- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-4, 4 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-9, HR, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-9, HR, 3 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-4)
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Tyler Collins, DH
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- James McCann, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Shane Greene
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Miguel Montero, C
- Chris Coghlan, LF
- Starlin Castro, SS
- Mike Baxter, DH
- Chris Denorfia, RF
- Addison Russell, 2B
P: Jake Arrieta
Josh Wilson is 0-for-14 lifetime against Jon Lester, but he’s coming off a hot weekend series against the White Sox, and he bats right-handed. He gets the start at third base, with Nick Castellanos at DH.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Jon Lester)
- Rajai Davis, CF (12-for-41, 2 doubles, 2 triples, HR, 4 walks, 10 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-32, 2 HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (14-for-27, 4 doubles, HR, 9 walks, 3 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-11, walk, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Nick Castellanos, DH (2-for-5, HR)
- James McCann, C
- Josh Wilson, 3B (0-for-14, walk, 6 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-6, double, 3 K’s)
P: Anibal Sanchez
CUBS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)
- Dexter Fowler, CF (1-for-6, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B (2-for-6, walk)
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Miguel Montero, DH (3-for-17, double, HR, 3 K’s)
- Chris Denorfia, LF (2-for-4, 2 walks)
- Starlin Castro, SS (1-for-8, 2 walks, K)
- Junior Lake, RF
- David Ross, C (4-for-15, double, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Addison Russell, 2B
P: Jon Lester
The tidal wave of All-Star votes from Royals fans not only swept Eric Hosmer past Miguel Cabrera for the lead among AL first basemen this week, it built Hosmer a cushion. Cabrera now trails Hosmer by about 618,000 votes after holding a 70,000-vote lead a week ago.
With that, the Royals now hold the vote lead in seven of nine starting positions, and the Tigers hold none. Jose Iglesias stands second in voting at shortstop, but trails Alcides Escobar by more than 2.1 million votes. Yoenis Cespedes ranks seventh among AL outfielders, where the top three get spots. Cespedes trails third-place Alex Gordon by about 1.96 million votes.
There’s clearly a surge of support among Royals fans at work coming off their American League pennant. That said, there are also signs of a drop in support for Cabrera. His 2,933,108 votes reflect a gain of about 810,000 votes from last week’s update. By comparison, he gained just under a million votes from the first balloting update two weeks ago to last week. Hosmer’s support, by comparison, swelled from 2,053,237 votes last week to 3,551,005 votes as of Monday.
Here’s how the race has unfolded over the three balloting updates:
- May 26 (initial update): Cabrera 1,347,351 votes, Hosmer 1,101,738 votes
- June 1: Cabrera 2,123,752, Hosmer 2,053,237
- June 8: Hosmer 3,551,005, Cabrera 2,933,108
Unless Cabrera gets his lead back, the Tigers are likely to go without an All-Star starter for the first time since 2009. Jose Iglesias stands second in voting at shortstop, but trails Alcides Escobar by more than 2.1 million votes. Yoenis Cespedes ranks seventh among AL outfielders, where the top three get spots. Cespedes trails third-place Alex Gordon by about 1.96 million votes. Ian Kinsler has fallen to fifth among AL second basemen, where former Tiger turned Royal Omar Infante is closing in on reigning AL batting champ Jose Altuve.
For all the encouragement on Justin Verlander’s rehab start, there was a flip side Saturday night in Toledo against Columbus. It was Bruce Rondon’s outing, which gave a lot more reason for concern than his last few outings.
After debating a call-up earlier this week, the Tigers decided to send Rondon back to Toledo for another rehab appearance, stretching him out to two innings. To try to make sure he got those innings, they stretched out his pitch count to 40. He ended up going one-plus innings, facing four batters in his second inning of work without retiring any of them, and giving up four runs on four hits and three walks.
It was a step backward for a reliever whose recent throwing seemingly had him on the verge of returning to Detroit’s bullpen for the first time since September 2013.
“To me, he really struggled,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “As bad as his line looked, it was probably worse than that. … It was a real battle for him tonight.”
Two of Rondon’s three outs came on a double play after he loaded the bases with a hit and two one-out walks in the seventh inning. Clippers catcher Adam Moore lined out to left, and Xavier Avery threw out James Ramsey trying to score from third.
The escape for Rondon proved brief with the top of the Clippers order due up in the eighth. Francisco Lindor tripled and scored on a Michael Martinez singled before Jesus Aguilar homered to left-center. After a Zach Walters walk, Rondon’s pitch count was at 39, and Parrish had to get him, much to his frustration.
“If you consider yourself a big-league pitcher and you’ve got 40 pitches, and you get one inning of work in against a Triple-A club, you’d better be frustrated with it,” Parrish said.
