The Tigers lineup isn’t out yet, but Brad Ausmus said this morning that it’ll be the same pending Rajai Davis’ status following batting practice. Davis took batting practice and, short of running, looked fine. The one change Ausmus said he’d make is Nick Castellanos moving up to the sixth spot, with Alex Avila batting seventh.
The O’s make one change, swapping out Nick Hundley for Caleb Joseph behind the plate.
TIGERS (career numbers off Wei-Yin Chen)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-10, 2 doubles, walk, K)
- Torii Hunter, CF (1-for-4, double, 2 walks, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-4, 2 walks, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C
- Andrew Romine, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF (1-for-3, K)
P: Justin Verlander
ORIOLES (career numbers vs. Verlander)
- Nick Markakis, RF (12-for-48, 4 doubles, triple, 5 walks, 10 K’s)
- Alejandro De Aza, LF (7-for-31, double, triple, 2 HR, 2 walks, 10 K’s)
- Adam Jones, CF (6-for-33, double, HR, walk, 9 K’s)
- Nelson Cruz, DH (7-for-31, double, 3 HR, walk, 9 K’s)
- Steve Pearce, 1B
- J.J. Hardy, SS (8-for-34, double, 3 HR, walk, 6 K’s)
- Ryan Flaherty, 3B (2-for-8, walk, K)
- Caleb Joseph, C
- Jonathan Schoop, 2B (0-for-6, K)
P: Wei-Yin Chen
Rajai Davis is not only on the roster, he’s in the lineup, playing center field and batting ninth.
“We came in at 8:30 this morning and he got his treatment and then went and did a bunch of agility drills, sprints and he said he was good to go,” Ausmus said. “I asked him point blank, first of all, ‘Can you play nine innings?’ He said yes. I said, ‘Do you feel like you can steal a base?’ He said yes. And he didn’t hesitate.”
That said, Ausmus admitted he might hold his breath a little bit with Davis’ status.
With Davis in, it’s a pretty standard lineup. Andrew Romine gets the start at short again. Whether he gets the start in Game 2 against lefty Wei-Yin Chen is yet to be answered.
TIGERS (career numbers off Tillman)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-16, double, HR, walk, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-4, HR, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-13, double, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-10, double, K)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-3)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-6, HR, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3)
- Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-3, K)
- Rajai Davis, CF (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
P: Max Scherzer
ORIOLES (career numbers vs. Scherzer)
- Nick Markakis, RF (5-for-16, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
- Alejandro De Aza, LF (11-for-43, double, HR, 5 walks, 13 K’s)
- Adam Jones, CF (9-for-18, 2 doubles, HR, 5 K’s)
- Nelson Cruz, DH (11-for-25, 3 doubles, 2 HR, walk, 6 K’s)
- Steve Pearce, 1B (1-for-3, K)
- J.J. Hardy, SS (4-for-23, double, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
- Ryan Flaherty, 3B (0-for-5, walk, 3 K’s)
- Nick Hundley, C (1-for-5, double, 3 K’s)
- Jonathan Schoop, 2B
P: Chris Tillman
Rajai Davis is on the Tigers roster for the American League Division Series. Whether he’s in the lineup for Thursday’s series opener against the Orioles at Camden Yards remains unclear.
Given the choice between having him at all or having the roster spot to fill in for him, the Tigers opted to carry Davis, who has been dealing with a sprained pelvic ligament that forced him out of last Saturday’s game against the Twins. In making that choice, the Tigers at least see enough hope that he can play at some point in this best-of-five series.
The fact that the Tigers need just four starters for the postseason effectively gives them an extra spot on their 25-man roster to use. So if Davis isn’t ready for Game 1, or even Game 2, they still have their usual complement of bench options and a seven-man bullpen.
With Davis iffy, the Tigers will carry September call-up Hernan Perez as an extra infielder, giving them depth if Don Kelly plays extensively in the outfield. Perez made last year’s playoff roster as a late-inning pinch-runner, a role he’ll likely reprise this season, especially if Carrera starts in center.
Though Perez was not on the active roster as of Aug. 31, he was still eligible for the postseason roster as an injury replacement. Detroit’s six players on the 60-day disabled list gave the Tigers the ability to add players, so long as they were in the organization as of Aug. 31.
Davis’ situation was one of two decisions Tigers officials had to make on how to assemble their series roster. The other was their much-scrutinized bullpen, which will have two converted starters. While Anibal Sanchez transitions from past playoff starter to postseason reliever, so will Kyle Lobstein, who filled Sanchez’s rotation spot in September while Sanchez was on the disabled list with a right pectoral muscle strain.
