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Sunday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Angels

Meanwhile, amidst the end of the Alex Gonzalez experiment, there’s a game to be played. Andrew Romine gets the start against lefty Hector Santiago. Miguel Cabrera gets a day at DH, with Victor Martinez starting at first base. The Angels, meanwhile, move Ian Stewart up to the cleanup spot and start Brennan Boesch in right field against his friend Rick Porcello.

TIGERS (career numbers off Hector Santiago)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-3, HR, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-6, double, 2 walks, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (1-for-5, walk, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B (2-for-8, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-7, 2 walks)
  6. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-15, HR, walk, 6 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C (0-for-6, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Rick Porcello

ANGELS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. J.B. Shuck, LF (1-for-3, double)
  2. Mike Trout, CF (4-for-10, HR, walk, K)
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B (3-for-7, 2 doubles)
  4. Ian Stewart, 3B
  5. Howie Kendrick, 2B (5-for-22, 3 doubles, 8 K’s)
  6. David Freese, DH (1-for-3)
  7. Hank Conger, C (1-for-2)
  8. Brennan Boesch, RF
  9. Erick Aybar, SS (4-for-19, double, walk, 3 K’s)

P: Hector Santiago

Tigers release Alex Gonzalez, call up Danny Worth (updated)

Alex Gonzalez’s tenure as Tigers shortstop is over after three weeks. The Tigers released the 37-year-old on Sunday morning and purchased the contract of infielder Danny Worth from Triple-A Toledo.

For now, Worth will platoon at shortstop with switch-hitter Andrew Romine, who had been splitting time with Gonzalez. The Tigers continue to monitor prospects Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez, who are playing shortstop at Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie respectively, but wanted to give both of them more seasoning before considering them for a call-up.

Add in the looming free agency of Stephen Drew, who could sign without draft pick compensation following the First-Year Player Draft in June, and the Tigers could have a revolving door at shortstop going for the next several weeks as they continue to try to fill the void left by injured Jose Iglesias.

“Hopefully this combination will help us, and we can continue to analyze our situation,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “We’ve got two young guys that we’re just not quite ready to bring up and ready to let them play, but they’re playing very, very well for us.”

The Tigers gave no signal of expecting long-term stability in announcing the move. What they knew, however, was that Gonzalez wasn’t the answer.

“We need to have a little more range defensively at shortstop. We just didn’t see it there and didn’t see it getting better,” Dombrowski said. “So we figured it was time to make the move.”

Detroit thought enough of Gonzalez that they traded a young utilityman Steve Lombardozzi to Baltimore to acquire him with a week to go in Spring Training. At the time, Dombrowski cited Tigers scouts Bruce Tanner and Jeff Wetherby, as well as first-base coach Omar Vizquel, among those who watched Gonzalez and believed he could play shortstop, though not necessarily every day.

From Opening Day on, however, Gonzalez’s time at short was marked by inconsistency. He made an error in the season opener on a ball to his left, yet made a ranging play up the middle to snare a ball and rob a single before delivering the game-winning RBI at the plate.

Gonzalez seemed much more comfortable making plays to his left, up the middle, than to his right. He made three errors in 31 chances over eight starts for a .903 fielding percentage.

Gonzalez had a negative-5 rating in Defensive Runs Saved, a statistic developed by Bill James and Baseball Info Solutions to put defensive performance into a tangible context. Just four years ago, his next-to-last season as an everyday shortstop, he had a plus-27 rating.

“We thought we’d take a little chance on it,” Dombrowski said of the trade. “We thought it was something worth taking the gamble. As we had a chance to watch him, had a chance to get a feel, we just didn’t see it getting better, so we thought, with the emphasis on defense for us at shortstop, we thought it was important to get someone who had a little bit more range.”

Gonzalez’s defensive concerns might have been tempered a bit had he continued to deliver clutch hits. However, he had just three singles in 26 at-bats after Opening Day.

“Gonzo worked hard. He’s had a tremendous career,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “In his prime, he was one of the better shortstops in the game of baseball, but time takes its toll on everyone. At this point, we decided to make a change and bring Danny Worth up.

