Rajai Davis returns to the lineup in center field against Kyle Gibson, who’s allowing a .244 average and .661 OPS to right-handed hitters (compared with .274 and .713 to left-handed batters). With lefty Jason Vargas starting for KC to open the weekend series, and the Tigers looking to mix things up against James Shields after last week, this has the chance to be the start of a lengthy stretch for Davis.
The Twins turn to Eduardo Nunez and his history against David Price for a start at shortstop, a position that was once Nunez’s future in New York but has not been his present in Minnesota. Aaron Hicks, author of last night’s game-winning infield hit, gets his second consecutive start in right.
TIGERS (career numbers against Gibson)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-7, walk, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-4, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-5, HR, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-8, double)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-6, walk, 3 K’s)
- Bryan Holaday, C
- Andrew Romine, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF (1-for-3, K)
P: David Price
TWINS (career numbers against Price)
- Danny Santana, CF (0-for-4, 4 K’s)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-13, double, 2 HR, K)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (3-for-18, double, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (4-for-9, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (4-for-20, 2 doubles, HR, 9 K’s)
- Eduardo Nunez, SS (9-for-31, 2 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Aaron Hicks, RF
- Jordan Schafer, LF
P: Kyle Gibson
Just a reminder that tickets for potential Wild Card and Division Series home games go on sale today at noon ET. If you’ve bought these in previous seasons, you know the drill. Tickets are available only online at tigers.com, not by phone or at the box office. There’s a limit of 12 per customer, per game.
Unless something crazy happens, plan on the Tigers having the worse seed if they get to the Division Series, whether they win the AL Central or not. That means hosting Games 3-4 on Oct. 5-6. Game 3 could create another football-baseball doubleheader downtown, as the Lions are hosting the Bills at 1pm that day. Those ALDS matchups are the only postseason games scheduled on a Sunday until the World Series.
Tuesday, Sept. 30: AL Wild Card game, televised on TBS (NL game is Oct. 1 on ESPN)
AL Division Series (all games on TBS)
- Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 2 (better seed hosts)
- Game 2: Friday, Oct. 3 (better seed hosts)
- Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 5 (worse seed hosts)
- Game 4: Monday, Oct. 6 (worse seed hosts)
- Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 8 (better seed hosts)
AL Championship Series (all games on TBS)
- Game 1: Friday, Oct. 10 (better seed hosts)
- Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 11 (better seed hosts)
- Game 3: Monday, Oct. 13 (worse seed hosts)
- Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 14 (worse seed hosts)
- Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 15 (worse seed hosts)
- Game 6: Friday, Oct. 17 (better seed hosts)
- Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 18 (better seed hosts)
World Series (all games on FOX)
- Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 21 (AL hosts)
- Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 22 (AL)
- Game 3: Friday, Oct. 24 (NL)
- Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 25 (NL)
- Game 5: Sunday, Oct. 26 (NL)
- Game 6: Tuesday, Oct. 28 (AL)
- Game 7: Wednesday, Oct. 29 (AL)
For eight innings, this looked like one of the quickest, least eventful playoff race shutouts the Tigers have suffered in recent memory. Then for about 10 minutes, this looked like another chapter in the book of J.D. Martinez’s heroics, which it arguably still is. Then in the end, it looked like the toughest loss so far this month for this team.
It was also the type of game that left strategic decisions and accompanying questions from the seventh inning on.
The Tigers didn’t have multiple runners on base against Ricky Nolasco until the seventh, when back-to-back two-out singles from Victor and J.D. Martinez put the potential tying run on base. Up came Don Kelly, who started the game to add a left-handed bat against Nolasco (.339 average to left-handed hitters entering Tuesday) but who had hit into a second-inning double play and popped out on the first pitch with a runner in scoring position in the fifth.
Ausmus, with two rookie left-handed hitters on his bench with Steven Moya and Tyler Collins, stuck with Kelly, who drew a 2-0 count before flying out to left. The situation, he said, was too soon for a pinch-hitter.
“It was too early in the game [to pinch-hit],” Ausmus said. “Keep in mind, I started Kelly [to hit] against Nolasco. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense if I’m going to start him against Nolasco then to pinch-hit for him against Nolasco. I wasn’t going to pinch-hit at that time.
“And the truth is, it’s dangerous to take Donnie out of the game because if you get the lead, you need him in the game [for defense].”