Sanchez enters his third postseason with a 2.95 ERA in six career playoff starts. He won Game 1 of last year’s ALCS at Fenway Park, delivering six no-hit innings with six walks and 12 strikeouts.
Lobstein gives the Tigers two left-handed relievers, but despite a .217 average (10-for-46) against left-handed hitters in his 39 1/3 Major League innings, he’s more likely to be used as a long reliever than a lefty specialist.
Lobstein made the roster over fellow left-hander Blaine Hardy as well as right-hander Jim Johnson, the former Orioles closer who signed with the Tigers in August. Both Hardy and Johnson struggled down the stretch.
Here’s the full roster:
62 RHP Al Alburquerque
44 RHP Joba Chamberlain
40 LHP Phil Coke
53 LHP Kyle Lobstein
36 RHP Joe Nathan
21 RHP Rick Porcello
14 LHP David Price
19 RHP Anibal Sanchez
37 RHP Max Scherzer
38 RHP Joakim Soria
35 RHP Justin Verlander
13 Alex Avila
50 Bryan Holaday
24 1B Miguel Cabrera
9 3B Nick Castellanos
3 2B Ian Kinsler
26 INF Hernan Perez
27 INF Andrew Romine
30 INF Eugenio Suarez
61 OF Ezequiel Carrera
20 OF Rajai Davis
48 OF Torii Hunter
32 INF/OF Don Kelly
28 OF J.D. Martinez
DESIGNATED HITTER (1)
41 Victor Martinez
The Tigers were able to put Rajai Davis through some batting practice at Wednesday’s workout at Camden Yards, which is good news for his chances at playing in this AL Division Series. The one step he didn’t do, however, is the one step he arguably needs to do in order to make a full impact on this series.
Davis did some light running in left field with strength and conditioning coach Javair Gillett. He did some long-tossing to air out his arm, then took his regular rounds of batting practice. He did not run the bases, lightly or otherwise.
And as Brad Ausmus reiterated, they need to trust that Rajai Davis can accelerate without aggravating the pubis symphysis sprain he suffered last Saturday.
“We’ve gotta get past that point of him making some baseball moves in terms of running, exploding out of the box and taking swings,” Ausmus said before Wednesday’s workout.
With the series opener coming up Thursday afternoon, and rosters due by 10am, the Tigers are going to have to project how close he is to doing everything. If Davis makes the roster but is unable to play, the Tigers have Ezequiel Carrera and Don Kelly ready to fill in center, but they’d likely need an extra position player to fill the bench gap, likely either outfielder Tyler Collins or infielder Hernan Perez. Both were at Camden Yards for Wednesday’s workout.
The Tigers postseason begins tomorrow at 5:30pm ET (that’s finally set now that the Royals have advanced), but tickets for the next round go on sale a few hours earlier. AL Championship Series tickets go on sale Thursday at noon ET online exclusively at tigers.com/postseason (limit 12 per customer). They’ll also be available beginning Friday by phone at 866-66-TIGER and in person at the Comerica Park box office.
Unlike the Division Series, where it was pretty clear a while ago that the Tigers would open the road, Detroit’s ALCS seeding (if the Tigers advance, of course) would depend on which team advances from the other series. An Angels-Tigers series would open in California with Games 1-2 on Oct. 10-11. Games 3-5 would be at Comerica Park Oct. 13-15.
A Royals-Tigers rematch, on the other hand, would open in Detroit Oct. 10-11, go to Kansas City for the middle three innings, then return to Comerica Park for Games 6-7 (if necessary) Oct. 17-18.
A limited number of AL Division Series tickets also remain on sale, including Game 3 Sunday afternoon. The Tigers are encouraging fans going to Sunday’s game to head downtown early and give themselves some extra time. Gates will open at 1:45pm ET for the 3:45 game.
We’re likely to have a pretty good idea about the Tigers’ Division Series roster when the team works out later today. Realistically, though, most of the spots are set. Essentially, it comes down to this:
1. How much can Rajai Davis be expected to play?
This is going to have an impact everywhere from the bench to the bullpen. If his injury allows him to return to the starting lineup, the Tigers can go with their regular outfield mix, use Ezequiel Carrera as an extra outfielder and pinch runner, and use their 25th spot to carry an eighth reliever.
