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Max Scherzer smelled the line of questioning as soon as he was asked whether Brad Ausmus had talked with him before telling him he was done after eight innings.

“I was done,” he said. “I mean, there’s nothing else to it. I was done. I’m not going to sit here and play second-guessing the manager. I was done.”

He had done his job to carry the game to the ninth inning with the Tigers ahead. From there, it was on to the bullpen. Every pitcher, he indicated, has their role, an answer that sounded Leyland-like. That’s how a pitching staff works.

“Whoever pitches needs to go out there and do their job,” Scherzer said when asked about what the bullpen faces if Joakim Soria is injured. “We prepare hard, we work hard. Whoever’s number is called needs to come in there and do their job. Whoever’s number is called, that’s your opportunity, and you have to go out there and do your job. Doesn’t matter who it is.”

No pitcher’s job, not even lefty Phil Coke’s job, has received as much scrutiny this year as Joe Nathan’s job, something he has pointed out from time to time this summer. He went from early-season struggles to a period of security to midseason panic to a month of relatively stability to two shaky days here.

“This isn’t a job where you’re going to be perfect all the time,” Nathan said. “I think sometimes look at it like we better be perfect. That’s not always realistic. I came out of the gate slower than I wanted to, so you want to go out and take care of business as much as you can, especially when we’re in August. But I also have to be true to myself and know that I’m throwing the ball well right now just keep the groove going.”

At the same time, he acknowledged, he can’t let a leadoff batter like Jose Reyes get on base in the ninth and run himself into position to score without a hit.

“I got myself in a position where you’ve got to be fine,” he said. “You’re looking for a ground ball.”

He has been a lot of things over the course of the season. He has not frequently been fine.

Nathan gave up the tying run, two hits and two walks before giving way to Joakim Soria with one out and the potential winning run at third base. Yet it might have been the out that doomed him. 

Melky Cabrera’s fly ball to right was the most solidly-hit ball off Nathan, whose two singles were both ground balls. Cabrera’s fly out was deep, so much so that right fielder Torii Hunter didn’t even deke like he had a play at keeping Reyes from taking third base. He was from first to third without a base hit thanks to a stolen base and the fly out, and he left Nathan having to protect against the sac fly as the middle of the Blue Jays order.

Instead of needing a base hit to score Reyes, all Jose Bautista needed to do was loft the ball with a semblance of authority. So Ausmus opted to walk Bautista and try to set up the double play for Dioner Navarro, slow-footed but batting .285 off right-handed pitching. 

Nathan needed a ground-ball double play. He got a ground ball. He did not get the ground ball.

“It’s the right play,” Nathan said of the walk. “You set up the double play, you’ve got the catcher coming up, so if you can get a ground ball to somebody you’ve got a good chance of turning it. Unfortunately it was about three or four feet too far to the hole and it got through there.”

It was Nathan’s first blown save since June 21, and his first run charged to him since July 19. However, he faced the kind of jam that might have yielded both Friday night if not for Rajai Davis’ game-ending, sliding catch. He has yielded multiple baserunners in three of four outings this month, including seven baserunners the past two nights. His first batters in an outing are 10-for-43 with two walks and 10 strikeouts against him, neither stingy nor disastrous.

“I felt good, very confident going out there,” Nathan said. “I’ve been able to kind of take myself out of situations, not so much worry about the score and just go out and pitch. I felt like I did that today. I was in a tight spot with very good hitters, but again, I pitched my game.”

Asked about Nathan’s status, Ausmus said, “Joe’s the closer. Recently he’s done very well closing games for us.”

If Soria is out for any length of time, the question is moot. Even if he isn’t, a closer change probably isn’t going to happen. Whether Ausmus stretches his starters further might be another question, though he had no question about his decision on that Saturday.

“Max is very aware of what his pitch count is and how he feels and what he has left,” Ausmus said. “He’s very honest with me and with Jeff Jones with how he’s doing physically. We’ve seen him pitch. We have a couple guys on our staff you can tell when they really kind of empty the tank, and the way they pitch speaks more than what they actually say.”

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Jays

Rogers 001

The Tigers saw Marcus Stroman in Spring Training, and they rocked him for seven runs on six hits in just a third of an inning at Joker Marchant Stadium. He has progressed a little bit since then, and coming off a Friday night of R.A. Dickey knuckleballs, his mid-90s fastball is going to be a major adjustment for Tigers hitters.

That said, there’s an interesting split going on with the right-handed Stroman: Right-handed hitters are batting .291 off Stroman, while he’s holding left-handed batters to a .207 clip. The difference in on-base percentage, however, is way smaller, .308 to .276, but it’s enough of a gap that Bryan Holaday gets a rare start against a right-handed hurler.