The mechanics were not consistent. All three walks were on changeups out of a lower arm angle, Parrish said. It was a reminder that for all the throwing Rondon has done on his road back, he has had precious little game action.
There has been no indication that Rondon isn’t healthy. His velocity Saturday was more mid-90s than 98-99 mph, according to reports, but he was pitching in a longer outing.
“His velocity is fine. It’s a matter of locating,” Parrish said. “It’s great to throw 98-99, but it still needs to be located.”
The outing gives the Tigers a difficult decision in the coming days. Rondon reaches his maximum 20 days on rehab assignment on Tuesday, after which the Tigers must either make a roster move with him or keep him on the DL and not pitch him. Rondon has minor-league options left, making it possible for the Tigers to keep him at Toledo long-term.
Justin Verlander looked like he was ready for the big leagues in his second rehab start for Triple-A Toledo, where he struck out nine batters over 5 2/3 innings with an unearned run allowed.
While Verlander’s top velocity registered a tick down on the Fifth Third Field radar gun compared to his first rehab start last Sunday at Indianapolis, his command and his secondary pitches were markedly improved. He retired 10 consecutive batters after Indians prospect Francisco Lindor’s single leading off the game, and sent a Columbus lineup swinging and missing at 17 of his 93 total pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 21 batters.
Verlander topped out at 94 miles an hour on his fastball, and sat at 91-92. He stopped short of saying his next pitches would take place in Detroit, but indicated he had accomplished what he wanted.
“I feel like today was the step I wanted to see,” Verlander said afterward. “The biggest thing was getting my pitch count up and also getting some innings, not just three innings but getting up and down a few times.”
Control was much better today. I felt like for the most part, I was able to hit my spots and get ahead of guys and execute my pitches much better.
After lasting just 2 2/3 innings over 79 pitches last Sunday at Indianapolis, Verlander churned through innings after ending his opening frame with a 10-pitch battle and a strikeout-throwout double play. He had an eight-pitch, eight-strike third inning that featured an even split of fastballs and offspeed pitches.
“He looked like he was searching for it a little bit in the first,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said, “and then he dropped a 3-2 breaking ball in there for strike three, [catcher Miguel Gonzalez] threw the guy out, and then after that he was spot-on.”
Among Verlander’s strikeout victims was Lindor, one of baseball’s top prospects. After leading off the game with a single, he fanned on a Verlander slider in the fourth inning before fanning on a nasty breaking ball inside in the sixth as Verlander neared his pitch count of 90.
A few pitches later, Verlander showed his Major League form when he bargained Parrish into letting him face an extra hitter.
“He asked if I can get [Jesus Aguilar] out in three pitches, and I said yeah,” Verlander said. “I threw four or five and then told [Gonzalez] we have to go right down the middle, throw one down the middle and hope to get an out. Didn’t get an out, gave up a double, but I didn’t want to end up in another 10-pitch at-bat and throw 95-96 [pitches]. That wouldn’t make LP look good either. So here it is, hit it.”
Aguilar hit a fastball to the fence in left-center for a double on Verlander’s 93rd pitch. Neither Verlander nor Parrish sweated it.
“It’s not my call, but he looked like he was ready today,” Parrish said. “Indy, no. Today, yeah.”
Technically, the Tigers don’t have to make that call for a while. They’re off Monday and Thursday next week, so they could go without a fifth starter for a week. More likely, they could slot him in for next weekend’s series against the Indians at Comerica Park, Friday or Saturday depending on whether they would want to give David Price more rest following his complete game tonight in Chicago.
Regardless, his time in Toledo is likely to be a brief stop. Still, it was memorable. The combination of his start and several promotions, from the Jurassic World uniforms to the Mud Hens’ annual scout sleepover, and the attendance of 13,300 set a new Fifth Third Field record. The Hens auctioned off the themed jerseys after the game; Verlander’s jersey raised $2300 for charity, according to the team. The previous record, according to John Wagner of the Toledo Blade, was $600.
“The jersey’s pretty cool,” Verlander said after his outing. “I don’t think I’ll bid on it, but maybe I’ll get them to make a replica or something.”
Same lineup as last night for another White Sox lefty. This time, it’s John Danks, who pitched the usual 10-hit shutout last Sunday at Houston. Aside from Ian Kinsler (who’s just 8-for-61 with three RBIs over his last 16 games, according to MLB Network research), there aren’t a lot of great numbers for Tigers hitters against Danks, though Josh Wilson does have a double and a sacrifice fly off him.
The White Sox mix things up near the bottom of the lineup. Emilio Bonifacio gets the start in left, while Geovany Soto and his awkward throwing motion starts behind the plate.