It’s if he isn’t ready that things get tricky. If he’s day-to-day, but still expected to be ready at some point in the series, the Tigers could be expected to use their 25th spot to carry an extra position player. If they want the extra outfielder, Tyler Collins — who can play all three spots — fits the bill. If Don Kelly is expected to handle a share of the playing time, then the better choice might be Hernan Perez, who can shoulder Kelly’s utility infield duties while serving as a late-inning pinch-runner as he did last October. If Davis is completely out, of course, his spot becomes open, and that extra position player can slide into there while freeing up a relief spot.
2. How many lefty relievers do the Tigers want?
If Chris Davis was looming in the Orioles lneup, this would be a no-brainer, despite Davis’ relatively even splits (.199 against righties this season, compared with .188 vs. lefties). But Davis is suspended, and right-handed hitter Steve Pearce is expected to take on his old role. There are still left-handed hitters the Tigers will want to match up — Alejandro De Aza is hitting just .138 (12-for-87) against lefties — but it’s not the same level of concern. As important of a player as Nick Markakis is, he has hit lefties better than righties the last few years, and he’s 6-for-18 off Phil Coke.
It’s an interesting twist for a Tigers bullpen that has struggled since summer to identify a primary reliever for lefty-lefty matchups. Coke is sure to make the staff, but after that, it’s a mystery. Blaine Hardy was a vital piece at one point, but struggled through September. Kyle Lobstein has made a strong case to stay on the roster as a reliever now that Detroit doesn’t need a fifth starter, but is more of a long reliever (which the Tigers also need) than a lefty specialist. Kyle Ryan has performed very well in spots but is also a 23-year-old rookie whose only relief history as a pro has happened in the past month.
Here’s what appears to be safe:
- C (2): Alex Avila, Bryan Holaday
- IF (5): Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine, Eugenio Suarez
- OF (4): Ezequiel Carrera, Torii Hunter, Don Kelly, J.D. Martinez
- DH (1): Victor Martinez
- SP (4): Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, David Price, Rick Porcello
- RP (6): Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, Anibal Sanchez
That leaves one positional spot for either a healthy Rajai Davis, Tyler Collins or Hernan Perez. One bullpen spot is likely to be determined between Blaine Hardy, Jim Johnson, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan, Evan Reed and Pat McCoy. And one spot is up for grabs between both groups.
The choice of Max Scherzer to start the AL Division Series opener was an easy one, Brad Ausmus acknowledged Tuesday. His choice to start Game 2 was a little tougher.
Brad Ausmus cited several secondary reasons why he opted for Justin Verlander over David Price. He did not cite a primary reason.
“There’s a lot of things that go into it,” Ausmus said. “You can look at it from any number of angles. You can look at it from postseason performance. You can look at it from how they pitched against the Orioles. You can look at it about these guys having tons of innings. Maybe the extra day of rest for David would be good. Pitch Verlander [in] Game 3, now you’re really stretching him out; he hadn’t pitched in a while. You could slice this up a lot of different ways.”
Asked if Game 5 was a reason, Ausmus said, “That was part of the thought process, but Max would be available for game five as well. So that decision will come later.”
For the year, Price has been a better pitcher on the road, but pitched two gems at Comerica Park over the final week, save for a bad ninth inning against the White Sox. Verlander is statistically a better pitcher at home, but shut down Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium in that clutch series a week and a half back.
If Scherzer is the guy to start Game 5, then this debate is kind of irrelevant, more of a home-road split kind of thing (Price has a 2.92 ERA on the road this year). Neither pitcher has lost at Camden Yards. Verlander has a lower batting average allowed there, while Price has pretty much the same rate of keeping the ball in the park (4 HR in 50 innings, compared with 5 HR in 57 innings for Verlander).
But then, Scherzer was in line to start Game of last year’s ALDS … until he pitched in relief in Game 4.
One difference this year, at least from the Scherzer-as-reliever standpoint, is the presence of Anibal Sanchez in the bullpen. But if there’s an extra-inning game somewhere along the line, or a rain delay, or another reason for an early exit, it’s going to be an interesting decision.
Major League Baseball investigated last week’s flare-up between White Sox ace Chris Sale and Victor Martinez, as well as the issues surrounding it, but decided against any fines or suspensions.
“We looked at all the factors, and we did not find a reason for disciplinary action,” an MLB spokesperson said Tuesday.
All on-field incidents get some level of review, including a report from the umpires involved. This one was more interesting for multiple reasons, not just the potential implications of a playoff race if Martinez had been injured by Sale’s pitch, but also what prompted Sale to hit Martinez.
Sale said after the game he tried to pitch inside and simply lost a pitch. However, his mannerisms from the mound and the dugout, and the feedback Martinez heard from ex-teammate Avisail Garcia, made it clear Sale suspected Martinez had somebody in the outfield stealing signs or pitch locations. The Tigers and Martinez scoffed at the idea.