“Certainly with age, you’re going to slow down a little bit. He was a tremendous, tremendous shortstop — I mean, he was one of the elite shortstops — in his prime. He hasn’t played much short in the last couple years, so we were hoping maybe that the spring had returned to his legs a little bit. But it just didn’t work.”

Thus, the Tigers turn back to Worth, who was in play for a timeshare at short before Detroit traded for Gonzalez. The 28-year-old has rotated around the infield at Triple-A Toledo, allowing Perez to take the bulk of the time at short, but his strong arm and reliable range are well known. He batted .308 (16-for-52) for the Mud Hens with five doubles and one RBI.

Ausmus indicated he won’t necessarily have a strict lefty-righty platoon between Worth, who bats right-handed, and the switch-hitting Romine, who started Sunday against Angels left-hander Hector Santiago.

“He can do a lot of things for us,” Dombrowski said of Worth. “We know him. He hits left-hand pitching well, with Romine over there playing well defensively, and he’s better vs. right-handed pitching. That gives us a nice combination. He runs decently, gives us a nice combination, and he’s a solid defensive player at shortstop, can play second or third, gives us some versatility value. So he’ll get some playing time here, see how he does.”

Even with the current mix, however, Dombrowski mentioned Perez and Suarez as future options. Perez, primarily a second baseman in his pro career, has played 15 games at shortstop in Toledo, where he’s batting .277 with four doubles, a home run and 10 RBIs. Suarez, a natural shortstop, entered Sunday batting .260 for Erie with five doubles, three homers and eight RBIs.

“If we were going to bring them up at this time, we figured that we would want them to come up and play most of the time,” Dombrowski said. “And right now, with Romine being a left-hand hitter, he’s going to play most of the time. So we think Danny, again, we think he’ll do a solid job for us. He’s been in the organization a long time. Give him the opportunity.”

Game 14: Is Joba Chamberlain the new setup man?

It took Max Scherzer four starts to earn his first win of the year. It took Joba Chamberlain six outings to earn his first hold, but he now has two in three days.

The way he looks on the mound, the question now is whether he’s the man in line for more by handling the majority of eighth-inning leads.

Manager Brad Ausmus still isn’t inclined to name roles in his bullpen besides closer Joe Nathan. In his defense, there was a time fairly recently that Al Alburquerque looked like the man in line for setup duty, and was the most consistent reliever the Tigers had going.

The way Chamberlain has been pitching since last weekend, however, has Chamberlain looking like his younger form.

“The way he’s pitched recently, I’m certainly very comfortable bringing him in in the eighth inning,” Ausmus said. “I even brought him in today knowing he would face some left-handed hitters, and he showed that he was able to get through it today smoothly. I don’t know if I have to assign a role to him, but right now I’m very comfortable bringing him in the eighth inning with a save-caliber lead.”

Chamberlain had the eighth inning Saturday with a 4-2 lead. He threw eight pitches, all of them strikes, and threw his fastball consistently around the mid-90s. His first three pitches were all fastballs — 94 mph, then 95, then 96 — all spotted for strikes to retire Hank Conger. He then started off Brennan Boesch with a curveball to retire him on a groundout, then put J.B. Shuck in an 0-2 count before sending him down check-swinging at a slider in the dirt.

“Joba’s been good the last few outings, but that’s by far the best we’ve seen him,” Ausmus said.

That gives Chamberlain 11 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings this season, including 10 of the last 19 batters he has faced since that disastrous outing against the Orioles two weeks ago.

He credits the difference to getting regular work after going stretches without being used the first week of the season.

“It’s just getting into a rhythm,” Chamberlain said. “Obviously being able to be in the games and be in situations where you know you’re able to pitch and execute pitches [helps]. I just feel comfortable with all my pitches right now, being able to locate with fastballs and throw my slider, my curveball whenever I want.

“It’s a game where you just have to adjust. That was the big thing for me to be able to come in and make some adjustments and obviously help this team win.”

The bigger difference is that he’s spotting what he’s throwing, especially his heavy, biting slider. It’s what he talked about as far back as TigerFest.

Now, if he can stay consistent with it, he’s in line for the kind of work he was seeking when he looked at Detroit as a landing spot last December.

“If he keeps throwing all strikes,” Ausmus said, “he’ll pitch a lot.”