Part of that need might have been created by Nick Castellanos’ scratch from the starting lineup with a sore foot. However, Castellanos was available to hit and was on deck to hit for Kelly when J.D. Martinez homered in the ninth.
Moya has been used as a pinch-hitter three times this month. Once was in the ninth inning of the rout they posted at Cleveland Sept. 1. Another was in the eighth inning of a tie game Sept. 4, also in Cleveland. He pinch-hit for Hernan Perez in that situation against Bryan Shaw with two out and nobody on. Then, on Sept. 14 against the Indians at Comerica Park, he pinch-hit for Andrew Romine with runners at first and second, a 3-2 deficit and Scott Atchison pitching.
So Ausmus has used Moya that early before. The only difference in those cases has been that the starting pitcher was out.
Ausmus said he had a pinch-hitter as an option if somebody reached base in the eighth, when the bottom third of the order came to bat.
“We did have guys,” Ausmus said. “If Holaday had gotten on, we may have pinch-hit for Romine. We may have hit-and-run with Romine. There were a couple options.”
Those situations took a back seat when J.D. Martinez hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth. The Tigers had both Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria warming at the time. However, Ausmus said there was no question who would close.
“Soria was coming in if we were tied,” he said. “Joe was coming in if we had the lead.”
A one-out walk to Trevor Plouffe started the Twins rally.
“You don’t want walks obviously,” Ausmus said, “but you’ve got to keep in mind: In a one-run closer situation, with a guy like Trevor Plouffe, who has the ability to drive the ball, you can’t just lay a 3-2 pitch down the middle. If it’s a home run, it ties the game. If it’s a double, it puts a guy in scoring position. So you still have to pitch him carefully. It’s a little bit different than a 3-2 count in the first inning. So you do have to be smart about it.
“Now if it’s a guy without a lot of power, that’s a different story. Plouffe has about as much power as anyone in their lineup.”
Kurt Suzuki did get a pitch to drive into left-center, where Ezequiel Carrera made his attempt at a diving grab.
That drive, and the play on it, turned the inning. A single there puts runners at the corners, or possibly first and second with one out for Eduardo Nunez, and two ground balls either seal the game or send it into extra innings. Instead, the tying run was in, with the winning run on second.
In that case, Carrera’s attempt at heroics set up the extra-base hit they couldn’t afford.
“We’ve actually already spoken to him about it,” Ausmus said. “I just think this is a case where if it happened all over again, he would understand that containing the runner at first as opposed to taking a less than high percentage at a catch, he would’ve probably backed up and just contained the line drive.”
Carrera did not talk after the game.
“We’re human beings,” Ausmus continued. “They’re going to make mistakes out there. I’m sure for a split second, he thought he could catch the ball. It just didn’t work out. But I do think if he could do it all over again, you’d see the proper play.”
Ausmus indicated the result will not lead to a rethinking of the Nathan-Soria roles.
While Soria’s return has given the Tigers depth from the seventh inning on, his lack of a regular role has become conspicuous in situations like the last couple nights, when Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan have both either given up crucial runs or put them on base. He’s a versatile reliever who can pitch well in several different situations, but that versatility means he owns none of them. That said, the struggles in multiple spots mean Ausmus is trying to fill multiple holes with one reliever.
Alex Avila is out of the lineup again, and will likely remain so until this weekend at Kansas City. Like two weeks ago, he is back at the point where he needs a day free of concussion symptoms or head issues, and he hasn’t had that yet.
“Alex did some baseball activity today and felt a little lightheaded,” manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday afternoon, “so he’s going to be off.”
Andrew Romine gets another day at shortstop, both for the way he’s hitting, the presence of a left-handed bat against Ricky Nolasco (who’s allowing a .339 average and .928 OPS against left-handed hitters this year) and for the glove behind sinkerballer Rick Porcello.
The lefty-righty splits werealso the primary reason Ausmus cited for Don Kelly’s start, his first since last Wednesday’s series finale against the Royals. He was going to start in center field for Rajai Davis, but then Nick Castellanos was scratched from the lineup with left foot soreness from a foul ball he hit off of it last night. Thus, Kelly starts at third, with Davis in center.
For what it’s worth, Rajai Davis is 1-for-3 with a double off Nolasco, who’s also allowing a .304 average to right-handed batters.
The Twins are without Oswaldo Arcia, who left yesterday’s game with back tightness. Aaron Hicks starts in his place.
