30-homer season beforehand. That was Edgar Martinez in 2000, when he hit 37 home runs for the Mariners at age 37.

“You know what, man, it feels good,” Victor Martinez said hitting his 20th home run of the year Wednesday night to power a victory over the Rangers. “But at the same time, I still have a long way to go. It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. I’m just focusing on helping this team win every day and then seeing what happens.

“Maybe I’ll look at my stats when I’m sitting on my couch in my house after the season,” he said. “But I’m not going to lie: It feels great.”

Not only did he reach the 20-homer mark by the end of June, he did it with a 20th homer that wasn’t cheap. It was a 408-foot drive to near-straightaway center field at Globe Life Park, one of back-to-back home runs and it provided one of several critical insurance runs to an eventual 8-5 win.

His 2-for-5 performance included an RBI double in the first inning, raising his average on the season to .330. With Astros second baseman and AL batting leader Jose Altuve going 0-for-4, Martinez not only passed Robinson Cano for second in the AL in hitting, he moved within two points of the lead in the batting race.

“Vic’s been swinging well all year — right-handed, left-handed, take your pick,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

He hit .330 over a full season in 2011, driving in 103 runs in the process. He did so with just 12 home runs, a testament to his consistent hitting with runners in scoring position. He drove in 27 runs on homers that season, but had 38 RBI singles.

So far this season, 28 of his 52 RBIs have resulted from the long ball.

In a season in which Martinez seems to be flexing his muscles, he says his strength is coming from his stronger legs, two years recuperated from knee surgery.

“I think 75 percent [of the power] comes from the legs,” Martinez said, “and I’ve been able to use them a lot more.”