Play of the game: It was an aggressive play by Miguel Cabrera to tag up from second base on Torii Hunter’s fly ball to center field, and it nearly backfired on him if not for replay overturning umpire Gerry Davis’ out call. But it was a third-inning play that set up an extra run on Austin Jackson’s sacrifice fly.

“I’ve said it since Spring Training: This guy’s baseball IQ is high,” Ausmus said. “He gave a false-looking break like he was just going to take a few steps and stop and go back to second, I guess you would call it a deke, and then he picked right back up and kept going. He understands the game more than just hit the ball, field the ball, throw the ball. He understands the intricacies of the game and what goes through a player’s mind.”

Out of the game: Max Scherzer seemingly had the third out of the fourth inning when Ian Stewart was caught stealing, but replay overturned that call. That didn’t just leave Scherzer needing to make extra pitches for another out. That left with a 3-1 count to Erick Aybar with two runners in scoring position, including the tying run at second.

“Typically, when it goes to replay, they’re typically going to overturn it,” Scherzer said. “For them to use it, you know they’re probably going to be right.

“For me, I had to take the mentality that it was going to be overturned and I had to get Aybar out. I was going through the whole scenario: What do I want to do? I was taking warm-up pitches to make sure my arm was at 100 percent. I think it was a 3-1 ballgame at that point. That was a very important at-bat and even though it was something new, I thought I took a good mentality of how to combat that.”

Scherzer spotted a second strike to run the count full, then after a foul ball, got a swing and a miss for the strikeout to end the threat.

“To me, he pitched well the whole game, but that was kind of the turning point in the game in terms of Max’s outing,” Ausmus said.

Line of the day: Mike Trout had plenty of three-strikeout games in his career. He had never struck out four times in a game — until Saturday. Max Scherzer became the second pitcher to strike out Trout three times in a game, joining Oakland lefty Tommy Milone. Joe Nathan got the last.

Stat of the day: 0 — Hits involved in Miguel Cabrera’s trip around the bases in the third inning. He reached on a Brennan Boesch error, advanced on a Victor Martinez walk, tagged up to third on Hunter’s fly ball and scored on Jackson’s sac fly.

Print it: “Everyone, even the greatest hitters, have those days. Yesterday Mike Trout got us, so I’m not going to throw a party just because he had an off day.” — Ausmus on Trout’s four-strikeout game

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Angels

IMG_2610

Get used to the Tigers’ anti-lefty lineup, because with five meetings in the next six days against southpaw starters, it’s going to be a familiar sight. That potentially includes Rajai Davis in the leadoff spot, Ian Kinsler hitting second and Torii Hunter batting fifth.

“I’ve kind of had that in mind,” Brad Ausmus said.

On the Angels side, Brennan Boesch gets his first start in a Halos uniform. He’ll be playing right field, batting ninth.

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports 1, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers against C.J. Wilson)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (7-for-24, 2 doubles, triple, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (8-for-18, 2 doubles, triple, HR, 4 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-18, 2 doubles, HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-28, double, triple, 4 walks, 6 K’s)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (11-for-33, 2 HR, 10 walks, 5 K’s)
  6. Austin Jackson, CF (3-for-20, double, triple, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Bryan Holaday, C (0-for-2)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Max Scherzer

ANGELS (career numbers vs. Scherzer)

  1. J.B. Shuck, LF
  2. Mike Trout, CF (3-for-10, double, HR, 5 K’s)
  3. Albert Pujols, DH (1-for-8, double, walk, K)
  4. Raul Ibanez, 1B (1-for-7, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Howie Kendrick, 2B (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
  6. Ian Stewart, 3B (2-for-10, triple, HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  7. Erick Aybar, SS (2-for-11, double)
  8. Hank Conger, C
  9. Brennan Boesch, RF (1-for-2, triple)

P: C.J. Wilson

Friday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Angels

(Can’t have a Jered Weaver start at Comerica Park without the above highlight.)

The Tigers have a six-game stretch coming up where they’re going to face five left-handed starters, so they’re getting their left-handed hitters some work now. Don Kelly gets the start at third base, and Andrew Romine (he’s a switch-hitter, but he’s essentially considered a left-handed hitter) starts for the first time in a week.

