As expected, Rajai Davis is out of the lineup following his groin injury Sunday. While his replacement (Anthony Gose) was obvious, the batting order was not. With lefty Tommy Milone on the mound for Minnesota, Brad Ausmus shuffled, bumping Ian Kinsler up to leadoff (where he started for much of last summer) and moving Jose Iglesias to the second spot. Gose, who has a couple hits off Milone in his history, bats ninth.
Alex Avila gets his second start against a lefty in three days. Slumping Nick Castellanos (0-for-11, seven strikeouts since his home run Friday) gets a night off to regroup, with Hernan Perez starting his place.
TIGERS (career numbers off Tommy Milone)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-16, HR, 3 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-2, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (7-for-16, 3 doubles, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-8)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (4-for-14, double, HR)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Alex Avila, C (0-for-2)
- Hernan Perez, 3B (0-for-1, K)
- Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-2, double)
P: David Price
TWINS (career numbers off Price)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (5-for-22, double, 2 HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (8-for-26, double, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (5-for-27, double, 4 walks, 7 K’s)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (6-for-15, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Eduardo Nunez, DH (9-for-34, 2 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (6-for-26, 3 doubles, HR, 10 K’s)
- Shane Robinson, LF
- Jordan Schafer, CF (1-for-5)
- Danny Santana, SS (3-for-16, double, triple, 8 K’s)
P: Tommy Milone
The fallout from last week’s Royals-White Sox fracas began having an impact Monday, when KC starter Edinson Volquez dropped his appeal of the five-game suspension he received for throwing a punch (that missed) at Jeff Samardzija.
Volquez begins serving his suspension Monday. It pushes back his scheduled start against the Tigers by a day, from Friday to Saturday. However, it leaves the Royals needing a spot starter for Friday. According to MLB.com’s Royals reporter Jeffrey Flanagan, that could fall to Chris Young, whose 12 wins for the Mariners last year in his comeback campaign included two victories over the Tigers, both of them six-inning quality starts.
Yordano Ventura’s seven-game suspension remains on appeal, keeping him on track to face the Tigers next Sunday.
At some point next month, the Tigers will hit the 40-game mark in the season. And at that point, the old Sparky Anderson adage will come into play, that you can’t do an evaluation of a team until 40 games in. A hot start can be a mirage based on matchups or a hot hitter. A cold spell can come from injuries, cold weather, or a tough early schedule.
This year’s Tigers ruled themselves out of the famed 35-5 start of Sparky’s 1984 team this week. In fact, their perception swung one direction and the other over the course of the homestand.
They arrived at Comerica Park as the hottest team in baseball, having won eight of their first nine. Then they built on that by taking two of three from the White Sox.
They went into this weekend as a vulnerable team, having lost three of four to a Yankees squad that had looked decidedly average over the first couple weeks of the season.
They then regained some of that momentum, not to mention the best record in the American League, by taking two out of three from the Indians, whom they had swept in Cleveland a couple weeks back.
They went 5-5 on the homestand, but went through some swings along the way.
“You can slice up streaks any way you want,” Brad Ausmus said. “It’s a little overblown. We weren’t going to go 9-1 every 10 games for the season. …
“I’m not overly concerned with those things right now. We have another game against the Minnesota Twins tomorrow. That’s where I’m focused on. What’s our record now? So we’ve won 13 out of our last 19. That’s how I look at it.”
They’ve played two series against the Indians, and two weeks from now they’ll have done the same against every other team in the division, including seven games against the Royals. That’ll be a measuring point in the eyes of Miguel Cabrera, who was looking at the upcoming road trip as a major test.
“It’s a good chance to see your division up close,” he said as he readied to hit the road Sunday. “We’re going to play Minnesota, Kansas City and Chicago. We already played Minnesota and Chicago. Let’s see how we play Kansas City. After we play all our division, we’ll see how we’re going to go in the season. We’ve got to play good in each of the three and try to make something happen like we did against Cleveland.”
