Three weeks ago, Shane Greene faced a Tigers lineup without Miguel Cabrera or Torii Hunter starting and shut it down on five singles over eight innings with five strikeouts, saddling Rick Porcello with a 1-0 loss at Yankee Stadium. Porcello got his revenge Tuesday night. Now the Tigers will field their regular lineup against Greene at Comerica Park, hoping to earn David Price a win in his first outing since taking a loss on a one-hitter with an unearned run at Tampa Bay.
TIGERS (numbers off Shane Greene)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-4, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-3)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-2, walk)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-2, walk, 2 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (0-for-2, walk)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF (0-for-4, K)
P: David Price
YANKEES (career numbers vs. Price)
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (17-for-52, 5 doubles, 2 triples, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Derek Jeter, SS (19-for-63, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 8 walks, 8 K’s)
- Martin Prado, 2B (4-for-9, double, HR, 3 K’s)
- Mark Teixeira, 1B (11-for-54, 2 doubles, 3 HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
- Carlos Beltran, RF (2-for-13, 4 K’s)
- Brian McCann, DH (5-for-12, 3 HR, walk, K)
- Chase Headley, 3B (0-for-4, 2 K’s)
- Brett Gardner, LF (2-for-20, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
- Francisco Cervelli, C (0-for-4, 2 K’s)
P: Shane Greene
The Tigers have until sometime later today to try to work out a deal with the Astros for Chad Qualls, whom they claimed on revocable waivers Monday. As of now, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do it.
The growing belief is that the Astros are not inclined to move Qualls, much as they weren’t last month when he could be traded to any team without having to clear waivers. Between Qualls’ manageable contract that runs through next season with an option for 2016, and Qualls’ clear desire to stay in Houston, there’s not a lot of motivation.
“I don’t think there’s anything to talk about,” manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday. “As far as I know, Tigers baseball stance, there’s really nothing to it.”
The Tigers put in a claim for Qualls on Monday. Under terms of revocable waivers, the Astros have 48 hours (thus, until Wednesday) to work out a trade, pull Qualls back off waivers or let him go to the Tigers. The third option is a virtual certainty not to happen. Detroit must put together a deal, or Houston has to hold onto Qualls for the rest of the season.
The Tigers were interested in Qualls last month before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but the Astros were reticent to deal. The two teams worked out a deal last summer for the Astros’ previous closer, Jose Veras, in exchange for outfielder Danry Vasquez and pitcher David Paulino. With Qualls under a multi-year contract, rather than a rental, the Astros would be expected to seek more-advanced prospects.
Houston had a pro scout in Reading, Pa., while Double-A Erie was in town this past weekend. The SeaWolves have a selection of high-rising prospects, including slugging outfielder Steven Moya, gifted hitting infielder Devon Travis and reliever Angel Nesbitt.
However the Tigers — who parted with highly ranked prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel for Joakim Soria in July — appear unlikely to do the same for another reliever.
“I could have signed there in the offseason, and obviously they tried to trade for me at the Deadline, and with me being put on waivers, why wouldn’t they take another chance now?” Qualls told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. “Yet again, nothing’s changed. I’m going to go to work as usual and do my thing.”
If anyone on the Tigers would know about Qualls, it’s Ausmus, who caught Qualls in Houston from 2004 to 2007. If there’s a deal brewing, however, it’s news to Ausmus.
“Waiver claims this time of year, they don’t really mean anything,” Ausmus said. “I know there’s been a lot said about it, but there’s really nothing that I know about, quite frankly, other than what I’ve read.
Said Qualls: “I’m sure he wants me. I think around the Trade Deadline there were some other guys that were getting traded and I was just messing around and he’s like, ‘Well, if you would have just signed here in the first place, we wouldn’t have to trade for anybody.’ Just typical Brad Ausmus. Like I said before, I want to stay here and be a Houston Astro until I retire.”
The 36-year-old Qualls is 14-for-17 in save chances in Houston to go with a 3.07 ERA, 46 hits and 38 strikeouts over 44 innings. He has walked just five batters this season, and two were intentional. The 11-year Major League veteran has been used to protect leads anywhere from the seventh to ninth innings, much like the role the Tigers had for Soria.
The Tigers were gone on the road for a week. It only seemed by the crowd reaction that they’d been gone longer.
It was long enough for Tigers fans and Joe Nathan, two sides who seemed irreparably distanced last homestand, to begin this three-game homestand supporting one another.
