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Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Rangers

With Interleague Play over and the designated hitter slot back, Miguel Cabrera gets a night at DH, with Victor Martinez returning to the lineup at first base.

On the Rangers side, Josh Hamilton’s trip to the disabled list forces some changes. Will Venable makes his Rangers debut in left field after being acquired from the Padres earlier in the week.

Radio reminder for Detroit listeners: The Tigers are AM-only tonight with the Lions playing their preseason game at Washington.

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

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers off Martin Perez)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (0-for-1, 3 walks)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B (1-for-3, HR)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Anthony Gose, CF

P: Alfredo Simon

rangerslogoRANGERS (career numbers against Simon)

  1. Delino DeShields, CF
  2. Shin-Soo Choo, RF (1-for-3, 2 K’s)
  3. Prince Fielder, DH
  4. Adrian Beltre, 3B (2-for-5, HR)
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B (1-for-2)
  6. Elvis Andrus, SS (0-for-5, K)
  7. Rougned Odor, 2B
  8. Will Venable, LF
  9. Chris Gimenez, C

P: Martin Perez

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Cubs

1945wsprogramThe Tigers and Cubs will be wearing 1945 throwbacks tonight in honor of their World Series clash, so the logos below are from 1945. The lineups are modern-day, even if some American League fans believe having the pitcher bat is antiquated. Thanks to sportslogos.net for the logos, and baseball-almanac for the World Series program image.

As for the lineup, Victor Martinez is on the bench for a second consecutive night. Considering Miguel Cabrera has better numbers off Jon Lester than any active hitter, there was no chance he was getting a night off. Cabrera has a .667 career OBP against Lester, and has reached base safely 10 times in his 20 plate appearances since returning from the disabled list according to MLB Network research.

After last night’s 5-for-5 performance, Ian Kinsler is now 9-for-12 with three extra-base hits and five runs scored in three games against the Cubs this year.

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

1945tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers vs. Lester)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (14-for-44, 3 doubles, 3 triples, HR, 4 walks, 11 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (8-for-35, double, 2 HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (16-for-29, 4 doubles, HR, 10 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-2)
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-7, HR, K)
  6. James McCann, C (1-for-2, double, K)
  7. Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-8, double, 3 K’s)
  8. Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-8, double, 3 K’s)
  9. Daniel Norris, P

1945cubslogoCUBS

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  3. Kris Bryant, 3B
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  5. Jorge Soler, RF (1-for-1 off Norris)
  6. Starlin Castro, 2B
  7. David Ross, C
  8. Jon Lester, P
  9. Addison Russell, SS

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Cubs

No designated hitter at Wrigley Field, so someone in the Tigers’ usual lineup had to sit. For this game, that someone is Victor Martinez. J.D. Martinez moves up to cleanup spot. In an unrelated change, Anthony Gose bats leadoff, with Ian Kinsler hitting second and Jose Iglesias moved down to eighth.

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

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers against Jason Hammel)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-3, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-4, walk, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-11, double, walk)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-2)
  5. Tyler Collins, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-2)
  9. Anibal Sanchez, P

cubssecondlogoCUBS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF (2-for-10, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  2. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  3. Chris Coghlan, 2B (1-for-2)
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (2-for-9, 2 walks, K)
  5. Kris Bryant, 3B (1-for-3, Walk)
  6. Jorge Soler, RF
  7. Miguel Montero, C (3-for-20, double, HR, 4 K’s)
  8. Jason Hammel, P
  9. Addison Russell, SS (1-for-3, K)

Tigers pay for pitching to Altuve as Tucker looms on bench

Brad Ausmus saw Preston Tucker hit his third game-tying homer of the season off Tigers pitching Saturday night. He did not want to give Tucker a chance at a go-ahead shot Sunday afternoon, and he was willing to pitch to reigning AL batting champion Jose Altuve with the winning run on third to do it.

“You have to pick your poison there,” Ausmus said.

Agree or disagree, the strategy seemed to be clear. The execution between Ausmus, catcher Alex Avila and pitcher Alex Wilson on how to execute it seemed to vary.

“We were trying to pitch him carefully,” Ausmus said after Altuve hit Wilson’s first-pitch cutter up the middle for a walkoff single. “We weren’t trying to give him anything to hit, but sometimes the location is missed, so a guy gets a hit.”

Avila saw it the same.

“We were trying to get him to chase something,” Avila said. “Probably in that situation, if we fell behind, we’d probably just walk him.”

