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Cabrera defends Ausmus, talks deadline deals, wonders what if

Miguel Cabrera spent the last two Septembers playing through injuries in a push for a Tigers berth in the postseason. He has no postseason spot for which to push this September, and that hurts worse.

Cabrera finished off a batting title and an MVP season two years ago through a groin tear, and he hit .379 over the final month last year despite a stress fracture in his foot. The left calf strain he suffered this summer seems mild by comparison, but the last-place division standing does not.

He’s pushing, trying to finish off his fourth batting title in five years. But it’s getting tough, and his .189 average (10-for-53) this month shows it. He hasn’t been out of the playoff chase at this point since 2010, and he hasn’t had a losing season in Detroit since 2008, his first as a Tiger.

It’s no fun for the fans, and he knows it. It’s no fun for him, either, no matter how much he smiles when he’s on the field.

“The past two or three weeks, no. It’s no fun at all,” he said as he sat at his locker Wednesday afternoon, before a pinch-hit strikeout Wednesday night extended his hitless streak to 0-for-20. “It’s hard, man, when you lose a lot of games and all the stuff happens this year. It’s kind of hard, but we need to keep pushing,”

The stuff to which he referred included injuries up and down the roster, including himself. It included a buy/sell debate leading up to the July nonwaiver Trade Deadline, the deadline deals that sent out David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria, the dismissal of the general manager who put together those deals just a few days earlier, and now the managerial limbo of Brad Ausmus.

Cabrera watches Price and Cespedes star on their new teams, headed towards October baseball, and he’s happy for them. But he also wonders what might have been.

“You have to be happy for them,” he said. “Those are guys you’ve gotta want to see here if we were in the playoff race. You’ve gotta think how fun it is with these two guys, if this team’s together, how good we can be. It’s a big difference.”

Cabrera was still on the DL when the trades happened. Verlander was back, but was just beginning to round into form. Martinez was back, but starting his second-half struggles. Add in pitching struggles, and the midseason move back into contention to convince management to make deals never happened.

“I think if we were healthy, I think we’d be in the race right now,” Cabrera said. “I don’t know if we could be in the playoffs or first place, but I think we could be in good shape to make a run. Because with these three guys we traded, I think we’d have a good chance if we were together. But it was a hard decision. They made some trades, and we don’t have anything to think about.”

They still stayed on the fringe of contention for a few weeks until that three-game sweep in Toronto in which everything went wrong.

“Yeah, it was kind of tough,” Cabrera said.

Ironically, the series that essentially sank the Tigers’ season was the same series that gave Cabrera the plate appearances he needed to qualify for the batting race. At the time, he said it didn’t matter. He doesn’t dismiss it the same way these days, but he admits it’s conflicting for him.

“It’s over there,” he said, to the side, “but it’s hard when you’re losing games. It’s hard to focus on what you want and what the team wants, because if the team’s not doing good, you know you’re not going to do good. But hopefully we finish strong and make something happen.”

That focus isn’t helped by the speculation surrounding Ausmus, whose situation will be evaluated at season’s end according to GM Al Avila. When a Fire Ausmus sign was on display in Chicago, Cabrera reportedly signed a ball for a fan to get the sign from him. He couldn’t do that last week in Cleveland with reports of Ausmus’ season-end dismissal.

“We’re over there and see what’s in the paper,” Cabrera said, “and some fan comes to you, ‘Oh, the manager’s fired. Oh, you guys stink.’ Man, it’s kind of like, ‘This is not happening right now.’ It’s kind of hard to go to the stadium when some fan in Chicago and Cleveland tells you that. It gets you right here [heart] and right here [head].”

Asked how much he takes that personally, he said, “A lot, because it’s not his fault. So why are you going to blame a guy like that? Why do people say you’ve got to fire him?

“We got a lot of injuries this year. We didn’t come together this year. I think that’s one of the big reasons. I always say, man, if we’re healthy, we can push harder. But this year, we got a lot of key players out for one month, two months. With that, there’s no way you’re going to win, because we need everybody here. It’s not about one player. We’ve got a lot of guys here with big numbers and we don’t go anywhere. It’s not about numbers or stats. It’s about winning games.”

