In a move that is less than shocking, Anthony Gose is back in the Tigers starting lineup in center field, replacing Tyler Collins. Ian Kinsler, who was scratched from last night’s lineup with flu-like symptoms, is back in the lineup, leading off. Jose Iglesias moves back down to the ninth spot against former University of Michigan standout Rich Hill.
TIGERS (career numbers off Hill)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Justin Upton, LF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Mike Pelfrey
ATHLETICS (career numbers vs. Pelfrey)
- Billy Burns, CF
- Chris Coghlan, 3B (4-for-18, double, 2 triples, 3 walks, K)
- Josh Reddick, RF
- Jed Lowrie, 2B (2-for-8, double, walk)
- Stephen Vogt, C (1-for-2, K)
- Coco Crisp, DH (1-for-2, HR)
- Khris Davis, LF
- Yonder Alonso, 1B (0-for-1)
- Marcus Semien, SS
P: Rich Hill
The first sign that Tyler Collins was having a rough night came in the previous inning, when he slammed his helmet upon striking out to end the Tigers’ big rally. Not all that unusual, but temperamental, which kind of fits Collins’ high-intensity nature.
Then Marcus Semien led off the top of the sixth and hit a fly ball to shallow center.
“It got up in those high skies, that dusk period,” Collins said after the game. “I’m looking around screaming ,‘I don’t see it.’ Nobody else sees it. It was unfortunate.”
Not as unfortunate as the reaction that followed. The fans booed, and Collins gestured.
“When Zimmermann’s cruising, and we’ve got a 6-0 lead, nobody wants that ball to get lost less than me,” Collins said. “Nobody does. That hurts. And to be at home, and to hear boos after that play, hit a trigger inside of me, and I lashed out — completely inappropriately. I’m absolutely embarrassed that it happened, and I’m sorry to everyone in Detroit.”
Brad Ausmus didn’t see it when it happened. He was alerted quickly enough and went up the dugout to see the video of it himself.
“It’s clearly something that can’t happen,” Ausmus said. “As a matter of fact, I spoke to Tyler immediately in the tunnel after it happened. I spoke to him after the game, and he regrets it. It was an emotional reaction. He knows it was wrong. He just screwed up. He’s a young guy that screwed up.”
That would be an understatement. And as Collins talked, there was more of an acknowledgement, even as he attempted to set the backdrop.
“I want you guys to understand that I love this team, and I want to win,” Collins said, “and so when we come home and get booed, it’s tough to swallow. But like I said, I apologize completely. I’m embarrassed in myself. I know my family’s embarrassed in me. I’m sure these guys are, too. I’m just sorry it happened.”
Said Ausmus: “Sometimes you’re frustrated with what’s happening on the field and then you’ve got someone yelling when the fans are in the stands yelling. And let me tell you, some of the things that get yelled at you aren’t exactly nice, either. But you’ve got to be above that. When I played, I don’t know if early in my career all the games were televised and they caught everything from my angle. But nowadays, you’ve got to be above that and you’ve got to go about your business and understand that’s part of sports. You’re going to get booed.”
Collins was booed some more when he finally came back up to bat leading off the eighth, albeit a smattering of boos after many fans had left. He stayed in the game until Ausmus replaced him with Anthony Gose for the ninth.
“I took him out late. I mean, I can’t make strategy moves, really, based on that,” Ausmus said. “If something happens and I end up short a player, then that looks kind of lame-brained. But it was addressed immediately, and it was addressed again as soon as the game ended. If anything needs to be done, we’ll handle it internally. And if Major League Baseball has a reaction, then we’ll see what their reaction is.”
UPDATE: Change in the lineup just after batting practice. Ian Kinsler scratched with flu-like symptoms, causing a pair of changes. Mike Aviles will fill in at second base, but bat ninth. Jose Iglesias, who hit second yesterday with Justin Upton getting a break, will bat leadoff tonight with Kinsler out.
Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton return to the Tigers lineup in their customary spots after pinch-hit duty Sunday, while Tyler Collins spells Anthony Gose in center. The batting order remains pretty standard.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Graveman)
Ian Kinsler, 2BJose Iglesias, SS (0-for-3)
- Justin Upton, LF (0-for-2, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-3)
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-2, walk)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
- Tyler Collins, CF (1-for-2, walk)
Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-3)Mike Aviles, 2B (0-for-2)
P: Jordan Zimmermann
ATHLETICS (career numbers off Zimmermann)
- Billy Burns, CF
- Chris Coghlan, 3B (6-for-22, double, 6 K’s)
- Josh Reddick, RF
- Jed Lowrie, 2B (1-for-3)
- Stephen Vogt, C
- Coco Crisp, LF
- Khris Davis, DH (0-for-6, 3 K’s)
- Yonder Alonso, 1B (3-for-10, double, HR)
- Marcus Semien, SS
P: Kendall Graveman
The Tigers called up Matt Boyd to serve as an innings eater Sunday in case they had another early exit from a starter tax their bullpen. Shane Greene’s fourth-inning departure with a busted blister was an early exit and tested a bullpen that didn’t have Kyle Ryan available.
Given the need for long relief, however, Brad Ausmus went with Drew VerHagen over Boyd. Moreover, he stuck with VerHagen after the three-run fourth, hoping to get another inning out of him. VerHagen ended up retiring four of the 12 Cleveland batters he faced.
What gives? My initial reaction was that Boyd needs a lot more time to warm up, being a starter, and no extra warmup time given an injury replacement could allow him to replicate that on the spot. My next reaction was that Boyd is used to entering with a clean inning rather than with runners on.
Ausmus, though, cited a trust factor with VerHagen, which was more related to the second part than the first.
“The truth is, VerHagen’s pitched in tight situations before,” Ausmus said. “Felt like if VerHagen could get through that inning, get through a couple innings — it would be four, five — if we could get a lead, now we’d still have those guys at the back end that might have the ability to hold the lead.”
VerHagen said he got a heads-up an inning earlier to be ready. So even if Ausmus made the change before the fourth inning began, VerHagen was going to be his guy.
Once the Indians got hits against him, Ausmus was looking for a double play, which brought him back to square one.
“They got a couple hits off VerHagen,” Ausmus continued, “but who gets ground balls at a better rate than anyone else in our bullpen? Well, the guy standing on the mound, Drew VerHagen, which is kind of why I stuck with him hoping he got a ground ball double play and get out of it. Unfortunately the ground ball through the right side found a hole, and then a soft line drive up the middle. But the thought process was keep the game at 0-0 with one of our relievers that’s been here and that we have faith in. It just didn’t work today.”
Said VerHagen: “That’s kind of what I make my living off, being aggressive, attacking hitters, and forcing them to hit [the ball] on the ground. And if you look at the hits, most of them are on the ground. So I’ll continue my approach and hope for better next time.”
Boyd eventually did enter with two runners on, and allowed one of them to score. He did eat up the remaining innings in the game, after which he was optioned back to Toledo for Jose Valdez to serve as a placeholder reliever for the next few days until Francisco Rodriguez returns. Next time we see Boyd could well be as a starter if Shane Greene isn’t ready in five days.
Would it have been a different outcome had VerHagen and Boyd pitched in reverse order? Probably not, the way this series went. But worth noting why Ausmus sequenced it the way he did. Also worth noting that VerHagen has now pitched in every inning from the fourth to the 10th at some point already this season. He’s looking very much like this year’s Alex Wilson, even with Wilson back from the disabled list.
The Tigers’ two-three lineup combination of Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera broke up Sunday, if only for the afternoon. Manager Brad Ausmus gave both of them a game off, hoping a day to relax will help them shake their early-season struggles.
It’s not something he welcomed doing. With both of them seemingly fighting their own swings and plate judgments trying to spark an anemic Tigers offense, Ausmus took the chance.
“You don’t ever want to do it,” Ausmus said. “Certainly fans want to see Miggy play at Comerica Park, and I don’t blame them. But sometimes I think it’s best to give guys a breather when you think they need one, and I felt like they both could use a day. Pretty good chance it’ll never happen on the same day again the rest of the season, but I’d like them to kind of relax today, refresh their mind, reset, come back tomorrow and go at it again.”
Upton entered Sunday leading the Majors with twice as many strikeouts (30) as hits (15), batting .217 with four doubles, a home run and three RBIs. His three-strikeout game Saturday made him the first Tiger to reach 30 by the end of April since Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn five years ago.