The six games against the Indians were a collective statement about the reigning division champions and the team many have predicted as a viable competition to win the division this year, if not the entire league. Aside from Shane Greene’s start and Danny Salazar’s dominance Friday night, Detroit’s starting pitching outperformed a talented young Indians rotation, punctuated by Sunday’s win by Kyle Lobstein over Carlos Carrasco, who seems to pitch well against everybody but Detroit.
What went right: Aside from Shane Greene on Friday, Detroit’s back-end starting pitching dictated the course of the weekend, from Alfredo Simon holding Cleveland’s offense down to Kyle Lobstein delivering seven quality innings in just 86 pitches. Rajai Davis provided a spark for a struggling lineup, scoring three runs each Saturday and Sunday while running wild on Cleveland’s defense. Miguel Cabrera heated up again after a week or so of steady performance. And Tom Gorzelanny showed he can be a left-handed reliever to call on for left-handed hitters, getting a huge double play out of Brandon Moss on Saturday.
What went wrong:
Much in the same way that Cleveland and its left-handed hitters provided a regular reminder for Rick Porcello that he couldn’t make a living off of sinkers and fastballs, the Indians weren’t fazed by Shane Greene’s mix. He has the secondary pitches, but they weren’t good enough Friday. It was his first lesson on life as a sinkerballer in the American League Central. Nick Castellanos, meanwhile, fell into a miserable stretch after his opposite-field homer in his first at-bat of the series, and had some of his worst at-bats so far this season. Aside from Gorzelanny and closer Joakim Soria, the bullpen had a rough weekend, especially Al Alburquerque, who said Sunday he’s been dealing with a sinus infection that has affected him on the mound.
Takeaway: The coming days will tell how Rajai Davis is affected by his groin injury, but the past two days were a statement that Davis still has a major role to play on this team. When he’s on, the matchups don’t matter. When he’s on and he’s looking to run, the energy seeps down the lineup; even Cabrera was talking about the benefit of having guys who can run in front of them, because it means he can drive in runners just as easily with a single as a homer. Anthony Gose is the long-term center fielder, but Davis is an igniter.
Snapshot moment: After watching Miguel Cabrera haunt the Indians so many times this month, Carlos Carrasco seemingly had solved the conundrum of maneuvering through the middle of the Tigers order by striking out Cabrera with runners in scoring position. That allowed Carrasco to walk Victor Martinez and face a slumping J.D. Martinez, who promptly lined a two-run single into left field.
Turning point: Trevor Bauer got the food poisoning, but his resulting scratch left Terry Francona feeling queasy. With T.J. House being forced into a short-notice spot start against a Tigers lineup that had handled him two weeks earlier (and had Rajai Davis in it already), Saturday went from a favorable matchup for Cleveland into an opportunity for Detroit. The Tigers didn’t rock House, if only because he could go just three innings. They did enough to change the series.
Pitching performance of the series: While Alfredo Simon’s 6 2/3 innings Saturday constituted the stronger start, Kyle Lobstein needed an outing like Sunday, not so much for the three runs allowed as the seven innings over just 86 pitches. He avoided the early trouble that had bothered him his previous couple outings, including in Cleveland, and he saved a bullpen that had covered enough innings for the week.
Hitting performance of the series: Rajai Davis went 5-for-8 with six runs scored and three stolen bases, and showed that taking a base with Miguel Cabrera up isn’t always a disaster. “Him and Anthony [Gose] are huge for our offense,” Ian Kinsler said. “If they can get on base, and get going, it opens up a lot of other things, puts a lot of pressure on the other team. So hopefully Raj can get healthy soon.”
Bookmark the box score: Sunday’s game might be the day that Kyle Lobstein needed as a Major League pitcher. His next start will be another big test Friday at Kansas City, followed by a meeting with the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. If he can pitch well there, the Tigers can feel like Justin Verlander’s lingering triceps issue isn’t as massive of an obstacle for them.