The bullpen now has an extra arm with Justin Miller called up, but manager Brad Ausmus says there aren’t any relievers who are completely ruled out.

“There’s nobody who’s not available,” Ausmus said. “There are guys I’d rather not pitch.”

The Angels originally had David Freese in their lineup, then scratched him. Ian Stewart now is starting at third base and hitting at the bottom of an injury-riddled batting order.

Remember, with the Red Wings opening up their Stanley Cup playoff series tonight, the Tigers broadcast is moved to FSD Plus, with the radio call on AM 1270.

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Jered Weaver)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (19-for-82, 5 doubles, 3 HR, 6 walks, 9 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-12, 2 HR, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-21, 3 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-22, double, 5 walks, 3 K’s)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-13, double, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  6. Don Kelly, 3B (1-for-4, HR, walk)
  7. Alex Avila, C (1-for-10, 3 K’s)
  8. Andrew Romine, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (5-for-21, 4 doubles, 4 K’s)

P: Drew Smyly

ANGELS (career numbers off Smyly)

  1. Colin Cowgill, RF
  2. Mike Trout, CF (1-for-6, double, K)
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B (1-for-4, double, K)
  4. Howie Kendrick, DH (1-for-5, K)
  5. Chris Iannetta, C (1-for-2, double)
  6. Erick Aybar, SS (1-for-3, double)
  7. J.B. Shuck, LF (0-for-0, walk)
  8. John McDonald, 2B (0-for-1, K)
  9. Ian Stewart, 3B

P: Jered Weaver

Miller recalled, Collins sent down

The Tigers’ first transaction of the 2014 season is a depth move for a taxed and tried bullpen. Detroit recalled right-hander Justin Miller from Triple-A Toledo on Friday for the start of a three-game weekend series against the Angels.

To make room on the 25-man roster, the Tigers optioned rookie outfielder Tyler Collins to Toledo. For Friday, at least, the Tigers will go with eight relievers and three bench players, though not nearly all the relievers will be available. That’s the point of bringing up Miller.

Miller gives the Tigers a fresh arm for the bullpen after they used five relievers Thursday afternoon and four Wednesday night, all ahead of Drew Smyly’s first start of the season Friday night. Al Alburquerque, Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain pitched in both games. The only reliever who didn’t pitch in either game was long man Luke Putkonen.

While neither manager Brad Ausmus nor pitching coach Jeff Jones had a pitch count set for Smyly when asked Thursday morning, both made it clear they’ll have to be cautious with him since he hasn’t been stretched out as a starter since the end of Spring Training nearly three weeks ago. He threw 51 pitches on April 4 and 49 pitches on April 9.

Miller would be making his Major League debut after signing with Detroit last fall following his release from the Rangers organization. The hard-throwing 25-year-old had a rough Spring Training, making him an early cut from camp, but has recovered nicely in Toledo. He has thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings for the Hens on three hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

Collins made the Opening Day as a reserve outfielder, making the jump from Double-A Erie. He was intended to give Detroit a left-handed bat off the bench and a potential platoon partner with Rajai Davis in left field, but he made just three starts over the first 12 games of the season. The 23-year-old went 2-for-14 with a walk and three strikeouts.

By rule, Collins must stay in the minors at least 10 days before he’s eligible to be recalled, unless the Tigers have to place a player on the disabled list. So if Detroit wants to add a bench player back once its bullpen gets some rest, it’ll have to recall somebody else. Ezequiel Carrera could be a candidate, as could waiver pickup J.D. Martinez. Either would have to be added to the 40-man roster, but the Tigers have an open spot for that.

 

Justin Miller reportedly called up from Toledo

The first bullpen transaction of the Tigers’ 2014 season is apparently on the way. Justin Miller was informed after Thursday’s Mud Hens loss that he’s being called up to Detroit, according to John Wagner of the Toledo Blade.

The Tigers aren’t expected to confirm any roster move until Friday. It might not be until then that we learn the return move. Wagner is very good at chronicling the Toledo end of these moves.

