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Game 23: Royals strike first in division battle

Alfredo Simon succeeded beyond expectations in April through a simple philosophy: He threw strikes, and he kept the ball down in the zone consistently. He left pitches up on Thursday, and he paid for them consistently.

On the flip side, the Royals were ready for Alfredo Simon, even after getting back home early Thursday morning from a disappointing Wednesday night loss in Cleveland. They made Simon pay for pitches he left up, sure, but as the strike zone map on brooksbaseball.net shows, they also hit their fair share of pitches Simon located down in the strike zone as well, such as Jarrod Dyson’s fourth-inning single.

simonstrikezoneplot043015

“In a lot of situations, I was behind in the count,” Simon said. “I just tried to throw a strike and when it was up, they put a good swing on it. I think my split in the first couple innings didn’t work very good, and they took advantage of that.”

After all the talk of statements and ensuing misses from Cleveland last month, the Royals executed their part of the division rivalry to plan, from capitalizing on Simon to Danny Duffy keeping the Tigers offense constrained. They were aggressive in a way that Simon wasn’t able to use it against them.

Four of Kansas City’s nine hits off Simon went for extra bases. All of those either traveled to the outfield fence or, in the case of Eric Hosmer’s home run, cleared it. Every hit off Simon was a line drive or a fly ball except for Moustakas’ bunt single against the shift in the opening inning.

“They hit it in spots we weren’t playing. It’s tough to defend that. It’s a big outfield, a lot of room out there,” Rajai Davis said. “We made some mistakes and they took advantage of it.”

Said Simon: “I think these guys are good hitters, and they’re really hot right now.”

It was one game, and it’s entirely possible the Tigers settle in from here. A quality start from Kyle Lobstein would go a long way toward stifling momentum. But in many ways, this was a swing game of the four-game set, not just the fact that it was the first game, but for the pitching matchup. If there are statements to be made, the Royals made it, though the Tigers have been through enough of these – such as Indians early-season series sweeps in past years – to know better than make too much of one game.

“I’m not worried about this club,” Ausmus said. “They’ll come in ready to play tomorrow. I’m not concerned at all.”

Play of the game: Simon had seemingly contained the damage of Mike Moustakas’ third-inning RBI double to open the scoring by striking out Lorenzo Cain for the second out, sending a fastball by him on a foul tip with Moustakas on second. He then threw a first-pitch two-seamer that Hosmer centered off the batters eye for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.

“I just left a two-seamer up,” Simon said.

Out of the game: The Tigers didn’t have many rallies off Duffy, but they had a chance to strike in the first inning after a Miguel Cabrera walk and a Victor Martinez single, setting up J.D. Martinez for an RBI opportunity. Duffy couldn’t get Martinez to bite on a first-pitch curveball, but he got swings on his next three pitches – a miss on a changeup, a 94 mph fastball that Martinez fouled off, then back to the curveball which got Martinez swinging this time. It denied the Tigers a chance to take the early momentum, and it got Duffy rolling.

Strategery: It didn’t result in any runs, but Moustakas got his night started by laying a bunt down the third-base line with the infield defense shifted on him to pull. It was an easy single, and as Jose Iglesias scrambled to the line to get it, it could’ve given Moustakas a chance to at least look toward second base if he had another step or two.

It was also the exact type of move Brad Ausmus warned was coming this year from hitters to counter the shift.

“That was a perfect bunt. I give him credit,” Ausmus said. “You can tell he’s making an attempt to go the other way a little bit. If you’re going to hand him a bunt, he’ll take advantage of it. So I give him credit.”

Line of the game: The Royals scored more runs off Simon in 4 1/3 innings (six) than he gave up in his previous four outings combined (five). The nine hits he allowed included the same extra-base hit damage he had given up in his previous four starts – three doubles and a home run. His ERA rose from 1.65 to 3.13.

Stat of the game: Victor Martinez’s two-hit game was just his fourth multi-hit game so far this season. He had 57 multi-hit games last year.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

James McCann gets his second consecutive start, this part as part of the standard lefty lineup with Danny Duffy on the mound.

The Royals shuffle their batting order with Alcides Escobar out after his hit-by-pitch from Danny Salazar. Alex Gordon returns to his old job as leadoff hitter, with folks at the bottom of the order moving up a spot. Christian Colon starts as shortstop, batting ninth.

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers against Duffy)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (2-for-9, double, walk, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-12, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-18, 3 doubles, 6 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-15, double, 2 walks, K)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-6, HR, 4 K’s)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-2, walk, K)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-8)
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-1, K)

P: Alfredo Simon

royalschampionslogoROYALS (career numbers off Simon)

  1. Alex Gordon, LF (1-for-5, HR, K)
  2. Mike Moustakas, 3B (0-for-3)
  3. Lorenzo Cain, CF
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B (2-for-4, 2 doubles)
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Salvador Perez, C
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-1)
  8. Jarrod Dyson, RF
  9. Christian Colon, SS

P: Danny Duffy

Joe Nathan undergoes Tommy John surgery

Joe Nathan underwent Tommy John surgery and flexor repair on Wednesday. The closer confirmed the news via text message on Thursday, the first day of his rehab.