Rajai Davis finally slowed up against the Indians this weekend. The Tigers have to hope his season isn’t halted.
The sight of Davis pulling up out of the batters box in the eighth inning Sunday brought back bad memories for Tigers fans to the groin injury that hampered Davis down the stretch last year. However, Davis said his right groin tightness isn’t nearly as severe and shouldn’t keep him out long, if at all.
“I don’t think it’s serious at all,” Davis said. “I just think it’s sore, tight. I’ve been running around on it a lot the last couple of days. I guess I wasn’t used to that. If I get my body used to it, I think I’ll be all right.”
Davis is officially listed as day-to-day.
Davis made his second straight start Sunday, batting leadoff and playing in center field. He tripled and scored in the first inning, then made a diving catch in right-center to retire Jason Kipnis with a runner on in the third. He scored twice more in the fifth and sixth before he came up in the eighth and hit a ground ball through the middle.
Davis took a couple steps out of the box to speed up, then slowed, trotting carefully to first base. After hunching over the bag, he left immediately for pinch-runner Anthony Gose.
“It was tight, and I wasn’t running like I was capable of running,” Davis said. “Just wanted to take precautionary measures. I think the bigger picture is what I was looking at.”
Davis finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored, completing a two-game stretch batting 5-for-8 with six runs and three stolen bases. He became a sparkplug for a Tigers offense that had been struggling for most of the week.
“That’s exactly what he is,” Ian Kinsler said. “Him and Anthony [Gose] are huge for our offense. If they can get on base, and get going, it opens up a lot of other things, puts a lot of pressure on the other team. So hopefully Raj can get healthy soon.”
Davis had been expected to get a third consecutive start Monday night at Minnesota with left-hander Tommy Milone starting for the Twins, but that’s now in question. If Davis can’t go, Gose would likely get a rare start against a lefty, and manager Brad Ausmus would have to decide who bats leadoff, possibly moving Jose Iglesias up in the order for a game.
Happy Lobstein Day. Rajai Davis gets another start in center against Carlos Carrasco. With Tommy Milone slated to start for the Twins on Monday in Minnesota, he’ll be in center tomorrow as well. The break gives Gose a chance to work with hitting coach Wally Joyner, according to Brad Ausmus.
“It gives him a chance to take a step back, work with Wally in the cage a little bit,” Ausmus said.
James McCann, meanwhile, starts behind the plate for Lobstein.
The Indians, meanwhile, do some shifting around beyond the usual lefty matchup thing. Jason Kipnis moves up to leadoff, while Michael Bourn — mired in a 3-for-27 slump — moves down to ninth.
TIGERS (career calculations off Carlos Carrasco)
- Rajai Davis, CF (2-for-10, double, 2 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-16, 3 doubles, walk, 4 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-18, double, HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-17)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-10, HR, K)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-1, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-6, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- James McCann, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-1)
P: Kyle Lobstein
INDIANS (career numbers against Lobstein)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-7, walk, 3 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, SS (1-for-5, double)
- Michael Brantley, LF (2-for-5, HR, walk, K)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (3-for-7, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Ryan Raburn, DH (2-for-5, walk)
- Brandon Moss, RF (1-for-2, double, walk)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-6, K)
- Roberto Perez, C (0-for-2)
- Michael Bourn, CF (2-for-8, double, walk, 4 K’s)
P: Carlos Carrasco
UPDATE: Trevor Bauer was a last-minute scratch with an illness after trying to long-toss before his start. Left-hander T.J. House starts in his place. The Tigers lineup, which already had Rajai Davis in it but also has Alex Avila in it, stays the same.
Davis got the start today over Anthony Gose against what was supposed to be Bauer, who has slight reverse splits for his career but has been pretty much stingy against everybody this season (4-for-30 with 17 strikeouts vs. right-handed hitters, 4-for-34 with 9 walks and 9 K’s against lefties). Gose’s four-strikeout also likely played into the move.