“Victor, I think he’s hitting 20 points higher on the road, so apparently he’s got a small army of people with binoculars,” Ausmus said the next day. “I thought the whole thing was kind of ridiculous.”
From a league standpoint, the matter is closed. Whether the two teams — or more importantly, the two players — do the same won’t likely be clear until next season. The White Sox return to Comerica Park April 17-19, but Martinez is a free agent this coming offseason and stands to be one of the hottest hitters on the market. Considering he’s mainly a DH at this point in his career, he’s likely to remain in the American League. Suffice to say, any speculation of a free-agent courtship by the White Sox is now dead.
Victor Martinez spent the season supporting Miguel Cabrera in the Tigers lineup, but he’s going to have a chance to follow Cabrera finally getting a chance at some hitting awards of his own. Detroit’s designated hitter, who led the American League in OPS while finishing second in the batting race, has been nominated for Major League Baseball’s Hank Aaron Award, presented to the best offensive performer in each league.
Martinez was the Tigers’ nominee over Miguel Cabrera, who won the last two Hank Aaron Awards for the American League. On many other teams, Cabrera would’ve had a chance to defend his title. The way Martinez hit, however, simply overshadowed him.
Not only did Martinez set career highs at age 35, he put up the kind of numbers seen from a rare group of hitters his age, batting .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs. He came the third-oldest player ever to post his first career 30-homer, 100-RBI season, trailing only Carlton Fisk and Edgar Martinez.
Add in 70 walks and 33 doubles, and Martinez’s .974 OPS beat out White Sox rookie slugger Jose Abreu for the Major League lead. Martinez nearly capped his season with a batting title, taking the race into the final weekend before losing out to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
The discipline from Martinez was eye-opening. He had more than twice as many two-strike hits (93) as strikeouts (42), batting .337 in those situations with 14 home runs. He had almost as many hits (eight) as strikeouts (nine) in 0-2 counts.
The stats suggest a winning case. To earn the award, however, Martinez will have to win the vote of fans and a panel of Hall of Fame hitters. Fans can vote for an AL and NL winner at MLB.com from now until Oct. 5. In addition, Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount will take part in the process.
The two winners will be announced during the World Series. The award, established in 1999, will also recognize Aaron’s accomplishments in breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record 40 years ago.
The schedule is out for the first three games of the Division Series, and it’s heavy on day baseball. Between the postseason presence of two teams in the Baltimore-Washington area, and the desire to accommodate West Coast fans with later start times, the one series guaranteed to have two teams in the Eastern time zone is getting the early starts.
It won’t be the case for the series opener, though Game 1 on Thursday could start before 6pm depending on whom the Angels face in the other ALDS. It will be the case for the other two games.
Game 2 on Friday could be a noon start if the Nationals are facing the Giants. It’ll be a 3pm start if the Pirates are facing the Nationals. Either way, it’s a baseball doubleheader for fans in the Beltway.
Detroit, too, is getting a doubleheader of the football-baseball kind. Game 3 Sunday at Comerica Park is scheduled for a 3:45pm start, right around the time the Lions and Bills are likely headed towards the two-minute warning across the street at Ford Field. It’ll be the reverse version of the doubleheader the two teams had downtown a few weeks ago, only without the weekday work traffic. With two stadiums’ worth of fans heading downtown, plan accordingly for traffic and parking hassles.
Tickets, by the way, are still available for Games 3 and 4, if Sunday’s schedule frees you up to go (say, without having to sacrifice sleep ahead of your work day Monday). You can pick up tickets online at tigers.com, by phone at 866-66-TIGER or in person at the Comerica Park box office.
Here’s the schedule:
Thursday: Game 1, Camden Yards — 5:37pm (if Royals win AL Wild Card) or 6:07pm (if A’s win Wild Card)
Friday: Game 2, Camden Yards — 12:07pm (if Giants win NL Wild Card) or 3:07pm ET (if Pirates win NL Wild Card)
Sunday: Game 3, Comerica Park — 3:45pm
Monday: Game 4 (if necesary), Comerica Park — TBD
Wednesday, Oct. 8: Game 5 (if necessary), Camden Yards — TBD
Also announced was the umpiring crew for the series. Jeff Kellogg will be the crew chief. Joining him will be Scott Barry, Dan Bellino, Fieldin Culbreth, Paul Schrieber and Jim Wolf. Replay officials stationed in NY for the various Division Series will be CB Bucknor, Chris Conroy, Ed Hickox and Brian O’Nora.