“Good feeling to know we’re on the right track to hopefully mending and erasing a mistake that I made,” Nathan said after retiring the Yankees in order in the ninth inning Tuesday night for his 28th save. “Hopefully it means that we’re putting this thing behind us and now we can concentrate on a very difficult task in trying to win this division and get to the playoffs. Very good feeling to hear that. Now we’ve got to, I think, do what these fans want to see and that’s at the end of game 162, have a chance to play further.”
Yes, that was a segment of the Comerica Park crowd behind home plate chanting for Joe Nathan at the start of the ninth inning, and again with each hitter; chanting, “Let’s Go Joe.”
Yes, that was Nathan retiring the side in order as it went along, starting with a three-pitch strikeout, which no doubt helped the reception.
“I did hear them,” Nathan said. “I actually for a second sat there and kind of enjoyed it. Then told myself, ‘All right, make it white noise and get back to work, concentrate on a tough hitter in Beltran.’ Fortunately I was able to get him and kind of settle into the inning from there.”
It did not sound like something he expected after boos for most of the summer. Then again,
Said manager Brad Ausmus: “It’d really be a great side story if Joe could run the gamut here the last 30 or so games and endear himself to the Tigers fans again. The one incident that happened it was obviously a mistake and he’s already talked to the media about that. He has apologized. He wants to perform. He wants to do well and I’m sure he was a lot happier with the cheers than the boos, like any player would be.”
Much like the Jimmy Buffett concert last month, center field took some damage from the Eminem/Rihanna concerts last weekend. Like last month, it should recover, but it’s looking a little rough out there. Add in the water from storms that rolled through a couple hours before gametime, and it could be a little messy out there. It’s the domain of Rajai Davis tonight.
As expected, Miguel Cabrera returns to the lineup, playing first base.
TIGERS (career numbers off Brandon McCarthy)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-21, double, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (8-for-19, 3 doubles, HR, walk, 5 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-15, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 4 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-24, 5 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C (2-for-13, 3 K’s)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS (0-for-2, K)
- Rajai Davis, CF (2-for-8, 2 doubles, walk, 2 K’s)
P: Rick Porcello
YANKEES (career numbers vs. Porcello)
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (8-for-13, double, 2 HR, walk)
- Derek Jeter, DH (2-for-18, double, K)
- Brian McCann, C
- Mark Teixeira, 1B (4-for-18, walk, K)
- Carlos Beltran, RF (4-for-8, walk, K)
- Martin Prado, 2B (2-for-7)
- Stephen Drew, SS (2-for-7, double, HR, 2 walks, K)
- Chase Headley, 3B (3-for-6, double, HR)
- Ichiro Suzuki, RF (11-for-28, 2 doubles, 4 K’s)
P: Brandon McCarthy
The Tigers might have one more trade for bullpen help in them yet. Oddly enough, they can thank their recent fall out of the AL Central and Wild Card leads in part for getting in a last-minute waiver claim on Astros closer Chad Qualls.
Peter Gammons of MLB Network first reported that the Tigers had the primary claim on Qualls, who was a last-minute placement on the waiver wire after the Astros held onto him at the July 31 non-waiver deadline. That followed Ken Rosenthal’s report Monday evening that Qualls had been claimed on revocable waivers.
Under terms of revocable waivers, the Astros have 48 hours (thus, until Wednesday) to work out a trade, pull him back off waivers, or let him go on waivers.
At this point, it’s too early to tell whether the two teams, who put together a trade for then-Astros closer Jose Veras last summer, can work something out on Qualls. The Tigers were interested in Qualls last month before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, but the Astros were reticent to deal. Detroit put together a trade with the Rangers for Joakim Soria instead.
One potential factor is the sentiment of Qualls, who does not have veto power but has said more than once that he wants to remain an Astro. Qualls signed a two-year, $5.95 million deal last December to return to his original organization, spurning interest from the Tigers among other teams.
Qualls’ contract is very manageable, having joined Houston on a two-year deal worth $5.95 million with a $3.5 million club option for 2016. He has said repeatedly, including last night, that he wants to remain in Houston, though he doesn’t have a say in it.
“I’ve been traded a bunch of times in my career and it’s no different,” Qualls told Houston reporters, including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. “I chose Houston because it’s close to home and I want to help this team win and I feel like I’ve been doing the best I can this year.
“Like I said all year, I’d like to stay here this year and obviously beyond that and finish my career as an Astro. It’s not in my hands, though, so I don’t really put too much thought into it.”
The Tigers were able to acquire the Astros’ last closer, Jose Veras, last summer for outfielder Danry Vasquez and pitcher David Paulino. With Qualls’ contract, however, the Astros will probably seek more advanced prospects. Houston had a pro scout in Reading, Pa., while Double-A Erie was in town this past weekend.