“He’s just in a little bit of a funk right now,” Brad Ausmus said. “He’s not swinging like he was a week ago. It doesn’t hurt to give him a day to regroup and work on some things in the cage.”
Weatherwise, it appears Detroit has lucked out today. While most of the Midwest is getting drenched today — the White Sox already canceled their game against the Royals — the storm system is expected to stay to the south of Motown, allowing for a cold, dry afternoon of baseball at Comerica Park.
Reminder: Today’s game is on Fox Sports 1, rather than Fox Sports Detroit. Check your TV provider for the channel number.
TIGERS (career numbers off T.J. House)
- Rajai Davis, CF (1-for-1, walk)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-1, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-2, HR)
- Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-2, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-2)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-1, K)
- Alex Avila, C
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-1, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-1)
P: Alfredo Simon
INDIANS (career numbers off Alfredo Simon)
- Michael Bourn, CF (4-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-8, double, walk, K)
- Michael Brantley, LF (7-for-12, 3 doubles, walk)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (4-for-12, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Brandon Moss, RF (1-for-4, K)
- David Murphy, DH (3-for-6, double, 2 walks, HBP)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-10, double, HR, K)
- Brett Hayes, C
- Jose Ramirez, SS (1-for-4)
Trevor Bauer T.J. House
Alex Avila bats ahead of Nick Castellanos in the order for the second straight game, which is the order we all expected coming out of Spring Training before Brad Ausmus flipped them for Opening Day. It breaks up the string of right-handed batters, Ausmus said, but it’s something he wasn’t doing for the first 2 1/2 weeks.
“I think Alex has shown that he’s swung the bat a little better,” Ausmus said, “so I feel like there’s less risk involved now.”
Other than that, it’s the standard lineup against right-handers, and a lineup of mixed results against Danny Salazar. J.D. Martinez has yet to make contact against Salazar in seven plate appearances (one walk, six strikeouts), while Miguel Cabrera is 5-for-13 with six strikeouts.
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-0, walk, hit-by-pitch)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-10, HR, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-13, double, HR, 6 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-14, HR, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-6, walk, 6 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Alex Avila, C (2-for-5, walk, 3 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-8, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-5, K)
P: Shane Greene
- Michael Bourn, CF
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (0-for-3)
- Michael Brantley, LF (1-for-3)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (0-for-3, K)
- Brandon Moss, RF
- David Murphy, DH (0-for-2, K)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (0-for-2)
- Roberto Perez, C
- Jose Ramirez, SS
P: Danny Salazar
A month ago, the debate was what Joe Nathan exactly said about the fans in Detroit. It now appears he won’t throw another pitch in front of them, or if he throws another pitch at all.
Though Nathan talked about trying a comeback from his torn UCL and flexor pronator, it would appear likely he threw his final pitch on the mound at Triple-A Toledo on a chilly April afternoon before thousands of schoolkids. It would be an odd ending for one of the greatest closers of his generation. But then, Nathan’s Tiger tenure in general never quite went to script.
In the end, it will probably be regarded nationally a footnote on a great career, and locally as one of those Tigers closer acquisitions that didn’t work out (Troy Percival and Ugueth Urbina were others, but Nathan did more in his season than Percival and Urbina did in theirs).
As Nathan grew emotional talking with reporters this morning, you could sense that the gravity of the career was hitting him, whether it’s over or not.
“I want people to understand,” Nathan said. “I think people sometimes don’t realize how much work and effort goes into playing this game, to just the last couple of years but over the course of a career. Playing this game and going out there, preparing yourself every day, the things sometimes we have to do, take anti-inflammatories on a daily basis, get numerous cortisone shots. Trainers are in there hours on end, trying to make sure we’re physically ready to go. It’s tough, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but unfortunately these things do happen. I busted my butt just like I always have to get myself ready for [Wednesday]. So I prepared myself for that, and it was going well. That was the frustrating thing, the outing was going well, the bullpen session beforehand was great, didn’t feel anything, then first pitch to the third batter felt something I never felt before. Felt a pop, knew something wasn’t good, give myself a minute to settle in and try and throw another pitch. Obviously that didn’t go so well.