In other words, Altuve would’ve gotten the unintentional-intentional walk, something Ausmus confirmed would’ve been the option if he got to a two-ball count.

Wilson, who had held Altuve 0-for-6 dating back to 2013, was focused on getting him out.

“Pitching carefully, you’ve still got to attack,” Wilson said. “You want to get people out. You don’t want to get behind. The goal is to get him out, because the next guy on deck is a left-hander.”

Switch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez — 2-for-7 off Wilson — was waiting. After Gonzalez was Carlos Correa, whom the Tigers retired just three times this series.

“The matchup right there is for me versus Altuve,” Wilson said. “You can be careful, but at the same time you still have to work within the zone.”

Avila lined up off the plate for Wilson’s first-pitch cutter, which floated over the middle of the plate. Though Altuve entered Sunday batting .274 with a .674 OPS against right-handers this season, he had little trouble centering the pitch with authority.

“I wanted to get ahead,” Wilson said, “and unfortunately I hit the top of the zone rather than the bottom of the zone.”

Said Avila: “Just a cutter that kind of came out sideways.”

Ausmus’ wariness of the left-handed hitting Tucker impacted his pitching to start the ninth. Lefty Tom Gorzelanny entered with two out in the eighth to face Colby Rusmus, who popped out on a 3-0 pitch. With the bottom third of the Astros order due up, Ausmus stuck with Gorzelanny to face right-handed slugger Chris Carter, switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger, and right-handed hitter Jake Marisnick.

“You can bring a righty in and know they’re going to pinch-hit Tucker at some point,” Ausmus said, “or you can leave a lefty in there against guys that you think a lefty has a chance to get out and leave [Tucker] in the dugout.”

That strategy very nearly worked.  Gorzelanny, whose new sidearming style yielded similar numbers against lefties and righties at Triple-A Toledo before his return, got a fly ball from Carter to deep center field on a full count, and a groundout from Conger into an infield shift.

Gorzelanny didn’t get the call on a 1-1 pitch that he felt hit the outer edge on Marisnick, but recovered to get the count full when Marisnick fouled off a 3-1 fastball.

“We had him diving out to the outside part of the plate,” Avila said, “and wanted to go with a good fastball inside, try to get him tied up.”

Marisnick got a fastball over the plate and sent it to the fence in right-center, earning him a two-out triple and forcing Ausmus to make a decision.

Tucker is 2-for-5 as a pinch-hitter, both hits being home runs against the Tigers. All 12 of his home runs this season are off right-handed pitching, which he hits for a .272 (52-for-191) average.

In the end, he haunted the Tigers again without stepping to the plate.

“I go back to the playoffs here when Albert Pujols hit that home run,” Ausmus said, recalling Pujols’ ninth-inning go-ahead homer off Astros closer Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. “We were trying to be careful with him. Sometimes you miss your spot and it ends up costing you.”

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros

Alex Avila gets the start behind the plate for Matt Boyd. Nick Castellanos gets the day off as Jefry Marte goes back to his natural position at third base, his first start at the hot corner in the Majors. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez swap spots to their usual positions as well.

84tigerslogoTIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Tyler Collins, LF
  7. Jefry Marte, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Anthony Gose, CF

P: Matt Boyd

astrosoldlogoASTROS

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B
  2. Marwin Gonzalez, 3B
  3. Carlos Correa, SS
  4. Evan Gattis, DH
  5. Carlos Gomez, CF
  6. Colby Rasmus, LF
  7. Chris Carter, 1B
  8. Hank Conger, C
  9. Jake Marisnick, RF

P: Mike Fiers

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros

After much prodding from player and coaches, Brad Ausmus makes the call to start Victor Martinez at first base, freeing up the DH spot for Miguel Cabrera for a night.

“I’ve had a couple coaches trying to convince me for a while. In Kansas City, Matt [Martin] and Omar [Vizquel] did some stuff with him at first base. I talked to Victor and he was gung ho, so I relented.”

In terms of batting order, Jose Iglesias moves up to the second spot against right-hander Collin McHugh, right in front of Cabrera. Ian Kinsler bumps up a spot to leadoff.

The Astros, meanwhile, get Colby Rasmus back into the lineup after he was scratched Friday with a sore left knee.