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

KC-Minneapolis 020

Miguel Cabrera gets the series finale amidst an 0-for-19 drought that ranks as the third-longest hitless stretch of his career, and his second-longest as a Tiger. Healthwise, both Cabrera and manager Brad Ausmus said he’s fine. His timing is off at the plate, way off in his own opinion, and he’s struggling to get out of bad habits he got into.

“It’s kind of like you create bad habits because we know we don’t go anywhere, but we try to push ourselves too much,” Cabrera said. “When we make mistakes, we want to do extra and we want to do something we don’t have to. What we need to do is play hard, try to go out there and make it happen. Stop trying to push too hard.”

In other words, there’s some pressing going on, and a snowball effect building.

On the injury front, Nick Castellanos was originally in the starting lineup, but was scratched with what the team called left groin tightness. He’s listed as day-to-day, and an injury-riddled Tigers roster gets moreso. Jefry Marte replaces Castellanos in the lineup.

Daniel Norris is good for about 45-50 pitches tonight, according to Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones. After that, it’s up to the bullpen, which held on last night but which also might be short some innings-eaters with Kyle Ryan having thrown 70 pitches on Monday and Drew VerHagen having pitched twice in the last three days.

tigers1957logoTIGERS (career numbers off Santana)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-4, triple, walk, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (20-for-59, 6 doubles, triple, HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
  3. J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-6, HR, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (10-for-25, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Tyler Collins, LF
  6. Jefry Marte, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Alex Avila, 1B (1-for-10, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Daniel Norris


  1. Aaron Hicks, CF
  2. Brian Dozier, 2B
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B
  4. Miguel Sano, DH
  5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  6. Torii Hunter, RF
  7. Eddie Rosario, LF
  8. Chris Herrmann, C
  9. Eduardo Escobar, SS

P: Ervin Santana

VerHagen passes test in big jam

Brad Ausmus has seen plenty of relievers in seventh-inning jams this season. He had not seen Drew VerHagen, who had pitched in close games but not with a lead in the balance in the seventh inning or later. His first chance at a hold was a big one, at least in terms of leverage.

With the bases loaded, one out in the seventh inning and Miguel Sano due up in a 4-1 game, Ausmus had VerHagen ready with the idea of giving a chance. He had veterans Al Alburquerque and Neftali Feliz available, but he went with the rookie. In most any other Tigers September, he doesn’t get the chance. With Detroit in a situation to look toward the future, especially in the bullpen, it was the right time.

For a converted starter who has admittedly thrived on the adrenaline of relief situations, it was a nice test.

“I’d say a little bit, with the game being close and bases loaded,” VerHagen said. “But I was just trying to keep it simple, hopefully get a ground ball. … Keep doing what I’ve been doing, pounding my fastball down in the zone.”

His first-pitch curveball up and in had Ausmus a little worried, but he gathered himself, got two ground balls and got two outs. He also gave up two runs. Those came on the first ground ball, a Miguel Sano shot that passed just to Nick Castellanos’ left-hand side for a two-run single, drawing Minnesota within a run and putting the potential tying tally at second base.

It was a hard-luck tally for a pitch VerHagen executed. Then again, considering what Sano has done with other fastballs this season when ahead in the count, it could’ve been much worse.

“I feel like I made a good pitch and the result wasn’t exactly what I wanted,” VerHagen said, “but I couldn’t really control the result. So I just got back up there and I knew my defense would have my back, and I did the same thing.”

The recovery process, he said, was quick.

“I wasn’t really too worked up because I knew we still had the lead,” he said. “We had a one-run lead and I needed to make a pitch and get out of the inning.”

This time, it was Trevor Plouffe. Again, VerHagen got into a 2-1 count. Again, he executed a 94 mph fastball and induced a ground ball. This time, it went to shortstop Andrew Romine, starting an inning-ending double play.