It’s possible the Tigers are calling up a fresh arm for the bullpen after using five relievers Thursday afternoon and four Wednesday night (Al Alburquerque, Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain pitched in both games), all ahead of Drew Smyly’s first start of the season Friday night. While neither manager Brad Ausmus nor pitching coach Jeff Jones had a pitch count set for Smyly when asked Thursday morning, both made it clear they’ll have to be cautious with him since he hasn’t been stretched out as a starter since the end of Spring Training nearly three weeks ago. He threw 51 pitches on April 4 and 49 pitches on April 9.

The Tigers could go a position player short in the bullpen for a day, taking somebody off their bench. If the Angels were starting a lefty Friday, it wouldn’t be hard to envision the Tigers starting Victor Martinez at DH, freeing up Alex Avila to serve as the backup for a night. But with a righty going, Martinez is likely to DH, which means the Tigers would have to bat the pitcher’s spot to move Martinez behind the plate in the middle of a game. They could go short an outfielder.

It’s also possible the Tigers simply decided to make a change in their bullpen mix after watching their relief corps for nearly three weeks. The bullpen struggles have been well chronicled, though Tigers relievers have generally had better fortunes the last couple games. Phil Coke’s struggles have been well-chronicled, but the Tigers have no shortage of lefty relievers at Toledo if they were to go that route.

Miller would be making his Tigers debut after signing a Major League deal with Detroit last fall following his release from the Rangers organization. The hard-throwing 25-year-old had a rough Spring Training, making him an early cut from camp, but has recovered nicely in Toledo. He has thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings for the Hens on three hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Indians

CoPA 007

Tigers stick with the same lineup today against Danny Salazar, including Alex Avila catching the day game after a night game. For that matter, the Indians have the same starting nine, with only one change: Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall swap positions, getting Santana on the hot corner and Chisenhall a day at designated hitter.

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

TIGERS (numbers off Salazar)

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

P: Justin Verlander

INDIANS (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Michael Bourn, CF (7-for-18, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
  2. Nick Swisher, 1B (13-for-71, 5 doubles, 3 HR, 10 walks, 25 K’s)
  3. Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-24, double, 5 walks, 11 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, 3B (6-for-32, double, 3 HR, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
  5. Michael Brantley, LF (15-for-38, double, triple, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
  6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (11-for-54, 5 doubles, 5 walks, 21 K’s)
  7. Yan Gomes, C (1-for-4)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall, DH (3-for-13, double)

P: Danny Salazar

Game 11: Ausmus, Hunter talk about the bunt

One of the more quietly useful offensive stats to come about in recent years, in my opinion, is the Productive Out. As defined by Elias Sports Bureau, a Productive Out includes advancing a runner with the first out of an inning, scoring a runner with the second out, or when a pitcher lays down a sacrifice bunt to advance a runner with one out. Productive Outs aren’t a necessity for a winning a team, but they can provide a different look at the value of certain hitters.

Torii Hunter led the American League last year in productive outs, according to the Bill James Handbook. Only Dodgers slugger Adrian Gonzalez had more among Major League hitters. When Hunter came to the plate last year with a runner on second and nobody out, he advanced the runner 16 out of 27 times, according to baseball-reference.com. Part of the reason Hunter works batting second in a lineup is his ability to advance a leadoff man with a ground ball to the right side.

Hunter put up all these productive outs without an abundance of sacrifice bunts. He set a career high with three, but they came nine attempts according to STATS. He had three sac bunts in his previous 15 Major League seasons combined. When he did sacrifice, then-manager Jim Leyland took some occasional heat for it.

With runners at first and second and nobody out in the eighth inning Wednesday night, new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus called on Hunter to bunt. Hunter couldn’t get the bunt down, then grounded into a double play. Thus, instead of getting two runners in scoring position for Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers had a runner on third with two outs for the reigning MVP. He singled in the runner, but didn’t have the tying run to drive in.

Asked about the decision, Ausmus said he discussed it with Hunter.

“I talked to him about it before he went up,” Ausmus said after the game. “He was on board. He’s bunted before. It just didn’t work out that one time. You’re not always going to be successful in your sacrifice bunting. Everyone thinks it’s easy, but when a guy’s throwing 95 miles an hour, it’s not easy.”

Hunter confirmed they talked it over. He didn’t remember the numbers on how rarely he had bunted.

“I might have had one last year, maybe one every 10 years,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but I come to win. If my manager tells me to do something, I should be able to execute it and I didn’t today and that’s probably why we lost.”