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

tigerslogoTIGERS (numbers off McHugh)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-4)
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-3)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (1-for-2, double, walk, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-2, HR)
  6. Tyler Collins, LF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3)
  8. James McCann, C (1-for-3)
  9. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-4, double)

P: Justin Verlander

astros2005logoASTROS (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B (2-for-3, double)
  2. Preston Tucker, LF
  3. Carlos Correa, SS
  4. Jed Lowrie, 3B (2-for-17, double, walk, 5 K’s)
  5. Carlos Gomez, CF (1-for-11, double, 3 K’s)
  6. Colby Rasmus, RF (2-for-8, double, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  7. Evan Gattis, DH
  8. Luis Valbuena, 1B (2-for-19, HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
  9. Jason Castro, C (0-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)

P: Collin McHugh

Friday’s lineups: Tigers (now with Cabrera) at Astros

Miguel Cabrera is back in his customary third spot in the Tigers batting order. Ian Kinsler bumps down to second and Jose Iglesias moves back to the bottom of the order, but don’t expect that to be a daily occurrence. Iglesias will bat second most games against right-handers, according to Brad Ausmus, with Ian Kinsler leading off. With lefty Dallas Keuchel on the mound for Houston, that’s not the case.

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

tigerhitterlogoTIGERS (career numbers off Dallas Keuchel)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-7)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-19, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-7, 2 walks, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-6, HR, K)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3, double)
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Anthony Gose, CF

P: Alfredo Simon

astrosanniversarylogoASTROS (career numbers against Simon)

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B (2-for-6, double, walk)
  2. Preston Tucker, RF (0-for-3)
  3. Carlos Correa, SS
  4. Jed Lowrie, 3B (1-for-3)
  5. Carlos Gomez, CF (3-for-10, 2 doubles, K)
  6. Evan Gattis, LF (1-for-4, double, walk, K)
  7. Luis Valbuena, DH (3-for-16, double, HR, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  8. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B (0-for-2)
  9. Jason Castro, C (3-for-5, double)

P: Dallas Keuchel

On Brad Ausmus, Ian Kinsler and expectations

The Astros held off on celebrating the 10th anniversary of their 2005 World Series team until this weekend, with Tigers manager Brad Ausmus in town. The longtime Astros catcher was one of the most popular players on the team, and he’ll be honored on the field with old teammates Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, among others.

“It’ll be nice to see them,” Ausmus said, “but for some reason I think I’ll be more focused on winning the game.”

Nobody’s likely to hold that against him. His spot in Astros history is secure. His role in the Tigers’ future is to be determined. It’s the biggest question left in Detroit’s organizational shuffling.

Dave Dombrowski, who hired Ausmus two years ago, is gone. Al Avila, Dombrowski’s longtime top assistant, is in charge. Avila’s circle assistants, most of whom have been here for years, are now secured. Aside from scouts, Ausmus and his staff are the top figures yet to have their long-term status decided.

It’s not exactly limbo, with Ausmus under contract through next season. Still, a year is nothing for a team if it wants to make a change.

Before the Tigers left Kansas City for Houston Wednesday night, Ausmus went on MLB Network Radio for his regular afternoon spot and told Jim Bowden that he doesn’t hasn’t been told anything about his situation beyond what general manager Al Avila told reporters a week and a half ago. He’s the manager this year, and he’ll be evaluated at season end.

“I’m not worried about it,” Ausmus said Wednesday. “I mean, there’s really nothing I can do about it. I get along very well with Al, so I’m not concerned about that. There’s really nothing for me to worry about.

“What am I going to do? We still prepare every day, do the same things every series and try to win the game.”

They won Wednesday night with a rare late-inning comeback against the Royals, who hadn’t blown an eighth-inning lead since May 2014. It was a parting shot in a ballpark the Tigers owned last year but which has taken on an aura since the Royals run to the World Series last October.

Afterwards, players said the same: It’s not something they can think about as they try to make the most of what’s left of this season. Still, when asked about the uncertainty, Ian Kinsler defended his manager’s performance.

“To me, Brad’s done a great job,” Kinsler said. “He hasn’t been given a lot to work with this year. [Justin] Verlander was hurt out of the gate. We struggled with our bullpen. There are a lot of things that are out of his control. He’s done a great job in my eyes, but that’s the front office’s job.”

When that task arrives, the team will have to evaluate two things: What role does Ausmus play in the Tigers’ present situation, and how does he fit into their future?

Ausmus inherited a three-time division champion and added a fourth last year. Barring a miraculous rally, that run is about to end — Wednesday’s win at Kansas City, followed by another Royals loss to the Angels on Thursday, still left the Tigers 13 games behind the Royals, though 4 ½ games out of the Wild Card. The urgency to win for owner Mike Ilitch, however, remains.

