August 17th, 2014

Cabrera: We play hard, but we have to play better

One prominent presence on this team that has been a relatively quiet voice belongs to Miguel Cabrera, who has largely kept out of interviews since the All-Star break while he and his team have tried to get going. With the struggles continuing Sunday with a loss to Seattle, Cabrera spoke with a small group of reporters.

His message was largely a push to action. Like several others on the team, he pointed out that the effort is there. It’s not a matter of playing hard, he said. It’s a matter of playing well, and they’re going to have several chances to play well against teams that will make a difference.

“Some days we play good defense and then we don’t hit. Some days we hit good and don’t play good defense,” he said. “If we want to win, we have to stick together, play defense, hit and pitch at the same time. I think we still have a good shot because we still have a lot of games against Kansas City and Cleveland, against our division. When we play against our division, we play good.

“What we can do is go out there and play hard. People see we play hard. We play hard, but I think we have to do better. That’s what I want to say. I say we have to play better.”

Once the Tigers play three games this coming week at Tampa Bay, they’ll have just six games left outside of their division, all at home. They’ll host the Yankees for a quick three-game homestand Aug. 26-28, then welcome the Giants for three games Sept. 5-7. They’ll have six games against the Royals in September, and seven against Cleveland.

“If we want to win the division, if we’re going to be in the playoffs, we have to play better,” he said. “We have to win series. We have to step up and do our jobs. Do our jobs and I think we’re going to be OK.”

Asked if they’re feeling the pressure of a division race, he agreed.

“That’s why you see when we have men in scoring position, we swing at a bad pitch, because we want to make something happen,” he said. “When you say it’s a lot of pressure, yes, it’s a lot of pressure because two or three weeks [ago] we lead the division by six, seven games. Right now we’re behind. But you know what, we’re a good team. We’re going to come from behind and we’re going to get the lead again. But what we have to control is go out there and play better, play hard, make something happen.”

That includes himself. And not surprisingly, he didn’t want to get into his health. His non-answer, however, didn’t deny that he’s dealing with issues.

“You guys know me for seven years. I don’t like to talk about my injuries or whatever I’ve got in my body right now,” he said. “The only thing I can say is I’m going to be out there every day and try to play hard. It doesn’t matter what I have. I try to play my best. Hopefully I can do my job and hopefully I can help my team to win more games and hopefully we can win the division.”

When asked about his swing, he said he feels better about it, and he’ll feel better if he can hit for more home runs. But he also acknowledged that in trying to swing big, he has gotten out of his strike zone, something he’s trying to reverse.

“I try to expand my zone. I try to make something happen. That’s a big mistake you can do as a hitter,” he said. “So right now, I have to feel more comfortable with what I’m doing at home plate and try to shorten my strike zone and try to swing at strikes.”

When asked about the fan reception lately, he admitted it can be a tough when people expect them to run away with the division and they haven’t. But he also stated the obvious: If you win, everything’s good.

“Detroit is a sports city. They come every day to support us and when we don’t do our job, they express it, they boo us,” he said. “I’ve been playing in Detroit for seven years and seen this or that, but we’ve got to control that. We have to get out there and play better and win games. If we win games, they’re going to be OK. …

“They don’t like the way we play right now. I understand that because we don’t play good right now. Like I said before, we have to do our jobs. We have to go out there and play better, play good defense, hit and pitch. We have great starters, great pitchers and offense. We have to get together. … We need everybody here on our team to do everything we can do best to do our job. I think if we control that, the fans are going to be happy.”

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Mariners

Miguel Cabrera is OK after being hit near his elbow by a pitch Saturday night, but he’s getting a day at DH to at least ease some of the workload. Andrew Romine starts at short, with Eugenio Suarez getting a day off. Torii Hunter is also off as J.D. Martinez shifts over to right field, with Ezequiel Carrera and Rajai Davis in center and left for the first time since their mixup in Pittsburgh.

TIGERS (career numbers off Chris Young)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-5, K)
  2. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (2-for-12, HR, 4 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-2, K)
  8. Andrew Romine, SS (1-for-2, double)
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-0, 3 walks)

P: Robbie Ray


  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Dustin Ackley, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Kendrys Morales, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Chris Denorfia, RF
  7. Logan Morrison, 1B
  8. Chris Taylor, SS
  9. Jesus Sucre, C

P: Chris Young

Nathan endures boos, baserunners in return, but gets save

Joe Nathan was going to have to get back on the mound and face the boos at Comerica Park eventually. David Price’s home debut as a Tiger, with a three-run lead, seemed like as good a time as any.

“At some point, he’s going to have to pitch again in this ballpark,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “In my mind, really, it’s better to do it sooner than later.”

Said Nathan: “I knew my nerves would be a little extra. When I was apologizing, I’ve never been a part of any type of controversy, and I will not be a part of it again.”

The boos began, albeit just a few, before Nathan had made it from the bullpen to the mound. They multiplied before he began warming, then really picked up upon introduction. A leadoff single amplified them. Each time, the boos would start and eventually stop for the next at-bat, though they would resume at some point.

The runner eventually scored, but Nathan held it there, getting a game-ending double play to finish off a 4-2 win. And as the boos turned to cheers for a big win finished, Nathan kept his celebration to a point at his catcher, Alex Avila, and congratulations from his teammates. There was no chin-flick, no look into the stands.

“I held it in,” Nathan said. “I definitely didn’t want to have any reaction tonight, kind of just get back to trying to finish games, try to keep my emotions in check. But I knew it was important, my first time back on the mound since the incident. Just wanted to give the fans something to cheer about before they try to battle traffic with One Direction going on [next door at Ford Field].”