Asked if he’d feel better swinging away in such a situation, Hunter said, “Oh yeah, no doubt. I’ve driven in some runs in my career. I always want to be the one at the plate in a clutch situation like that to try and get something done. But it doesn’t matter. I have to do what I have to do to help this ballclub. If I get those guys over and Miguel gets up, I don’t know if they walk him or whatever, but I give him a chance to get two RBIs instead of one.”

Asked if he’d say something like that to his manager, Hunter said no.

“I’m not going to say I want to swing,” he said. “If he wants me to bunt, I’m going to do that. That’s my job. I’m the employee. If he tells me to do something, I’m going to do it. I’m the soldier.”

As far as the strategy behind it, Ausmus acknowledged the possibility that the Indians would have walked Cabrera, loading the bases and taking their chances with Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson. Doing so, however, would have put the go-ahead run on base.

Essentially, Ausmus played to force the decision and set up a potential go-ahead rally instead of a game-tying one.

“I don’t know if [Terry Francona] would have walked Cabrera or not,” Ausmus said. “It would have been the winning run at that point. But if he does walk him, I like the way the two guys behind him are swinging the bat, Victor and Jackson.

“Generally speaking, I don’t know that I would necessarily want to bunt and make a base open for Miggy, especially if he’s swinging the bat and he’s hitting the ball well like he normally does. But in this situation, I felt pretty good with the two guys behind him, and if they decided to walk Cabrera, I felt good about Martinez and Jackson now with the winning run on base.”

Play of the game: Yan Gomes’ go-ahead two-run triple in the second inning looked bigger and bigger as the game went on and Anibal Sanchez. It was the only hit the Indians managed in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but it drove in two runs instead of one. In the end, was the difference.

Out of the game: The Indians had a few of them, including strikeouts of Alex Avila and Austin Jackson to end threats with runners in scoring position. But John Axford’s strikeout of Don Kelly on a breaking ball with the tying run on third base and one out was huge, essentially deciding the game. Axford got a player who normally doesn’t chase pitches outside the zone to chase a very good breaking ball that dove out of it. He also retired a guy who came up 14 times last year with a runner on third and less than two outs, and plated the runner eight out of 14 times.

Line of the night: It wasn’t like Max Scherzer’s line from the other night, but it wasn’t far off, Anibal Sanchez striking out eight batters over five innings yet giving up three runs, two earned, on just two hits.

Stat of the night: The Indians and Tigers combined to go 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position, one hit apiece. The Indians’ hit drove in two runs. The Tigers’ hit plated only one.

Print it: “I think after the season, I’ll be able to go to the beach with no t-shirt.” — Miguel Cabrera on the exercises he has to do during the season to keep his core strong following surgery last fall.

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Indians

With the return of the DH slot, the Tigers lineup looks a lot more normal tonight, including the return of Ian Kinsler to the leadoff spot, Miguel Cabrera to the third slot in the order, and Rajai Davis to ninth.

Nick Castellanos remains in the sixth spot, with Alex Avila moving to seventh. It’s a creep up for a player who was expected to remain in a lower-pressure spot in the lineup for at least the early part of the schedule, but it’s a sign of how well he has handled himself at the plate for the first couple weeks.

“I don’t want to throw Nick in the heart of the lineup,” Brad Ausmus said this afternoon, “but I just think Nick’s handled himself pretty well, so I don’t feel as uncomfortable putting him in the sixth spot.”

TIGERS (career numbers off Zach McAllister)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-3)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-10, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-13, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-9, 3 doubles, 2 K’s)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (5-for-10, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (1-for-8, 4 K’s)
  8. Alex Gonzalez, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-2)

P: Anibal Sanchez

INDIANS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)

  1. Michael Bourn, CF (8-for-27, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
  2. Nick Swisher, 1B (2-for-12, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
  3. Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-17, double, 6 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, DH (4-for-16, double, triple, walk, 6 K’s)
  5. Michael Brantley, LF (5-for-17, K)
  6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (5-for-18, HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  7. David Murphy, RF (1-for-5, K)
  8. Yan Gomes, C (2-for-5, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  9. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-10, walk, 2 K’s)

P: Zach McAllister

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