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

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Torii Hunter, RF
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Max Scherzer

BLUE JAYS (career numbers off Scherzer)

  1. Jose Reyes, SS (1-for-3, K)
  2. Melky Cabrera, LF (3-for-12, triple, walk, 3 K’s)
  3. Jose Bautista, RF (8-for-14, 4 doubles, HR, 3 walks, K)
  4. Dioner Navarro, C
  5. Colby Rasmus, DH (2-for-7, walk, K)
  6. Juan Francisco, 1B
  7. Munenori Kawasaki, 3B (0-for-2, K)
  8. Ryan Goins, 2B
  9. Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-3, 3 K’s)

P: Marcus Stroman

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Blue Jays

Toronto 005

Apparently the Tigers had to check all their injuries at customs. Both Torii Hunter and Eugenio Suarez return to the starting lineup tonight — Hunter from a bad hand, Suarez from a bad knee. Whether their ailing offense gets back to health is another question. A meeting with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could complicate things. He lasted just five-plus innings and walked four in Detroit June 4, but his only runs came on a pair of solo homers.

TIGERS (career numbers off R.A. Dickey)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (3-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-10, 2 HR, walk)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-21, double, 2 HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-11, double, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (6-for-18, 4 doubles, triple, 4 K’s)
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-3, double)
  7. Alex Avila, C (4-for-10, double, K)
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-2)
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Anibal Sanchez

BLUE JAYS (career numbers against Sanchez)

  1. Jose Reyes, SS (8-for-31, double, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
  2. Melky Cabrera, LF (10-for-21, 2 K’s)
  3. Jose Bautista, RF (1-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Dioner Navarro, DH (0-for-2, K)
  5. Danny Valencia, 1B
  6. Colby Rasmus, CF (3-for-16, HR, 2 walks, 10 K’s)
  7. Munenori Kawasaki, 3B
  8. Josh Thole, C (2-for-7, double, walk, K)
  9. Ryan Goins, 2B

P: R.A. Dickey

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers at Yankees

Day off for Miguel Cabrera + another day out for Torii Hunter and Eugenio Suarez = a pieced-together Tigers lineup. Ian Kinsler slots down to Cabrera’s usual third spot in the order, with Rajai Davis leading off and Ezequiel Carrera bumped up to second.

On the Yankees side, Derek Jeter is off for the day game after the night game. Stephen Drew moves over to short, with Brendan Ryan at second.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  3. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Don Kelly, 1B
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Rick Porcello

YANKEES (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Brett Gardner, LF (4-for-13, 2 walks, K)
  2. Martin Prado, 3B (1-for-3)
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (7-for-10, double, 2 HR, walk)
  4. Carlos Beltran, DH (3-for-5, walk)
  5. Chase Headley, 1B (2-for-3, double, HR)
  6. Stephen Drew, SS (1-for-4, HR, 2 walks)
  7. Francisco Cervelli, C
  8. Ichiro Suzuki, RF (9-for-25, 2 doubles, 3 K’s)
  9. Brendan Ryan, 2B (3-for-6, walk, K)

P: Shane Greene

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Yankees

As expected, no Torii Hunter in the Tigers lineup tonight, which means Brad Ausmus had to put a left-handed hitter (Ezequiel Carrera) in his outfield against Chris Capuano. That actually might not be a bad thing, considering Capuano has reverse splits going — .306 average/.814 OPS allowed to left-handed hitters, .248/.726 against righties. For his career, though, right-handed batters are hitting 40 points higher off Capuano than left-handed hitters.

In the infield, Eugenio Suarez is out again. Andrew Romine gets the start as he tries to further his small-sample success off lefties (10-for-33 with a double).

TIGERS (career numbers off Capuano)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (3-for-5, 2 doubles, walk, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-2, HR, walk)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (9-for-23, double, 4 HR, 9 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-7, HR, 2 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-2, walk, K)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-1, K)
  7. Bryan Holaday, C (1-for-1, triple)
  8. Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-1, K)
  9. Ezequiel Carrera, CF

P: Justin Verlander

YANKEES (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Brett Gardner, CF (5-for-23, double, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  2. Derek Jeter, SS (16-for-44, double, HR, 4 walks, 10 K’s)
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (6-for-26, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B (3-for-38, HR, 5 walks, 12 K’s)
  5. Carlos Beltran, DH (1-for-7, 2 K’s)
  6. Brian McCann, C (1-for-5, double, walk, K)
  7. Chase Headley, 3B (2-for-6, double, 4 K’s)
  8. Stephen Drew, 2B (4-for-18, double, walk, 11 K’s)
  9. Martin Prado, RF (3-for-6, 2 walks)

P: Chris Capuano

12 innings, no walks, either side

David Price’s Tigers debut is going to go down as one of the most anticipated August games in Tigers history. His performance — 8.2 innings, three runs, no walks and 10 strikeouts — lived up to his billing as an efficient strike-thrower.