Thus, two days after VerHagen earned his first Major League win, he converted his first save situation into his first hold. Time will tell what it means, especially for next season. But with Detroit’s relief corps due for a makeover, the Tigers can do all of it with free-agent signings and trades. At some point, they’re going to need options from within the organization, something they’ve struggled to produce over the years. If VerHagen can fill a middle relief role, it would be one less role Detroit would have to shop to fill.

The bigger test, of course, would be closing, and Bruce Rondon got that when his two-run lead became one with a Joe Mauer RBI double putting the potential tying run at second base. He threw 17 consecutive fastballs to start the outing, and 32 in a row counting Monday night, before throwing three sliders to Sano, who took the first and went down swinging at the last two.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tabbies at Twinkies

After months of wondering whether the Tigers had one more run at a division title left in them, then weeks of realizing they didn’t, the official end of the Tigers’ ownership of the AL Central could come tonight. A Detroit loss or Kansas City win in Cleveland would officially eliminate the Tigers from the division race, though they’ve effectively been out of that running since mid to late July. With that out of the way …

Miguel Cabrera is in an 0-for-15 slump since Thursday’s series opener in Cleveland, dropping his average under .340 for the first time since mid-June. If any pitcher can break him out of his skid, though, it would seem to be Phil Hughes, off whom he’s 17-for-39 (the 17 hits ties him with Nick Markakis for the most off Hughes) with five doubles and five home runs (tied for most with Dustin Pedroia). Hughes hasn’t pitched in a game since Aug. 9, when he suffered a lower back injury that landed him on the disabled list.

Hughes is expected to go 75-80 pitches. How far Alfredo Simon goes, of course, depends on the quality of his pitches. He had 7 1/2 innings of one-run ball against the Twins in April, and seven runs (five earned) over 2 1/3 innings against them back in July. He won’t get to face Torii Hunter, who’s just 1-for-10 against him. He will have to face Trevor Plouffe, who’s 3-for-7 lifetime off him and 8-for-16 with two home runs over his last four games.

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

84tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers off Hughes)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-11, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-32, 3 doubles, triple, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (17-for-39, 5 doubles, 5 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-8, HR, 4 K’s)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (8-for-35, 2 doubles, HR, 5 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (4-for-11, 2 doubles, walk, 4 K’s)
  7. Tyler Collins, LF
  8. James McCann, C (3-for-4, double)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS (2-for-8, 2 K’s)

P: Alfredo Simon

wintwinslogoTWINS (career numbers against Simon)

  1. Aaron Hicks, RF (2-for-5, triple, K)
  2. Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-6, K)
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B (2-for-11, double, K)
  4. Miguel Sano, DH (1-for-2, double, K)
  5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-7, walk, K)
  6. Eddie Rosario, LF (2-for-2)
  7. Eduardo Escobar, SS (0-for-3, K)
  8. Kurt Suzuki, C (5-for-11, double, 2 HR, K)
  9. Byron Buxton, CF

P: Phil Hughes

Monday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

Steven Moya gets another start in left field after his two-hit, one-assist performance Sunday afternoon in Cleveland. Andrew Romine starts in place of injured Dixon Machado, and is likely to do so again Tuesday while Machado’s left hamstring recuperates.

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

tigerslogoTIGERS (no numbers off Tyler Duffey)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Steven Moya, LF
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Kyle Lobstein

twinslogoTWINS (career numbers off Lobstein)

  1. Aaron Hicks, LF (1-for-3)
  2. Brian Dozier, 2B (2-for-6, walk, K)
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B (2-for-6, triple, 2 walks, K)
  4. Miguel Sano, DH
  5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (1-for-2, triple)
  6. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-1, HR, walk)
  7. Eduardo Escobar, SS (3-for-6, double)
  8. Kurt Suzuki, C (1-for-2, double)
  9. Bryon Buxton, CF

P: Tyler Duffey

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Indians (updated for Game 2)

Ian Kinsler, James McCann and Anthony Gose get the nightcap off, while Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera swap spots. The Indians unleash lefty-killing Ryan Raburn.