Ausmus installed Upton in the second spot in Detroit’s batting order shortly after he signed as a free agent January, expecting him to benefit from seeing more strikes batting in front of the formidable Cabrera. While Upton has suffered from swings and misses, Cabrera has had his own struggles, batting .210 (13-for-62) with three doubles, a home run and six RBIs. He said Friday his timing is off with his swing, much like a similarly slow April two years ago.
“Sometimes in baseball, you can beat yourself up so much when you’re struggling, it’s best to take a step back,” Ausmus said, “even if it’s just 24 hours.”
With Upton out, Jose Iglesias gets a chance in the second spot. Ausmus opted to keep Saltalamacchia behind the plate and start Andrew Romine at first base, while Mike Aviles gets a spot start in left field, a role he was lined up for before the Tigers signed Upton.
TIGERS (career numbers off Carlos Carrasco)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-25, 3 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (3-for-7, walk, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (6-for-21, 2 doubles, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (6-for-18, 2 doubles, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (4-for-14, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, LF (3-for-9, double, HR, K)
- Andrew Romine, 1B (1-for-4, double)
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-2, K)
P: Shane Greene
INDIANS (career numbers against Greene)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (1-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-6)
- Francisco Lindor, SS
- Mike Napoli, DH (2-for-3, double, HR, 4 walks)
- Jose Ramirez, LF (1-for-1)
- Marlon Byrd, RF
- Juan Uribe, 3B
- Tyler Naquin, CF
- Roberto Perez, C (0-for-1)
P: Carlos Carrasco
Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers tweaked his delivery in Spring Training, removing the hip turn, knowing it was going to be an adjustment for him. Pitchers don’t usually make major changes like that this deep into their careers without a rough transition.
They also made the change believing it’ll be better for him in the long run, eliminating extra movement while allowing him to better control the running game. Former pitching coach Jeff Jones brought up the idea last year, and Sanchez embraced it after his shoulder issue ended his 2015 season early.
He felt the difference immediately when he finally got to use it in a game last month during Spring Training, and he still feels healthy through all his pitches. Pitchingwise, however, it’s a struggle, none bigger than Saturday against the Indians.
“I’ve been doing work with my mechanics through Spring Training, through the rainout,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know. I feel sometimes good, and other times it’s no good. There’s no blame. I’m struggling locationwise. I’m playing against a big-league team that took advantage of all my mistakes. Especially when you’re around the zone with all your pitches and you don’t hit the corners or side or side, change the speed or something like that, I think they take advantage of that.”
His frustration is evident. But at this point, he has to see it through, trying to figure out what tweak can make it work.
“I’ll keep working. I’m not going to stop right now,” he said. “I can turn it to the other side. I can be as good as I was before. I cannot stop here. I need to continue to work. I need to continue to do my job. I need to continue to be on the mound every five days and put more and more effort there.”
He’s had varying levels of frustration with each outing this season. When he took scoreless outings into the sixth inning in Miami and Pittsburgh before two-run sixths knocked him out, he lamented his inefficient pitch counts and talked about breaking through the third trip through a lineup. His two outings since have seen opponents torment him from the first inning — 25 pitches last Sunday in Houston, then a 32-pitch first inning against the Indians Saturday.
All three first-inning hits came after Sanchez got ahead of hitters into two-strike counts. Yan Gomes’ bloop single came on a 1-2 offering. Jose Ramirez’s grounder through the middle followed an 0-2 count that he worked back to even.
“They had three runs on the board, and it’s not like they hit a ball hard,” Brad Ausmus said.
Still, both reflected a struggle to finish off hitters. Only one of Sanchez’s 32 first-inning pitches drew a swing and miss. For Sanchez, it’s about location.
“I’ve been doing work for like since Spring Training started, hard as I can,” he said. “I just want to be consistent in the strike zone. That’s always my conversation with you guys after every game, no matter if I feel good or bad. I just want to be consistent in the strike zone. Today was bad luck, like Brad says, but at the end, I have to be able to be on the mound for longer than today.”
It’s not like Mike Pelfrey and Francisco Rodriguez saying they’re embarrassed by their outings, but that’s not Sanchez’s style. At the same time, he’s clear he’s not the pitcher he wants to be, the pitcher he was a few years ago. He still believes he can get back towards that form as long as he’s healthy.