Similarly, Kinsler has gone into September with something at stake every year since his 2009 season in Texas. Like Ausmus, Kinsler hoped they’d heat up in time to convince management to buy, not sell, at last month’s Trade Deadline. Since then, he has been among the most vocal that players need to keep battling through season’s end. If Ausmus ends up being judged at all on the Tigers’ home stretch, Kinsler might be one of his best assets.

At the same time, Kinsler said, managers get more criticism than often deserved when teams fall short.

“Not just him,” Kinsler said. “We obviously didn’t play up to our expectations, so yeah, he’s going to take a lot of grief. That’s just the nature of the job.

“Everyone can play Monday morning quarterback. When a move doesn’t work, they want to blame him. But the reality is, what are his options? But, at the same time, I think he’s done a fabulous job.”

With expectations so high in Detroit, Kinsler said, that criticism grows.

“It’s a tough job to do, especially coming in after Jim Leyland, coming into an organization that won three divisions in a row,” Kinsler said. “Having to manage a team in your first year managing, to win a division is pretty special. But that’s all taken for granted. It’s kind of tough.

“But at the same time, we’ve underachieved this year. I think everyone knows that, and everyone’s disappointed up to this point. Hopefully this organization can get back to what it’s used to.”

The Tigers are in the middle of a road that takes them to the Royals, Astros and Cubs, three young, developing teams that have surprised fans locally and nationally and suddenly risen to playoff contention in the last 12 months. They’ll visit the similarly resurgent Blue Jays later this month. It’s a glimpse of where the Tigers were a few years ago. Ironically, the Tigers now might be closer to that developing stage, even with goals to contend again in 2016.

Ausmus has placed more responsibility on rookie catcher James McCann to formulate game plans and handle a pitching staff with two rookie starters who weren’t in the system a month ago, let alone the Majors. He has played third baseman Nick Castellanos, shortstop Jose Iglesias and center fielder Anthony Gose through growing pains. Now, he’s entrusting save situations to Bruce Rondon, Detroit’s longtime closer of the future.

For the Tigers to win, they’ll have to develop.

“Yes, we’re probably trying to develop more of them than we were previously,” Ausmus said, “but it doesn’t change that we’re still trying to win. Whether I’m here next year or not, I still, today, want to try to make them better, for them. That doesn’t change anything.”

Asked how much he’d like to be judged on results, and how much on development, Ausmus stopped short of an answer.

“That’s their decision,” he said. “I’m not concerning myself with things that are out of my control.”

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

  
As expected, Jefry Marte gets a third consecutive start at first base against a right-handed pitcher. Considering he has four of the Tigers’ eight hits this series, it’s difficult to make a case against it.

I wrote about Marte’s situation last night and the decision the Tigers face with him once Miguel Cabrera comes back. It’s not a matter of finding a roster spot — the Tigers can cut down from eight relievers to seven without much danger thanks to off-days — but determining playing time is the things they have to do. If he’s going to sit, then it makes little sense to keep him. If he’s going to get some playing time at third and/or first base, then there’s a case for him.

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

tigers1957logoTIGERS (career numbers off Edinson Volquez)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-3, double, K)
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-4)
  3. Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-9, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-10, K)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-4, 2 walks)
  6. Tyler Collins, LF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-2, walk)
  8. Jefry Marte, 1B
  9. James McCann, C

P: Daniel Norris

sluggerrrrROYALS

  1. Alcides Escobar, SS
  2. Ben Zobrist, LF
  3. Lorenzo Cain, CF
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  7. Alex Rios, RF
  8. Omar Infante, 2B
  9. Drew Butera, C

P: Edinson Volquez

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

Jefry Marte gets another start at first base, this time against right-hander Yordano Ventura. Nick Castellanos gets a break for a day, giving Andrew Romine a second consecutive start.

TIGERS (career numbers off Ventura)

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

P: Anibal Sanchez

ROYALS (career numbers against Sanchez)

  1. Alcides Escobar, SS (8-for-28, HR, 5 K’s)
  2. Ben Zobrist, 2B (3-for-22, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Lorenzo Cain, CF (4-for-23, K)
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B (9-for-31, 3 doubles, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH (5-for-15, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  6. Mike Moustakas, 3B (3-for-20, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
  7. Salvador Perez, C (2-for-17, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  8. Paulo Orlando, RF (1-for-3)
  9. Jarrod Dyson, LF (3-for-24, double, walk, 5 K’s)

P: Yordano Ventura

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