TIGERS (career numbers off Nolasco)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-6, 3 doubles, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-3)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-2, double, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-6, K)
- Don Kelly,
CF3B Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-2, double)Bryan Holaday, C
- Andrew Romine, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF (1-for-3, double)
P: Rick Porcello
TWINS (career numbers against Porcello)
- Danny Santana, CF (0-for-4)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (5-for-18, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (11-for-39, 4 doubles, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (5-for-19, 2 doubles, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (4-for-18, 2 doubles, 4 walks)
- Eduardo Escobar, SS (2-for-7, double)
- Aaron Hicks, RF (1-for-5, 2 K’s)
- Jordan Schafer, LF (1-for-2)
P: Ricky Nolasco
Here’s what Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones saw in Kyle Ryan as they were looking for an alternative to Blaine Hardy for Monday’s series opener at Minnesota:
“Obviously we saw how he carried himself in his first outing against the White Sox. I knew, when I brought him in, there was going to be questions why Kyle Ryan, but the truth is, part of pitching in a pennant race is being able to control your emotions and relax and still be the same player you are, regardless of what’s happening in the game around you. And he just struck us as someone who could do that. And I can’t give you any hard evidence for it. We didn’t give him any psychological test. We just felt like he fit the mold of being able to do that. I can’t give you anything other than I guess some type of instinct.”
Here’s what Kyle Ryan said he felt as he warmed up during the eighth inning for a potential game-saving opportunity:
“I was shaking like a leaf on the mound in the bullpen, and then out on the mound on the field I was still shaking, just knowing I’m coming into a situation where I need to get two outs.”
It worked out. After so many logical situations that didn’t work out that inning — Joba Chamberlain starting his usual inning, Phil Coke facing a left-handed hitter he has owned for the last few years, Al Alburquerque facing a right-handed hitter he has generally owned — Ryan making his third Major League appearance with one out and the go-ahead run in scoring position in the eighth inning did.
“I needed a double play,” Ryan said, “so I went out there and did what it took.”
Two factors, beyond Max Scherzer’s middle-inning damage, shaped the way that inning came together:
First, Joe Nathan was ruled out. Ausmus did not want to use him for a third day in a row after what he saw Sunday.
“Joe needed a day,” Ausmus said. “I talked to Joe after the game yesterday. I thought he looked a little tired, a little achy. He said he could go, but I just felt like give him a day today and he could go the next couple days.”
With Nathan out, Ausmus told Soria before the game that he’d be closing if the opportunity arose. That meant Soria would not be able for the eighth inning — not simply because of the traditional closer role, but because he has pitched more than three outs in a game only once in a year and a half since coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Second, as mentioned, was Hardy’s struggles.
“We need another lefty to be able to pitch late in games,” Ausmus said. “Blaine’s been scuffling a little bit with his command. Jonesy and I spoke about it before the game, who that lefty would be. In terms of handling the pressure, we thought Kyle Ryan could manage that.”
It was Ryan over Pat McCoy and Robbie Ray, both of whom have more Major League appearances and more relief work.
Had Nathan been available, it likely would’ve been moot. If Nathan had a save situation, Ausmus said, Soria likely would’ve entered in the eighth, probably after Mauer’s game-tying blooper off Phil Coke. He would not have pitched in place of Chamberlain, even though Chamberlain was pitching for a third straight game. Chamberlain’s pitch count in those two games was lower, including a seven-pitch inning on Sunday.
Still, from the first pitch, Chamberlain showed wear and tear.
“You could tell right away that Joba was tired,” Ausmus said. “His velocity wasn’t there. That’s why the short leash with him tonight. We tried to find another way to get through that eighth inning because you could tell he just didn’t have the zip on his fastball. His slider wasn’t sharp. Joba’s going to take the ball anytime you ask him to, but this was a day where you could just tell he wasn’t 100 percent.”
Chamberlain threw 12 pitches, and just four were strikes. That brought up Mauer with two on, including the tying run, and nobody out. That brought out Ausmus to turn to Phil Coke, who had a key strikeout of Mauer during the Tigers’ last visit to Target Field a month ago.
Mauer was 3-for-5 with a home run off Chamberlain, but 4-for-20 against Coke, including 1-for-16 since 2010. He drew a bases-loaded walk early in the season, but was 0-for-4 otherwise against him this season.
Coke and Mauer battled for nine pitches, eight of them fastballs at 95-96 mph. Mauer fouled off three of them with a full count, late on all of them as he fouled off into the third-base seats. The fourth was the trick, allowing him just enough of an opportunity to send a bloop single into short left field.