“Everything went very well,” Nathan texted.

Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press first reported that surgery took place.

Dr. Keith Meister performed the surgery in Texas. The surgery came exactly a week after Nathan left his rehab appearance at Triple-A Toledo with a severe elbow injury, later revealed to be tears of the ulnar collateral ligament and the flexor pronator. The surgery ended his 2015 season after four pitches, a one-out save on Opening Day against the Twins. At age 40, his career is also in serious question, but he said he will rehab with the intention of a comeback attempt.

“Already back in there doing some exercises,” Nathan said.

Given the procedures, he said he’s unlikely to pick up a ball for eight months, which puts the start of next season likely out of range for him.

Nathan remains on the 15-day disabled list for now until the Tigers need an extra spot on their 40-man roster, at which point they would move him to the 60-day DL. Some have asked on Twitter why the Tigers don’t simply release Nathan, but beyond not serving any benefit, it would actually cost them money to do so. For the Tigers to collect any insurance on Nathan’s contract, they would have to keep him on the roster the entire season.

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

Rajai Davis returns, while Alex Avila and Jose Iglesias get the day off after the night game.

TIGERS (career numbers off Hughes)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (7-for-29, 4 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-26, 2 doubles, triple, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (16-for-37, 4 doubles, 5 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-30, 2 doubles, 4 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-3, HR, K)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (5-for-10, 2 doubles, triple, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-7, walk, 4 K’s)
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-6, 2 K’s)

P: Shane Greene

TWINS (career numbers off Greene)

  1. Danny Santana, SS (0-for-4, K)
  2. Brian Dozier, 2B (0-for-3, K)
  3. Joe Mauer, DH (0-for-2, walk)
  4. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (1-for-3, K)
  5. Oswaldo Arcia, RF
  6. Eduardo Escobar, LF (1-for-3)
  7. Kennys Vargas, 1B (1-for-3, double, K)
  8. Chris Herrmann, C
  9. Jordan Schafer, CF (0-for-3)

P: Phil Hughes

Gibson reactions: “I can’t see Gibson crawling into a corner over this”

As news spread of Kirk Gibson’s battle with Parkinson’s disease, reactions came in from across baseball. Most of it foretold of a heck of a fight coming from Gibson.

“I can’t see Kirk Gibson folding up shop and crawling into a corner over this,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday. “I don’t think that’s in his DNA.”

Ausmus wasn’t a teammate of Gibson, missing him by a year in Detroit, but knows him well.

“Obviously you feel awful for Gibby and his family,” Ausmus said. “I’ve known Gibby for about 15 years, 16 years, and he’s always been great to me, a tremendous person. One of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever watched. I just feel awful for him and his family.”

Tigers play-by-play broadcaster Mario Impemba worked with Gibson in 2002, and again on Opening Day a few weeks ago. He has been looking forward to working with him again, only to hear this.

“It was shocking news,” Impemba said. “The major part of my experience with Kirk was working with him in 2002, my first year in Detroit. He was the color analyst and I think I learned quickly what Kirk is all about. He’s a tough guy, he’s a fighter, and he’s not afraid of challenges. I know this is not a good diagnosis but I think he’ll meet this thing head-on and we just hope for the best.”

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle played with Gibson in the minor leagues. He learned of Gibson’s diagnosis during his pregame session with reporters.

“I know Kirk from back playing minor league ball together. He’s always been up for a challenge,” Hurdle said. “You never want to see anybody have to meet this challenge. … I would imagine it’s good that the diagnosis is in place, because there are procedures and things that can be done along the course to try to maintain some balance and some quality of life. What a competitor. What a good man, a good man to have in the game, a good man to know. … I will reach out to him.”

The Tigers released a statement: “The Detroit Tigers family wishes the best for Kirk Gibson, and our thoughts are with Kirk and his family. We are all hopeful for Kirk’s return to the ballpark soon.”

More reaction:

 

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

The Tigers lineup returns to some normalcy with a right-hander on the mound. Anthony Gose was expected to start this one whether Rajai Davis was available or not. He leads off, Ian Kinsler returns to the two spot, and Jose Iglesias moves down to ninth.