It’s more likely the Astros pull him off waivers than trade him, according to McTaggart.
Soria was in the Tigers bullpen for about two weeks before a left oblique strain landed him on the 15-day disabled list. He’s throwing off flat ground and is “trending upward” towards a return, according to manager Brad Ausmus, but still has to throw off a mound. His return is on the horizon, but not imminent.
The Tigers tried to fill part of the void last week with former Orioles/A’s closer Jim Johnson, who earned a win at Tampa Bay with a scoreless 10th inning despite walking two Rays, but then gave up four runs in a nine-run sixth inning in Friday’s 20-6 loss to the Twins. Johnson came back Sunday and retired all five batters he faced, his longest perfect outing since April 11 with Oakland.
The 36-year-old Qualls is 14-for-17 in save chances in Houston to go with a 3.07 ERA, 46 hits and 38 strikeouts over 44 innings. He has walked just five batters this season, and two were intentional. His 11-year-old Major League history has seen him protect leads anywhere from the seventh to ninth innings, much like the role the Tigers had for Soria.
Just because the Tigers made the first claim doesn’t mean they’ll be able to pull off a deal. The Astros were more willing to trade a young starter than their veteran reliever before the non-waiver deadline, and they’re still trying to win games down the stretch to demonstrate progress. Houston needs eight wins in its last 30 games to avoid 100 losses for the first time since 2010, and their near.500 record over the last month or two suggests an outside shot to avoid 90 losses.
While the Tampa Bay Rays await word from Major League Baseball on their protest of a late replay challenge Saturday from Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, the Tigers are expected to be interested observers. Manager Brad Ausmus, in particular, will be curious to see how this is ruled.
On Sunday morning, he hadn’t seen the play in question, when Gibbons came out to challenge a pickoff call after his pitcher, Mark Buehrle, was back on the rubber and Yunel Escobar was in the batters box. But Ausmus was aware of it.
“I read the story, which when it happened with us in Anaheim, it was the exact same thing really,” Ausmus said.
That, too, was a pickoff play — with Matt Shoemaker trying to pick off Eugenio Suarez at first. Suarez was initially ruled safe, Shoemaker returned to the mound, Mike Scioscia emerged from the dugout to challenge, and Ausmus was out of his dugout as soon as Scioscia came out.
“I was watching the batters and the pitcher, and I understand what Brad was thinking,” crew chief Jim Joyce said at the time. “But to tell me I can’t do it is not what the rule is. So I just informed him that it’s at my discretion. It’s at the crew chief’s discretion.
“I just knew it was really, really a close play. And if he’s going to come out and ask me to review it, I’m going to review it. The whole entire deal is to get it right. So I kept informing him that, at my discretion, that I can review it. I tried to impress that upon, and we got to where we were.”
Ausmus argued unsuccessfully to try to stop the review. He came back out as soon as Suarez was ruled out on review, which got Ausmus ejected.
So why didn’t Ausmus protest like Maddon did?
“I wanted to protest,” Ausmus said Sunday, “and the umpire [Joyce] told me I couldn’t protest, that it was not something that could be protested.”
Ausmus said he has not been given an official clarification on the rule since. MLB executive vice president of on-field operations Joe Torre was in Cooperstown at the time of the incident for Hall of Fame weekend.
“I never actually talked to Joe about the rule,” said Ausmus. “I wasn’t given anything official in terms of whether I was right or wrong. I know there was a lot of discussion in New York about it, though.”
Given the Rays challenge, there’s probably more discussion going on in New York.
Miguel Cabrera aggravated his sore right ankle when he hit the bag hard trying to beat out a double play throw Saturday night. He stayed in the game until being lifted for a pinch-runner in the eighth, but he was clearly limping on his way through the dugout. It’s enough of a concern that he’s out of the lineup today, giving him two days to recover before Tuesday’s series opener against the Yankees back at Comerica Park.
“Maybe two days off in a row might help,” manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning.
Cabrera could pinch-hit, but Ausmus said he’d save that for a situation with runners on and a late-game scenario.
The cascade effect on the lineup affects most of the other spots. Ian Kinsler is back batting second, Rajai Davis is leading off, and Torii Hunter is hitting third. Don Kelly, the first baseman for the day, will bat ninth.