  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Tyler Collins, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Victor Martinez, 1B
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Dixon Machado, SS
  9. Andrew Romine, 2B

P: Randy Wolf


  1. Francisco Lindor, SS
  2. Mike Aviles, 2B
  3. Carlos Santana, 1B
  4. Ryan Raburn, RF
  5. Chris Johnson, DH
  6. Jerry Sands, LF
  7. Giovanny Urshela, 3B
  8. Roberto Perez, C
  9. Michael Martinez, CF

P: Trevor Bauer

Game 1:

tigerpitcherlogoTIGERS (numbers off Cody Anderson)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-2, walk)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (0-for-3)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-3, double)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-1, walk, K)
  7. Steven Moya, LF (5-for-16, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 6 K’s in minors)
  8. James McCann, C (0-for-2)
  9. Dixon Machado, SS (1-for-3)

P: Justin Verlander

clevelandblueslogoINDIANS (career numbers off Justin Verlander)

  1. Jason Kipnis, 2B (4-for-39, double, 7 walks, 13 K’s)
  2. Francisco Lindor, SS (1-for-4, triple)
  3. Michael Brantley, LF (18-for-59, double, triple, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, DH (11-for-50, double, 6 HR, 6 walks, 11 K’s)
  5. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF (8-for-29, 3 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
  6. Yan Gomes, C (7-for-21, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
  7. Abraham Almonte, CF (1-for-3, triple, K)
  8. Chris Johnson, 1B
  9. Jose Ramirez, 3B (3-for-9, 2 doubles, walk, K)

P: Cody Anderson

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Tribe

Same lineups as last night’s rainout (including Steven Moya getting his first start, due to his previous matchups against Cody Anderson in the minors), with somewhat similar weather. The forecast calls for a chance of showers all evening, though not likely the same downpours that hit Cleveland last night. With a doubleheader already scheduled for Sunday, no more matchups between these two teams this season, and MLB wanting every reasonable effort made to play every game on the schedule, expect them to wait well into the night if need be to get this one in.

Gameday | TV: FS1, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

tigerpitcherlogoTIGERS (numbers off Cody Anderson)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-2, walk)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (0-for-3)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-3, double)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-1, walk, K)
  7. Steven Moya, LF (5-for-16, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 6 K’s in minors)
  8. James McCann, C (0-for-2)
  9. Dixon Machado, SS (1-for-3)

P: Justin Verlander

clevelandblueslogoINDIANS (career numbers off Justin Verlander)

  1. Jason Kipnis, 2B (4-for-39, double, 7 walks, 13 K’s)
  2. Francisco Lindor, SS (1-for-4, triple)
  3. Michael Brantley, LF (18-for-59, double, triple, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, DH (11-for-50, double, 6 HR, 6 walks, 11 K’s)
  5. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF (8-for-29, 3 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
  6. Yan Gomes, C (7-for-21, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
  7. Abraham Almonte, CF (1-for-3, triple, K)
  8. Chris Johnson, 1B
  9. Jose Ramirez, 3B (3-for-9, 2 doubles, walk, K)

P: Cody Anderson

Ausmus: “I still haven’t hung pictures up on the wall in my office”

If reports of Brad Ausmus’ impending dismissal at season’s end caught members of the Tigers front office off-guard (baseball operations people were surprised of any reports, which might say a lot), they were less of a surprise to Ausmus.

“Not really [surprised],” he said.

To some degree, it’s the situation. His status has been up in the air since Dave Dombrowski was fired last month. At the same time, he saw enough managers go through the same thing during his years as a player to know things can go down ugly.

“I still haven’t hung pictures up on the wall in my office,” Ausmus said, with a twinge dark humor. “Very few managers end up walking away from the job. They’re usually told to walk away, and even when they’re not fired, they’re often just not re-hired. So trust me, I’m aware of that, and I’ve been aware of that since I was a player.”

One of those situations came in 2004, the year the Astros went from under .500 at the All-Star break to within a game of the World Series. Houston hosted the All-Star Game that year, and news of Jimy Williams being fired almost immediately after the game.