Reminder: Tonight is a FOX Network broadcast, not Fox Sports Detroit. Check your local listings to find out which channel that is.
- Rajai Davis, LF (5-for-18, 3 doubles, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (14-for-41, 4 doubles, 4 HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (11-for-44, 2 doubles, HR, 7 walks, 5 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-6, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-5, HR, walk, K)
- Nick Castellanos, DH (3-for-6, double, 3 walks, K)
- James McCann, C
- Josh Wilson, 3B (1-for-4, double)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-6, HR, 2 K’s)
P: David Price
- Adam Eaton, CF (7-for-12, 2 K’s)
- Alexei Ramirez, SS (7-for-33, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Jose Abreu, DH (1-for-10, HR, 3 K’s)
- Avisail Garcia, RF (2-for-7, HR, 2 K’s)
- Adam LaRoche, 1B (0-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
- Gordon Beckham, 3B (3-for-26, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
- Geovany Soto, C (2-for-5, 3 K’s)
- Carlos Sanchez, 2B (0-for-3)
- Emilio Bonifacio, LF (1-for-7, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
P: John Danks
Jose Iglesias’ move to the second spot in the Tigers batting order lasted three games. That said, the Tigers offense didn’t look much different in those few games than the previous week or two, notably with Ian Kinsler in the fifth spot. Yoenis Cespedes, as expected, is in the lineup after leaving yesterday’s game with flu-like symptoms. With his numbers off Jose Quintana, he might have needed to be bedridden to miss that matchup. Rajai Davis gets a similarly favorable matchup in his return from the paternity leave list.
Last but not least, Brad Ausmus gets one more right-handed bat in the lineup against the left-handed Quintana by starting Josh Wilson at third base and DHing Nick Castellanos.
Some pregame stats and tidbits:
- NumberFire released its weekly power rankings of baseball’s hottest and coldest hitters based on runs contributed over league average. Miguel Cabrera is eighth, creeping up one spot from last week. Anthony Gose, meanwhile, is the fourth coldest, based on the biggest drops in efficiency from last week. Considering Gose started 17 of the last 18 games, with one team off-day mixed in, gotta think fatigue has played a part.
- Iglesias has struck out just five times in 76 plate appearances over the last month, good for the fifth-lowest strikeout rate among full-time players in that span according to Inside Edge.
- Miguel Cabrera’s streak of reaching base safely is now at 23 games, longest active streak in the big leagues.
- Actor LeVar Burton is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch tonight. You may remember him from his role playing Ron LeFlore in the TV movie One in a Million from the 1970s. LeFlore spent the final couple seasons of his Major League career with the White Sox after six seasons with the Tigers (he spent a year in Montreal in between).
TIGERS (career numbers off Quintana)
- Rajai Davis, CF (11-for-31, 3 doubles, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-23, 2 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (9-for-25, 2 doubles, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (6-for-9, double, 4 HR, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-11, triple, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, DH (3-for-15, 5 K’s)
- James McCann, C (1-for-2, triple)
- Josh Wilson, 3B (1-for-2)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-5, double, 2 K’s)
P: Kyle Ryan
WHITE SOX (numbers off Ryan)
- Adam Eaton, CF (1-for-3)
- Alexei Ramirez, SS (1-for-3, double)
- Jose Abreu, DH (1-for-2, walk)
- Avisail Garcia, RF (0-for-3, K)
- Adam LaRoche, 1B
- Melky Cabrera, LF
- Gordon Beckham, 3B
- Tyler Flowers, C
- Carlos Sanchez, 2B (1-for-2)
P: Jose Quintana
The Tigers have had their share of postgame quotes lately about dealing with pressure and trying to do too much. Thursday wasn’t one of those days.
“We are in a tough situation,” Ian Kinsler said. “We’re all continuing to work hard and trying to play our game the best we can. This game offers different challenges and right now we are in the middle of one. I hope we get out of it sooner than later.”
More than anything, there was attention turning to the next day. After three games of frustration, the Tigers have had it with Oakland.
“The greatest thing about this game,” Joba Chamberlain said, “is you get an opportunity to play tomorrow. There’s a bunch of guys in this clubhouse that know exactly what it takes and what we need to do. Obviously it’s the beginning of June, there’s no panic. We just gotta continue to try and get better every day.”
Or as manager Brad Ausmus said when asked about getting Victor Martinez and Alex Avila back at some point soon, “Right now, it is about the White Sox. We have to find a way to win.”
The Tigers’ seven-game losing streak is their longest since 2011. They haven’t had a longer one in this era of contention that began in 2006. Detroit’s last eight-game losing streak happened in 2005, the year before Jim Leyland was hired. Among the losing pitchers in that stretch: Vic Darensbourg, Chris Spurling (twice), Matt Ginter, Jeremy Bonderman, Craig Dingman, Nate Robertson and Fernando Rodney.