For that reason, too, the game is going to go down in history. Not only did Price avoid walking anyone, so did the three relievers that followed him, including closer Joe Nathan. So did the eight Yankees that pitched in the game.

How rare is that: For a 12-inning game, it’s the first such game in nearly a century.

Credit ESPN Stats and Information with the stat last night:

A little research on baseball-reference found the specific game: The Dodgers beat the Pirates in 13 innings, 4-3, on July 25, 1917 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Then-youngster Burleigh Grimes pitched 9 1/3 innings of 11-hit ball with two earned runs and four strikeouts. Sherry Smith earned the win for Brooklyn with five innings of one-hit scoreless relief.

 

Rk Tm Opp Date #Matching CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO
1 DET NYY 2014-08-05 2 0 0 1 24.0 16 7 4 0 22
2 BRO PIT 1917-07-25 2 0 0 0 26.0 19 5 1 0 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/6/2014.

The fact that the Yankees used so many pitchers raises another historic question: What’s the record for number of pitchers in a game to not issue a walk? The answer is that last night’s game wasn’t even close. Three other games this season have featured more pitchers who didn’t issue a walk than the 11 used by the Tigers and Yankees Tuesday. The Mariners and Angels had a 16-inning game just a few weeks ago that used 17 pitchers, 13 of which didn’t issue a walk.

 

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Yankees

Eugenio Suarez remains out after leaving last night’s game, though reports out of the Bronx suggest he might not miss as much time as initially feared. The fact that Suarez didn’t go on the DL and Hernan Perez wasn’t rushed in is a fairly good sign.

Meanwhile, Ezequiel Carrera returns to the bench after his highlight catch Monday night. The Yankees have another righty on the mound with Hiroki Kuroda, but it’s a better matchup for Davis, not because of the lefty-righty splits but because of the history (5-for-16). If the last couple days are the template for how Davis will be used against right-handers, then it’s safer to describe him as the regular starter in center fielder than to call him a platoon player.

Oh, and this new pitcher Price is starting for the Detroiters. He has a little bit of history with the Yankees.

TIGERS (career numbers off Kuroda)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (5-for-16, double, HR, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-14, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-12, double, 2 HR, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-3, K)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-7, 2 K’s)
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-3)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C (1-for-6, HR, 2 K’s)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: David Price

YANKEES (career numbers against Price)

  1. Brett Gardner, LF (2-for-17, 4 walks, 4 K’s)
  2. Derek Jeter, SS (18-for-59, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 8 walks, 8 K’s)
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (15-for-48, 4 doubles, 2 triples, HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B (11-for-50, 2 doubles, 3 HR, 5 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Carlos Beltran, DH (1-for-9, 2 K’s)
  6. Brian McCann, C (4-for-8, 2 HR, walk)
  7. Chase Headley, 3B
  8. Martin Prado, RF (2-for-6, 2 K’s)
  9. Brendan Ryan, 2B (1-for-3, 2 K’s)

P: Hiroki Kuroda

Monday’s lineups: Tigers at Yankees

After three consecutive matchups against Rockies left-handers, the Tigers are scheduled to face three right-handers over their four-game series with the Yankees, starting tonight with Brandon McCarthy (who’s allowing a .311 average to left-handed hitters this year). That means the long-awaited first Tigers start for Ezequiel Carrera, who came up from Triple-A Toledo to take Austin Jackson’s roster spot and watched Rajai Davis tear up Rockies pitching before entering as a late-inning defensive replacement. Carrera will bat second, with Ian Kinsler leading off, which means Carrera and Cabrera will be back-to-back on your scorecard. Adjust accordingly.

The righty-lefty splits also result in a game for Don Kelly at third base, and a day off for Nick Castellanos, who went 1-for-12 with four strikeouts against Colorado this past weekend.

Brett Gardner comes into this series red-hot, having just won AL Player of the Week honors by going 11-for-23 with five homers last week. However, he’s 0-for-14 with five strikeouts lifetime against Max Scherzer. One of these trends is going to break tonight.