He doesn’t have to be dominant. But he needs to be consistent, not just for himself but for the Tigers rotation. The belief remains that the quieter delivery is the one that’s more likely to get him back there, even though the adjustment to it has him struggling so far.
“I just want to keep working,” he said. “I just want to do some adjustment for my next outing. I need to stop right now. I need to stop the whole bad history about location. I’m used to being a really good location guy. I’m not like that kind of pitcher last year and this year. It’s like something’s wrong. Something’s happened every outing. I just want to stop that. I just want to think positive for my next outing, keep working, keep preparing as hard as I can and do my best and do something for my next outing.”
He’ll get that outing, and more after that. He’s under contract this year and next. Moreover, the Tigers need him to be that consistent veteran in the middle of their rotation. As difficult as it is, if they believe it’ll make a difference, they have to put up with the struggle.
Andrew Romine gets the start at shortstop with a day game after a night game. He and Jose Iglesias have virtually the same numbers off Corey Kluber. Anthony Gose returns to the lineup after two days off. The Indians keep Carlos Santana in the leadoff spot against Anibal Sanchez, while Rajai Davis takes his once-familiar spot in left field at Comerica Park.
TIGERS (career numbers off Kluber)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-20, triple, walk, 4 K’s)
- Justin Upton, LF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (20-for-35, 2 doubles, 5 HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-25, 3 HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (5-for-14, double, HR, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (5-for-15, double, 6 K’s)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (0-for-4, 3 K’s)
- Andrew Romine, SS (1-for-6, walk, 2 K’s)
- Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-5, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
P: Anibal Sanchez
INDIANS (career numbers against Sanchez)
- Carlos Santana, DH (5-for-20, double, triple, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-22, double, walk, 6 K’s)
- Francisco Lindor, SS
- Mike Napoli, 1B (4-for-9, double, 2 HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Yan Gomes, C (4-for-9, triple, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Jose Ramirez, 3B
- Lonnie Chisenhall, RF (4-for-15, walk, 4 K’s)
- Rajai Davis, LF
- Tyler Naquin, CF
P: Corey Kluber
Second consecutive start in center for Tyler Collins. Statistically, there’s no matchup difference against Josh Tomlin, and Gose appears to be fine healthwise, so for now it appears Collins is getting a little run while Gose takes a step back.
“I don’t think it hurts sometimes to have a longer break than one game,” Brad Ausmus said.
Keep an eye on Miguel Cabrera, who had a busy afternoon doing agility drills and running steps before taking early batting practice off Brad Ausmus. The Cleveland on the front of the jersey should be a welcome sight for Cabrera, who pummeled its pitching for five homers and 17 RBIs in 17 games last season, batting .418 (28-for-67). However, Cabrera is 8-for-43 with three extra-base hits (doubles) in his last 11 games, and his struggles to drive the ball have been pronounced. He had similar April struggles two years ago (.277 average, .735 OPS in April) and bounced back with authority (.380 average, 1.126 OPS in May).
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Tomlin)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-14, 2 doubles, walk)
- Justin Upton, LF (0-for-3)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-13, double, HR, 3 walks, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-13, HR, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-8, double, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-11, 2 doubles, 4 K’s)
- Tyler Collins, CF (0-for-3)
- Bobby Wilson, C (1-for-4, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Justin Verlander
INDIANS (career numbers vs. Verlander)
- Carlos Santana, DH (11-for-53, double, 6 HR, 6 walks, 13 K’s)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (4-for-42, double, 7 walks, 14 K’s)
- Francisco Lindor, SS (2-for-7, triple)
- Mike Napoli, 1B (9-for-29, 2 HR, 5 walks, 7 K’s)
- Yan Gomes, C (8-for-23, 3 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
- Marlon Byrd, LF (5-for-11, walk, 2 K’s)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, RF (8-for-31, 3 doubles, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Juan Uribe, 3B (3-for-18, double, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Tyler Naquin, CF
P: Josh Tomlin
The Tigers survived their three-city road trip with a 4-4 record against three teams that went to the playoffs last year. Yet the sense around the clubhouse after Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Royals was that they not only could’ve done better than that, but should have.
“A 4-4 trip and you’re playing three playoff teams,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Despite the fact that it was a .500 road trip and you’ll take that on occasion, I think we felt like we’re better than that.”