TIGERS (career numbers off Kyle Gibson)
- Rajai Davis, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-4, walk)
- Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-2, walk)
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-5, double)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-3, double, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-4, K)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-4, double)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Don Kelly, 1B (1-for-4, double)
P: Max Scherzer
TWINS (career numbers vs. Scherzer)
- Danny Santana, CF (1-for-3, double, K)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-11, HR, walk, 7 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (8-for-28, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Oswaldo Arcia, RF (2-for-3, double, K)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (1-for-13, walk, 7 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (2-for-5, HR, walk, K)
- Eduardo Escobar, SS (2-for-8, double, K)
- Jordan Schafer, LF (0-for-3, walk, K)
P: Kyle Gibson
Statistically, the Tigers lost ground with Saturday’s doubleheader split, dropping another half-game on Kansas City and Seattle. They’ve dropped two games in the AL Central over the last three days, and they’re now facing their biggest deficit since they were down three games to the White Sox with 15 games to play in 2012.
Yet, as the Tigers headed back into the visiting clubhouse at Target Field after salvaging a split Saturday night, there was a reason the music was blaring. They avoided the worst-case scenario of dropping four games back in the division with another loss. More importantly, they found the energy to keep fighting.
“It was a no-brainer. We had to go out there and come with a little more fight,” Torii Hunter said. “We lost the last two and we lost big. Those guys are taking first and third, stealing bases. So today, we played a little harder, and I could see it.”
It was Hunter who mentioned after back-to-back losses in Pittsburgh last week that there was a lack of energy. It was Hunter who tried to create a spark Saturday night when he tried to go from first to third on Victor Martinez’s single.
It nearly resulted in an inning-ending out. It took a replay review to put him on third base, in position to score a few pitches later.
There’s a reaction sometimes when players talk about playing with more energy, asking why they don’t do that all the time. The day-in, day-out nature of the baseball schedule makes that a lot more challenging. For many, it’s that consistency that is the toughest part of a 162-game Major League schedule.
For the Tigers, it’s particularly tough these days. They’re in the midst of 24 games in 23 days, and 55 games in 55 days out of the All-Star break. They’re essentially playing four games in 48 hours at Target Field, and they lost the first two in demoralizing fashion. While pitchers can find a way to plug through when hitting slumps leave them in a 1-0 and 2-0 deficit, it’s tougher to get hitters to wake up sometimes when a bad pitching performance puts a team down eight or 10 runs.
It’s a bad combination going right now, and it’s a veteran team that can’t simply rely on youth to summon that energy. Justin Verlander’s return provided them some. They had to look within for the rest.
“You have to dig deep,” Hunter said. “You have to have that will to find it and dig. I always says during a storm, a tree actually grows roots, just so it can be rooted and strong. It finds the will to survive. That’s what we have to do, find a will.”
Trevor May has made three Major League appearances, two of them starts. He has allowed 10 runs, nine earned, on 13 hits over nine total innings with 13 walks and three strikeouts. In theory, it would take a lot of Twins hitting off Justin Verlander to put the Tigers out of this one. The way this weekend has gone for them, though, nothing is assured. And May did pitch eight shutout innings against Toledo in May.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, DH
- Victor Martinez, 1B
- J.D. Martinez, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Bryan Holaday, C
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF
P: Justin Verlander
TWINS (career numbers off Verlander)
- Danny Santana, CF (1-for-3)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-11, double, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (23-for-62, 4 doubles, 3 HR, 12 walks, 10 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Oswaldo Arcia, RF (0-for-2, walk)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (4-for-28, double, 8 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (8-for-30, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
- Eduardo Escobar, SS (2-for-8, K)
- Jordan Schafer, LF
P: Trevor May
Friday night and Saturday afternoon didn’t put the Tigers in record territory, but it wasn’t far off.
The 32 runs allowed (20-6 Friday night, 12-4 Saturday afternoon) are the most off Tigers pitching in a two-game stretch since Sept. 7-9, 2004. That stretch is remembered more for the second game, when Jason Johnson and the Tigers suffered a 26-5 loss to the Royals in the first game of a doubleheader at Comerica Park. It’s the fourth-highest two-game total in franchise history.
Here’s the full list:
40 – June 17-18, 1953 at Red Sox (17-1 loss first game, 23-3 loss 2nd game)
35 – April 24-25, 1996 vs. Twins (24-11 loss first game, 11-1 loss 2nd game)
33 – Aug. 28, 1936 doubleheader at Yankees (14-5 loss Game 1, 19-4 loss Game 2)
32 – Aug. 4-5, 1929 at Senators (13-11 win first game, 21-5 loss 2nd game)
32 – Sept. 7-9, 2004 vs. Royals (6-2 loss first game, 26-5 loss 2nd game)
32 – Aug. 22-23, 2014 at Twins (20-6 loss first game, 12-4 loss 2nd game)