TIGERS (career numbers off McCarthy)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-18, double, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  2. Ezequiel Carrera, CF (1-for-3, walk, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-13, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-21, 4 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (8-for-16, 3 doubles, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF
  7. Don Kelly, 3B (3-for-8, double, triple, 2 K’s)
  8. Alex Avila, C (2-for-11, 2 K’s)
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Max Scherzer

YANKEES (career numbers against Scherzer)

  1. Brett Gardner, LF (0-for-14, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  2. Derek Jeter, SS (5-for-16, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (6-for-13, double, HR, 5 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B (3-for-19, double, HR, walk, 5 K’s)
  5. Carlos Beltran, DH (0-for-0, walk)
  6. Brian McCann, C (0-for-5, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
  7. Chase Headley, 3B (3-for-12, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  8. Stephen Drew, 2B (3-for-19, 2 doubles, walk, 8 K’s)
  9. Martin Prado, RF (2-for-3, double)

P: Brandon McCarthy

Analyzing Anibal’s fastball

Anibal Sanchez was barely a teenager when the Braves had their run of success with the Big Three rotation of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, but he was around to see them at the end of their careers.

“I’m a big follower of Greg Maddux,” he said. “To me, he’s one of the best pitchers, a guy that throws 84-85 with nasty command. That’s unbelievable. I faced Smoltz when I was with the Marlins early in my career. In ’06 I had the opportunity to face him. You just think about when this guy was 10 years younger.”

Sanchez’s game is different than either one of those guys. He throws way harder than Maddux, but he’s not as overpowering as Smoltz. But when Sanchez is on, there’s a simplicity to his pitching.

“He never throws anything straight,” Victor Martinez said.

When he’s on, even his fastball isn’t straight. When it moves like Sunday, he barely has to throw anything else.

The numbers from brooksbaseball.net and MLB.com Gameday are scary. Sixty-one of Sanchez’s 117 pitches were fastballs, averaging just under 94 mph, topping out at 96. He threw 42 of 61 fastballs for strikes. Rockies hitters swung at 32 of them — and missed 16 times. The only one they put in play was Brandon Barnes’ line-drive single in the seventh. That leaves 15 fastballs fouled off.

Think about that: 61 fastballs, one put in play. Colorado put more curveballs (3), sliders (4) and splitters (3) in play, according to the data, than fastballs.

“My last game, I feel like I had more life out of my fastball,” Sanchez said, “and today I used it all the time, executing until the guys can make contact. So I don’t try to throw a couple fastballs and go to the other pitch. I just keep my fastball, keep it on the corners, and I used it all the time.

“When you have a lot of command of your fastball, you can use the rest of your pitches and they’re going to work. Today when I throw my slider, any off pitch worked pretty much, especially because I put my fastball down and in and hit the corners very well today.”

Think, too, about this: Because Sanchez threw a few extra-slow changeups, his velocity Sunday ranged from 96 at the top end to 70 at the bottom. He went from the mid-90s to low-70s from pitch to pitch at least twice.

“He used his fastball perfectly today,” Brad Ausmus said. “He threw it for strikes. He threw it in, he threw it out, and all of his other pitches as a result were much better. He used his fastball as well as I’ve seen him use his fastball all year, and it just made his other pitches that much more effective.”

It’s one thing for a pitcher to say he’s going to attack hitters with fastballs and dare them to hit it. It’s another thing to pitch seven shutout innings, strike out 12 and walk none doing it.

In fact, according to baseball-reference.com, the only Tiger since 1914 to strike out 12 batters without a walk or a run allowed is Max Scherzer. He did it on June 17, 2012 — also against the Rockies.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Rockies

The Rockies are starting a left-handed pitcher for the 19th consecutive game. The Tigers are starting Alex Avila against a lefty for the second straight game. Avila’s three-hit game last night (two hits off Tyler Matzek, the third off ageless righty LaTroy Hawkins) didn’t hurt.

“I didn’t want Alex to not play three games,” Brad Ausmus said last night. “I was toying with the idea of Holaday playing the first and third game of the series, and it crossed my mind I could play him all three, but I just decided I didn’t want to keep Alex out that long. And then he made me look good by getting three hits.”

That said, Avila will have his work cut out against Jorge De La Rosa, who’s allowing a mere .183 average against left-handed hitters this year with 34 strikeouts in 125 plate appearances. However, De La Rosa has a bizarre home-road split for a Rockies starting pitcher: He’s 7-2 with a 3.43 ERA at Coors Field, but 4-4 with a 5.28 ERA on the road. He’s allowing a .754 OPS away from the Rocky Mountain air, compared with .687 at home.

TIGERS (career numbers vs. De La Rosa)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (0-for-3, walk, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-3, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-6, double, HR, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-12, 4 walks)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-13, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-3, double, K)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Anibal Sanchez

ROCKIES (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Charlie Culberson Corey Dickerson, DH
  2. Josh Rutledge, SS
  3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  4. Justin Morneau, 1B (6-for-19, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Drew Stubbs, CF (2-for-8, double, 4 K’s)
  6. Jason Pridie, LF (0-for-0, sacrifice bunt)
  7. Wilin Rosario, C
  8. Brandon Barnes, RF
  9. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B

P: Jorge De La Rosa

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