It was too deep for Tigers infielders to get, yet too shallow for J.D. Martinez to have a chance at nabbing the potential tying run at the plate. And with both baserunners having advanced into scoring position on a double-steal, the damage was potentially devastating.
“I wish I could say I was surprised,” shortstop Andrew Romine, “but he’s a good hitter. He’s a great hitter. He knows how to go to the plate with a plan and execute the plan. He never gives in. He never gives up. He always battles.
“I told him when he got to second, ‘Man you are one of the best hitters that I’ve ever seen.’ Obviously you know Joe, he didn’t really say anything. He’s very modest. And I’m looking him like, ‘That was a battle.’ I know that he was battling with his mind, not just with his bat. Watching him hit, it’s pretty fun to watch. It’s kind of up there with Victor, too, watching them both hit.”
Coke nearly had far worse fortunes, but recovered from a 2-0 count to strike out Kennys Vargas, leading to Alburquerque against Plouffe, leading to a single off a first-pitch fastball and bringing up runners at the corners with one out and Oswaldo Arcia due up.
Ausmus could’ve given more leeway to Alburquerque, looking for a strikeout against Arcia, but Ausmus didn’t want to take a chance. He brought in Ryan.
“They ended up pinch-hitting for Arcia,” Ausmus said, “but at the time it was more about Arcia’s numbers against lefties.”
Instead of the power-hitting Arcia, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire turned to Eduardo Nunez, hoping for one big hit in a more favorable matchup. Ryan’s heart was racing, but he wasn’t showing it.
“I was born and raised to keep my emotions to myself,” he said. “Whether I went out there and gave up four runs, I’m going to be mad inside, but I’m not going to show it. I mean, most of the time if you show it, the other team gets onto it and they’re just going to feed off that.”
That emotional control impressed Ausmus. So did the concept of an inning-ending double play. It was surprisingly easy, but he got it.
“That was the perfect pitch,” Romine said,. “He hit his spot, and we were playing to that area to hopefully get that ground ball. I mean, all the credit goes to him, because he made his pitch and we ended up being in the right place.”
So, certainly, did Ryan, who now has two Major League wins in three appearances, only one of them a start. When asked how he felt after the Tigers rallied in the ninth, Ryan shrugged.
“Relieved,” he said. “Shocked and relieved. To see him roll over and hit a ground ball perfectly placed to Romine, that’s the ideal play that we needed. … When Torii hit a bomb and then Miggy right behind him, that was huge. I could actually take a deep breath. Brad said I’m staying in unless we get ahead.”
As expected, Alex Avila is not catching tonight. Bryan Holaday gets the start in his place over James McCann with Max Scherzer on the mound. Miguel Cabrera gets his second start at first base in three days. Andrew Romine is at shortstop for the seventh time in eight games.
On the Twins side, Danny Santana gets his second straight start at shortstop for the first time since mid-August. He has mainly been playing mainly center field the second half of the season. Jordan Schafer moves to center, with Chris Parmelee and Oswaldo Arcia in the corners.
TIGERS (career numbers off Anthony Swarzak)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-16, double, HR, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-15, double)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-19, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-14, walk, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-2)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-5, 3 K’s)
- Bryan Holaday, C (0-for-0, sac fly)
- Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-4, K)
- Rajai Davis, CF (5-for-9)
P: Max Scherzer
TWINS (career numbers against Scherzer)
- Danny Santana, SS (2-for-6, 2 doubles, K)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (2-for-13, HR, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (8-for-31, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH (2-for-3, K)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (1-for-15, walk, 7 K’s)
- Oswaldo Arcia, RF (2-for-6, double, 3 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (3-for-7, HR, walk, K)
- Chris Parmelee, LF (5-for-14, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Jordan Schafer, CF (2-for-5, double, walk, K)
P: Anthony Swarzak
There was a lot of talk about playoff race experience around the Tigers clubhouse this weekend, and how it plays into the recent run Detroit has had. Torii Hunter coined the term “Septober,” for one. Then there was the analogy from Ian Kinsler, who hasn’t always been quotable but followed up his clutch home run Sunday with a pretty good answer when asked about the value of experience.