That was during an 8-23 final stretch that led to changes, a month that began with a nine-game losing streak before an eight-gamer later. Even during the Tigers’ miserable closing stretch in 2008 that led to a last-place finish, they never lost more than seven in a row. Part of the Tigers’ ability to contend, to survive slow starts and close in during the summer, has been the ability to cut off losing streaks before they get too long.
It’s too early to say a long losing streak could doom these guys, especially with Martinez on his way back at some point and Justin Verlander potentially back next week. The Tigers want to see what kind of boost they get from returning players before deciding on any moves. But they have to play better. Thursday’s ninth-inning was an encouraging sign, but they have to build on it.
They’ve been needing better baseball for a while now.
The Tigers had an 11-2 record and a plus-34 run differential on April 20. They’re 17-25 with a 44-run deficit since. It’s the third-lowest run differential in baseball in that span, better than only Boston (minus-55) and Philadelphia (minus-47 entering Thursday). It’s not just offense, because their 197 runs allowed since April 21 is the highest total in the American League. Their 153 runs scored, isn’t the worst.
The White Sox, Detroit’s next opponent, has a minus-35 run differential.
The Tigers have been around .500 this late and later in recent years. They were 25-30 after 55 games in 2012 with a minus-16 run differential and a six-game division deficit, stuck in third place, and didn’t get over .500 for good until July 7. They were three games over .500 with a minus-7 run differential and a five-game gap in 2011. The 2012 team started playing consistent baseball from July on, while the 2011 team turned it on in September with a 12-game winning streak fueled in part from a rotation that turned it on down the stretch following Doug Fister’s arrival.
This year’s rotation has to stabilize, not just for the team’s sake but for the bullpen. Getting Verlander back in even decent form would help, taking up innings, but Detroit needs Shane Greene and Anibal Sanchez to turn it around (Sanchez has shown signs). The Tigers desperately need a healthy Victor Martinez in the middle of the lineup.
In the meantime, they have to survive. It’s not do-or-die yet, but the losing streak has to stop.
What went right: Miguel Cabrera hit, and Al Alburquerque continues to get his pitching in order, albeit in lower-leverage situations. That might be about it.
What went wrong: Sanchez and Greene continued to struggle, albeit in different ways from their last starts. The lineup, aside from Cabrera, continued to struggle until the final inning of the series. Angel Nesbitt appeared to be shaken up by a Ben Zobrist grand slam in the opener, then tried to make the perfect pitch the next night and couldn’t. Ian Kinsler’s series, until his final at-bat, might have been his worst three-game stretch as a Tiger.
Takeaway: The Tigers came home with a bitter taste in their mouths, rested with an off-day, then came out looking flat. That doesn’t mean they were flat, but it wasn’t a good look.
Snapshot moment: What else could it be? The look on the young fan’s face upon catching the grand slam Tuesday night, then realizing it was a go-ahead grand slam for the A’s.
Credit MLB.com associate Alejandro Zuniga for checking postgame with Yoenis Cespedes, who said he was ill Thursday but expects to be OK for Friday’s series opener against the White Sox in Chicago. He, too, said his third-inning exit had nothing to do with fouling a ball off his foot.
“I threw up, and I felt a little lightheaded,” Cespedes told Zuniga after Thursday’s loss. “But I’m good now.”
Cespedes is 6-for-9 with four home runs for his career against Friday’s scheduled White Sox starter, Jose Quintana. He’ll probably need to be a lot sicker on this to miss out on that matchup.
The Tigers are also getting Rajai Davis back from the paternity leave list. Daniel Fields was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo, as was always the plan.
The struggling Tigers offense has lost its second cleanup hitter in three weeks, albeit temporarily. Yoenis Cespedes left Thursday’s series finale against the A’s with what the team called flu-like symptoms.
Cespedes, who has taken over the cleanup spot with Victor Martinez on the disabled list, fouled a ball off his foot in the second inning before striking out swinging at a Jesse Hahn changeup. He walked back to the clubhouse as Daniel Fields began warming up. Fields replaced him in left field for the start of the third inning.
Considering the Tigers entered Thursday having scored 18 runs over their last nine games, any loss of a productive hitter is a big one. Cespedes entered the day batting .286 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs.
For Fields, called up Tuesday with Rajai Davis on paternity leave, it was a sudden entrance for his Major League debut. The son of former Tigers player and current Tigers hitting coordinator Bruce Fields became the first Detroit-born player to take the field for his hometown team since Dave Borkowski in 2001.