“I’d say we underachieved,” third baseman Nick Castellanos said, “just because we have high expectations for ourselves. But it doesn’t mean anybody’s discouraged or worried. It’s a long season. We’ve had some good at-bats, played some good teams. Go home and win the next series.”
Said Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “It’s not where we want to be, obviously. We want to win every series, especially against our division rivals. But it’s still early in the season. By no means are we hitting the panic button. We have too good of a team. We were in every game, and we don’t have guys like Miggy and Vic and J.D. swinging it like we know they’re going to and we know they can. That’s the positive to take out of it.”
Given that, you can imagine the expectations as they begin a seven-game, seven-day homestand against the Indians and Athletics. After just four games at Comerica Park over the first 2 ½ weeks of the season (not counting the postponed Sunday night matchup with the Yankees), the Tigers now get into the daily grind of baseball in their home surroundings, starting with a division rival that made its own offseason upgrades.
Scene-setter: While the Pistons and Cavs continue their playoff series, Detroit and Cleveland match up on the diamond for the first time this season as they test just how much better the other team is from last year.
Season series: The Tigers and Indians meet up 19 times this season, starting with this three-game set. They’ll face each other again in Cleveland May 3-5 on the tail end of the Tigers’ next road trip.
- Friday: Justin Verlander (1-1, 7.16) vs. Mike Tomlin (1-0, 1.80)
- Saturday: Anibal Sanchez (2-1, 4.60) vs. Corey Kluber (0-3, 6.16)
- Sunday: Shane Greene (1-1, 7.15) vs. Carlos Carrasco (2-0, 2.79)
Key matchups: The Tigers face the teeth of the Cleveland rotation this weekend with Kluber and Carrasco, though they get a break missing out on Danny Salazar. Detroit fared decently against Kluber and Carrasco last season, a big reason the Tigers won the season series for a third consecutive year (37-19 in that stretch, according to MLB Network research). But Tomlin tossed a complete-game win in Detroit last September.
The Cleveland on the front of the jersey should be a welcome sight for Miguel Cabrera, who pummeled its pitching for five homers and 17 RBIs in 17 games last season, batting .418 (28-for-67). However, Cabrera is 8-for-43 with three extra-base hits (doubles) in his last 11 games, and his struggles to drive the ball have been pronounced. He had similar April struggles two years ago (.277 average, .735 OPS in April) and bounced back with authority (.380 average, 1.126 OPS in May), so it’s a bit early for alarms.
He’s not the only Tigers run producer who’s been off, of course. Justin Upton heads to Detroit batting .226 (14-for-62) with one home run and 25 strikeouts. Ausmus made it clear he’s sticking with Upton batting in front of Cabrera, saying that to push him down would be a panic move. So far, it has been a rough combination, with Cabrera’s early struggles and Upton’s strikeouts providing less incentive to challenge Upton in the strike zone.
While Indians starters provide a challenge for Detroit’s lineup, the Tribe bullpen has struggled, allowing 15 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings. They covered 6 1/3 innings Thursday afternoon against the Mariners, losing in the 10th on a Robinson Cano home run off Cody Allen (six runs in 6 1/3 innings this season).
Just so you know: The series will mark the Major League debut of Ramon De Jesus, the first Dominican-born umpire to work in the big leagues.
Familiar faces: Rajai Davis, the Tigers’ speedy outfielder in 2014 and 2015, will get his first chance to face his old squad since signing with Cleveland over the winter. Joba Chamberlain made the Indians bullpen after coming to camp on a non-roster invite. Mike Aviles jumped from Cleveland to Detroit on a one-year deal last December.
The Tigers had just finished up their last homestand when Paul Carey passed away last week, so tonight will be their first home game since. Fittingly, they’ll remember the late broadcaster in a pregame ceremony slated to begin at 6:50 p.m.
As they did when Ernie Harwell, Carey’s broadcast partner for 18 years and colleague for over 20, passed away in 2009, the Tigers will raise a flag on the center-field flagpole with Carey’s initials. The flag will be flown there for the rest of the season.
Carey, part of Tigers radio broadcasts with Harwell from 1973 to 1991, passed away Tuesday night at age 88. Much like Harwell’s death seven years ago, the news hit home to Tigers fans who remember listening to the pair growing up. Carey was an unmistakable voice of Michigan summers, and an influential voice for many broadcasters in the game today.