“We’re confident,” Kinsler said. “We understand what we can do in this game, what our abilities are and what we need to do to win, what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to succeed. It’s not going to happen every time but hopefully it works out more often than not. …
“It’s like you go to the YMCA and play a bunch of dads and you’re like 18, jumping and dunking, and the dads beat you every time. You’re like, ‘What’s going on? We’re so much more athletic than them and we can’t beat them. But we can dunk.’ They put themselves in the right place at the right time and understand how to use their body and all that other good stuff. With experience comes knowledge and we’re trying to put that to use.”
Not sure the Tigers are that old just yet, considering how many rookies had to go through the dress-up ritual Sunday. Still, credit for creativity.
It’s the time of year when sitting guys for a day game after a night game is no longer assumed. The Tigers field the same lineup as last night, including Torii Hunter in right field and Alex Avila behind the plate. The only change is that Victor Martinez starts at first base, with Miguel Cabrera as the designated hitter.
“You hope that the days off they had early in the season pay dividends late in the season,” Brad Ausmus said. “I talked to both of them about it before playing them, to make sure they’re all right.”
The only major change on the Indians side, for that matter, is in right field, where David Murphy gets his first start of the series against Justin Verlander.
TIGERS (career numbers against Bauer)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-13, double, HR, 2 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-6, double, HR, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, DH (3-for-12, 2 doubles, K)
- Victor Martinez, 1B (3-for-9, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (3-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (4-for-7, HR, walk, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-11, double, K)
- Andrew Romine, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF (2-for-7, HR, walk, K)
P: Justin Verlander
INDIANS (career numbers vs. Verlander)
- Michael Bourn, CF (11-for-31, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 10 K’s)
- Jose Ramirez, SS (3-for-4, 2 doubles)
- Michael Brantley, LF (17-for-51, double, triple, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (9-for-43, double, 5 HR, 5 walks, 9 K’s)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-31, double, 6 walks, 12 K’s)
- Yan Gomes, DH (4-for-14, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
- David Murphy, RF (9-for-30, double, triple, 5 walks, 6 K’s)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (8-for-24, 3 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Roberto Perez, C
P: Trevor Bauer
The Tigers were limited to a Nick Castellanos double and seven singles (two each from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, one each from Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter, Bryan Holaday) in Cleveland Sept. 3. Salazar struck out nine, four of which came from J.D. Martinez. Just minor tweaks from that lineup to tonight: Alex Avila, who was out for that game, is in at catcher, while Andrew Romine gets his fifth start in six games at shortstop.
The Indians give Jose Ramirez a day off at short, moving Mike Aviles in from left field. Michael Brantley returns to left after DHing last night.
TIGERS (career numbers off Salazar)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-7, HR)
- Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-14, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-10, double, HR, 4 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-11, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-4, 4 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (2-for-3, walk, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-6, double, 2 K’s)
- Andrew Romine, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF (1-for-6, walk, K)
P: Kyle Lobstein
- Michael Bourn, CF
- Mike Aviles, SS
- Michael Brantley, LF
- Carlos Santana, DH
- Yan Gomes, C
- Jason Kipnis, 2B
- Ryan Raburn, RF
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
- Jesus Aguilar, 1B
P: Danny Salazar
Not surprisingly, Alex Avila didn’t want to make a big deal out of his jumping catch at the screen Friday night to get an out. He was, however, willing to have a little fun with it.
“I felt like I probably could’ve dunked a basketball today. That’s how good my legs felt,” Avila said with a wry smile when asked about his vertical leap.
It was an odd sight to see any catcher have to jump for a ball, let alone Avila. He usually spends more time diving to the dirt to block a pitch. It’s especially odd to see a player using a screen like trampoline.
For Avila, it was what he felt he had to do to catch the ball before it hit the screen.
“I went up there and I jumped because I thought maybe the ball was going to hit the net,” Avila said. “It was kind of coming down, and I wasn’t sure if I reached up there if I would’ve been able to catch it. I just took a shot to jump and see if I could grab it before it hit the net. …
“Not exactly something you plan or practice. To be honest with you, it’s because I didn’t get back there fast enough. A guy with a little more mobility probably catches it a little bit easier.”
Brad Ausmus, a catcher who had a little more ability for most of his career, seemed to hint at that.
“It was a nice catch. I would’ve caught it without the jump,” he said. “Never seen that before in my life. Very athletic.”
Also very trusting that the net was going to hold him back from the seats, which were empty in the area where he jumped.
“The cable’s pretty thick, so I was hoping it did,” he said. “I mean, you look at those cables and they’ve got to last with foul balls going into them every day. I didn’t know. I just wanted to catch the ball.”