“The emotional thing, the frustrating thing is what we do to prepare ourselves, and what we do to prepare every year to get ourselves ready. Coming in this year, shoot, I had a cortisone shot Saturday night when I landed and then pitched on Opening Day on Monday to make sure I was ready for that. It just shows what these trainers do for us, what we do to get ourselves ready. It does become very emotional and yesterday was a very tough day.”
Nathan spent the bulk of his offseason trying to get himself in shape for a rebound, trying to give himself a chance to pitch better than he did for longer than he did last year. With one pop in the arm, that work is now done, and it’s questionable at best whether any amount of work will get him back on the mound.
“My motto in this game has always been throw ’til you blow. Unfortunately, yesterday I did blow,” Nathan said. “One of those things that I’ve been proud of my career, I’ve been proud of the things I’ve done. It’s always been about hard work and getting myself ready, so this will be no different. I will prepare myself to get ready and bust my butt to see whatever’s in store for me in the future.”
In the end, he might end up being remembered in Detroit more for what he did against the Tigers than for him. He was not only beloved in Minnesota, he was dominant, especially against the Tigers. Still, he credited as many people as he could Thursday.
On his time in Detroit, Nathan said, “It’s baseball. It’s not easy. My time here has not been easy, but it’s also been pleasurable. I’ve gotten a chance to meet great fans. I’ve gotten a chance to hang out with great people in this organization, meet great people in this organization from the front office, on down to the guys who work outside, security, people that work on the field for us, take care of us out there, to great individuals in this clubhouse.
“There’s tough times with everything. No matter what you do, you’re going to have tough times. It’s about picking yourself up, and getting back up, and creating good relationships, even from things that start off bad.”
During the winter caravan (he volunteered to wait tables at a Buffalo Wild Wings in a teammate’s place), then TigerFest, then Spring Training, there was a sense he wanted to mend that relationship. His quotes after being booed in Lakeland thwarted that, even if they didn’t come out the way he had hoped. Still, he got a better reception than expected on Opening Day, and a strong start might well have won some fans back. It didn’t go right; not much here really did for him.
Maybe he does make it back, but it almost surely won’t be here. His legacy in Detroit is pretty much what it is. He’ll have to handle that as an end point on a much better career.
“I do know what’s in front of me,” Nathan said. “I’m also smart enough to realize that if things don’t work out, I have nothing to be upset about. I played baseball until I was 40 years old. If you would have told me when I started this I’d be playing baseball when I was 40, I’d have been ecstatic. I’m very happy with the way my career has gone, but like I said, I’m not done yet.”
Where Nathan ranks all-time:
Saves: 377, 7th
Games finished: 586, 17th
Games pitched: 777, tied for 52nd
A little late on this, but here it is. Just a regular day off for Jose Iglesias, according to Brad Ausmus, who expects to do more of this on day games after night games.
“We still have to be somewhat cognizant of the injury that Iglesias had last year, and give him — at least for a period of time — some breaks,” Ausmus said, “more than you would another regular.”
Hernan Perez thus gets a second start. Also, Alex Avila and Nick Castellanos were subtly flipped in the batting order.
On the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira both get the day off, giving the Yankees two fewer power threats against Anibal Sanchez.
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Alex Avila, C
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Hernan Perez, SS
P: Anibal Sanchez
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
- Brett Gardner, LF
- Carlos Beltran, DH
- Brian McCann, C
- Chase Headley, 3B
- Chris Young, RF
- Garrett Jones, 1B
- Stephen Drew, 2B
- Didi Gregorius, SS
P: Masahiro Tanaka
Joe Nathan will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with tears of the ulnar collateral ligament and flexor pronator in his right arm, ending his season and potentially his career.