“It was a little odd, and I felt for Jimy,” Ausmus said. “I called him when they fired him because I felt partially responsible.”

More from Ausmus:

  • Will this affect team: “Not at all. These guys will continue to play the game the right way. People want to make a big deal about that, and often managers use it in the final year of a contract to try to get an extension. But the truth is, the players will respect you or not respect you regardless of what your contract status is.”
  • “I have a contract, and I will do everything I can to help the Tigers until they tell me they don’t want me to help them, or until the contract expires — whichever comes first.”
  • Has he heard from former teammates and managers: “I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me, but obviously that’s personal.”
  • On confidence level he’ll be back next season: “I’m not going to put odds on it for people betting.”
  • Did getting booed as a player prepare him for this: “I didn’t get a lot of this. There wasn’t as much focus on me as a player. I wasn’t a prime-time player. I was a piece of the puzzle on a team. I was certainly booed at times as a player, but you don’t worry about that. Being booed isn’t necessarily bad, because it just means fans care. I’d rather fans be in the seats and booing me than not showing up.”
  • On concern over potentially differing voices within organization: “You mean the anonymous source? I love anonymous sources. They don’t quite have the spine to put their name next to their words. I mean, that’s coming from above me. That’s not really my concern. My concern is the clubhouse and the field. So I’m not worried if there’s multiple voices coming from above me. I can’t control that.”

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers at Indians

Victor Martinez returns to the DH slot in Cleveland after missing the past three games with a sinus infection. Andrew Romine gets the start at short, while Rajai Davis (three home runs past two games) returns to left field following a day off.

The Indians change things up slightly against Alfredo Simon compared with last week’s lineup, putting Yan Gomes behind the plate, Jason Kipnis at DH and Jose Ramirez at second base. Everyone else is pretty much the same. Neither Gomes nor Ramirez has good numbers against Simon, but hey, with Simon’s 4-0 record and 1.50 ERA in four starts, gotta try something.

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers off Danny Salazar)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (5-for-14, triple, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-19, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (8-for-23, double, 2 HR, 2 walks, 10 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-11, HR, walk, 8 K’s)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-22, double, HR, walk)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (5-for-18, 2 doubles, HR, 6 K’s)
  7. James McCann, C (3-for-8, triple, K)
  8. Andrew Romine, SS (3-for-6, double, HR)
  9. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-9, walk, 5 K’s)

P: Alfredo Simon

clevelandlogoINDIANS (career numbers vs. Simon)

  1. Jason Kipnis, DH (4-for-14, double, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  2. Francisco Lindor, SS (0-for-2, walk)
  3. Michael Brantley, LF (11-for-20, 5 doubles, walk)
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B (4-for-17, 5 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF (3-for-15, double, HR, 2 K’s)
  6. Abraham Almonte, CF (0-for-3, K)
  7. Yan Gomes, C (0-for-7, 2 K’s)
  8. Jose Ramirez, 2B (1-for-6, walk)
  9. Giovanny Urshela, 3B (1-for-4, K)

P: Danny Salazar

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Rays

Victor Martinez is apparently feeling better, but he’s going to get one more day out of the lineup. He’ll be available off the bench. Miguel Cabrera gets a day at DH, with Jefry Marte starting at first base. Rajai Davis is out of the lineup after three home runs over the first two games of the series. Tyler Collins starts in left.

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

tigerroarlogoTIGERS (career numbers vs. Jake Odorizzi)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-7, double, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-7, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (1-for-2, walk)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-6, triple, K)
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-5, walk)
  6. Tyler Collins, LF
  7. Jefry Marte, 1B
  8. Alex Avila, C (0-for-5, 3 K’s)
  9. Dixon Machado, SS

P: Kyle Lobstein


  1. Brandon Guyer, CF
  2. Mikie Mahtook, RF
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B
  4. Logan Forsythe, DH
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  6. Tim Beckham, 2B
  7. James Loney, 1B
  8. Richie Shaffer, LF
  9. J.P. Arencibia, C

P: Jake Odorizzi


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