The Twins give Brian Dozier (1-for-17 career against Anibal Sanchez) a night off and move Danny Santana to the leadoff spot. Eduardo Escobar starts at second.

tigerroarlogoTIGERS (career numbers against Mike Pelfrey)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-4, double, walk, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-6, double, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (5-for-20, 7 walks, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-17, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-5, double)
  7. Alex Avila, C (3-for-10, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-2)

P: Anibal Sanchez

twinsshakinghandslogoTWINS (career numbers against Sanchez)

  1. Danny Santana, SS (2-for-7, 2 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-9, double, 3 K’s)
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B (6-for-20, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-15, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  5. Eduardo Nunez, DH (2-for-5, double, triple, K)
  6. Eduardo Escobar, 2B (0-for-6, walk, 2 K’s)
  7. Oswaldo Arcia, LF (1-for-13, walk, 5 K’s)
  8. Kurt Suzuki, C (1-for-4)
  9. Jordan Schafer, CF (2-for-14, double, walk, 8 K’s)

P: Mike Pelfrey

Tigers to miss Ventura during series in KC

The pitching rotations are mostly out for the upcoming four-game series between the Tigers and Royals, and Yordano Ventura isn’t on the list. He’s scheduled to to start Wednesday at Cleveland.

The Tigers are keeping their rotation on turn, meaning Alfredo Simon Thursday night, Kyle Lobstein on Friday, David Price on Saturday, then Anibal Sanchez in Sunday’s finale. The Royals will start left-hander Danny Duffy on Thursday, have a TBA listed for Friday (probably right-hander Chris Young), then Edinson Volquez on Saturday and Jason Vargas on Sunday.

Ventura would still be on turn face the Tigers next weekend in Detroit, but that could depend on the appeal of his seven-game suspension. Volquez dropped his appeal Monday and is serving his suspension this week, which is why the Royals have a TBA listed for Friday.

Duffy has had an up-and-down April, pitching into the seventh inning once in four starts. He has battled high pitch counts. Volquez has been very good, but he has a rough history against the Tigers (1-2, 5.74 ERA, 9 walks, 12 K’s over 15 2/3 innings in 3 starts).

Kirk Gibson diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease

The absence of Kirk Gibson from recent Tigers broadcasts was noticeable, and now the reason is known. The former Tigers great has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to a statement released through Fox Sports Detroit, who hired him this spring as an analyst.

“I have faced many different obstacles in my life, and have always maintained a strong belief that no matter the circumstances, I could overcome those obstacles,” Gibson said in the statement. “While this diagnosis poses a new kind of challenge for me, I intend to stay true to my beliefs. With the support of my family and friends, I will meet this challenge with the same determination and unwavering intensity that I have displayed in all of my endeavors in life. I look forward to being back at the ballpark as soon as possible.”

Gibson, who will turn 58 years old next month, rejoined Fox Sports Detroit as a game analyst after five seasons managing the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was scheduled to work about 60 games on television alongside play-by-play man Mario Impemba, allowing him to follow his son Cam, an outfielder at Michigan State.

Gibson teamed with Impemba and Rod Allen in a three-man booth for Opening Day, but hadn’t been on the air since. He was believed to have been scheduled to work part of last week’s Tigers homestand, but was replaced by Allen in the booth. He was also absent when former teammate Lou Whitaker received the Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award last weekend.

Gibson underwent a series of tests recently that revealed the disease, according to the statement. Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects one in 100 people over age 60, but can be diagnosed in people as young as 18, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Various estimates tab anywhere from 500,000 to a million people in the United States affected by the disease. Its impacts include shaking, stiffness and difficulty with balance and coordination.

Fox Sports Detroit announced that it will welcome Gibson back as his treatment permits.

Like many who have been affected by Parkinson’s, Gibson was a picture of health as a player. A two-sport standout at Michigan State, he was a first-round draft pick of the Tigers in 1978 and spent 12 of his 17 Major League seasons in Detroit. He hit 27 home runs for the 1984 world champion Tigers, and hit two home runs in Game 5 of the World Series, helping clinch what remains the Tigers’ last title.

Gibson went on to win National League MVP honors with the Dodgers in 1988, and came off the bench to hit one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history that fall, beating Dennis Eckersley.

Gibson finished with a .268 average, 255 home runs and 870 RBIs in 1635 career games. He rejoined the Tigers as a coach from 2003 to 2005 under teammate turned manager Alan Trammell.

Monday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

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)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-16, HR, 3 K’s)
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-2, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (7-for-16, 3 doubles, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-8)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (4-for-14, double, HR)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-2)
  8. Hernan Perez, 3B (0-for-1, K)
  9. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-2, double)

P: David Price

TWINS (career numbers off Price)

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B (5-for-22, double, 2 HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (8-for-26, double, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B (5-for-27, double, 4 walks, 7 K’s)
  4. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (6-for-15, double, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Eduardo Nunez, DH (9-for-34, 2 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  6. Kurt Suzuki, C (6-for-26, 3 doubles, HR, 10 K’s)
  7. Shane Robinson, LF
  8. Jordan Schafer, CF (1-for-5)
  9. Danny Santana, SS (3-for-16, double, triple, 8 K’s)

P: Tommy Milone

Volquez serves suspension, Royals shuffle rotation

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.

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