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Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Cardinals

Left-hander Tyler Lyons draws the Tigers’ right-handed heavy lineup. Between injuries and no DH, all that means is Rajai Davis starting in center field over Anthony Gose. Right-handed batters are hitting .261 (75-for-287) with a .770 OPS against Lyons for his career, compared with .191 (18-for-94) with a .539 OPS from left-handed hitters. Davis, meanwhile, is 9-for-29 with two doubles, a triple and a home run off lefties this season.

The Cardinals get Randal Grichuk back from the disabled list and immediately put him atop the batting order against David Price. Peter Bourjos moves down to eighth, while Jason Heyward gets the day off against the left.

Reminder: First pitch is 2:15pm ET, an hour later than the usual day game thanks to the time change.

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

tigers1927logoTIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-1, walk off Lyons)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. David Price, P

fredbirdlogoCARDINALS

  1. Randal Grichuk, RF
  2. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  5. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  6. Yadier Molina, C
  7. Kolten Wong, 2B
  8. Peter Bourjos, CF
  9. Tyler Lyons, P

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Cardinals

Take out the DH slot, move everybody else up, insert the pitcher at the bottom, and it’s a pretty standard lineup for now. J.D. Martinez is back in the outfield after spending Thursday as the DH and taking it easy on his back.

The Cardinals have Mark Reynolds at first base over Matt Adams, giving Shane Greene one less left-handed hitter to face. Jhonny Peralta bats in the cleanup spot for the fifth time in seven games, while Jason Heyward bats eighth for the third time in five games.

tigerroarlogoTIGERS

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Shane Greene, P

cardinalslogoCARDINALS

  1. Peter Bourjos, CF
  2. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  5. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  6. Kolten Wong, 2B
  7. Yadier Molina, C
  8. Jason Heyward, RF
  9. Carlos Martinez, P

Set points: Getaway day from the division

Miguel Cabrera is done trying to figure out the day game-night game split. All he can do is shake his head.

“The glasses,” he said with a laugh. “You see?”

He wore clear glasses Wednesday night to keep the wind and the pollen out of his eyes. He wears sunglasses during day games to keep the glare out. The glasses he wore Wednesday also keep glare from the lights out of his eyes, which have been affected by allergies for the past several days.

With Thursday’s two-homer game, he improved to a .471 hitter (32-for-68) with six doubles, eight home runs and 25 RBIs in day games. He’s batting .158 (9-for-57) with no homers and one RBI in night games.

He knows about the day-night split. He can’t figure it out. He’s done trying to.

So are many of his teammates. Because Cabrera isn’t the only one with those types of splits, though his are the most extreme.

The Tigers have baseball’s most prolific offense in daylight, including a Major League-best .317 average, .374 on-base percentage, .894 OPS, 23 home runs and 104 RBIs. They’ve scored 113 runs in 18 day games, an average of 6.28 runs per game. The Royals are averaging slightly higher at 6.36 (70 runs in 11 day games), but with a smaller sample size.

By night, the Tigers bat just .231, 12th in the American League. Their .626 OPS is last in the AL and next-to-last in the Majors. They’re averaging just 2.47 runs per game at night.

It’s like the opposite of a superhero. They put their cape on in broad daylight.

“I don’t know. There’s stats for everything,” Ian Kinsler said. “I don’t know what our record is this side of the Mississippi, but it’s probably pretty good.”

One time of day, they can’t get the big hit. Another time of day, Bryan Holaday is falling a triple shy of the cycle, and Anthony Gose has his first career four-hit game.

“You can say we were struggling if you want,” Kinsler said, “but at any point an offense can erupt. We understand how good we are and we just need to keep swinging the bat.”

What went right: Eventually, the offense got it turned around, though it struggled for the first two games. Nick Castellanos had a solid series throughout, going 5-for-10 with a couple walks and consistently good at-bats. The bullpen tossed 10 innings without giving up a run, including work from every Tigers reliever and back-to-back outings from Al Alburquerque. Anibal Sanchez got his pitches down again and thrived.

What went wrong: The offense struggled to take advantage of opportunities for the first two games of the series. Victor Martinez looked like he took a step backward batting left-handed, struggling enough to earn a day off Thursday ahead of three days out of the starting lineup in St. Louis.

Takeaway: The Tigers are going to have to win some low-scoring games on pitching and defense, no matter what people think of the offense. It’s just a question of how many. Their overall pitching against a combustible Twins lineup showed they’re good enough to have a chance to do that.

Snapshot moment: Jose Iglesias’ shovel-flip double play turned a first-inning Twins rally into an easy opening inning for Anibal Sanchez, who caught momentum from there. As Sanchez put it, it was probably the play of the game.

Pitching performance of the series: Sanchez’s eight innings looked like the front-line starter the Tigers need out of him, including nine strikeouts and some very good breaking balls that brought him back to his strikeout form.

Hitting performance of the series: As good as Cabrera’s two home runs were, Castellanos had a very good day Thursday with an opposite-field home run, a line drive leadoff single, and a 10-pitch walk out of an 0-2 hole that might be one of the better at-bats from a Tiger this season.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Twins


For the first time since April 17, Victor Martinez is out of the Tigers starting lineup. It’s interesting timing ahead of three more days out of the lineup in St. Louis, where the Tigers won’t have a DH slot, but Brad Ausmus indicated that a fourth day wouldn’t hurt. There’s a potential matchup advantage, since Twins starter Mike Pelfrey is allowing a .194 average (14-for-72) this year to left-handed hitters, but Ausmus indicated that did not make his decision.

With the elder Martinez off — though he’s available to pinch-hit — J.D. Martinez gets a day to take it easy on his back at DH after leaving Wednesday’s game with lower back tightness. Martinez indicated this morning that he might have tweaked it on his second base hit, and he felt it tighten up as he ran out to right field the next inning.

With V-Mart out and Rajai Davis in, the Tigers will have eight right-handed hitters against Pelfrey, who has strong reverse splits going this season and slight reverse splits for his career. The only left-handed hitter for Detroit starting today is leadoff man Anthony Gose.

Reminder: Today’s game is on MLB Network for folks not in the Detroit or Minneapolis TV markets.

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

tigers1957logoTIGERS (career numbers off Pelfrey)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-7, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-9, double, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-23, 7 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (1-for-3, double, 2 K’s)
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (4-for-8, 2 doubles, K)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3)
  7. Rajai Davis, RF (1-for-5)
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-4)

P: Anibal Sanchez

twinsoldtimelogoTWINS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-17, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  2. Kurt Suzuki, C (3-for-6)
  3. Joe Mauer, DH (6-for-23, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  4. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-18, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Eduardo Escobar, LF (1-for-9, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Kennys Vargas, 1B (0-for-2, walk, K)
  7. Eddie Rosario, RF
  8. Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-8, walk, 3 K’s)
  9. Danny Santana, SS (5-for-11, 3 K’s)

P: Mike Pelfrey

Avila to undergo nonsurgical treatment program on left knee (updated)

After further evaluation, Alex Avila is not going to have surgery on his injured left knee. The Tigers catcher will undergo a treatment program with the goal of returning sooner.

The decision came after consultation with three doctors, two of which suggested he might not need surgery to repair what was initially diagnosed as a loose body in his knee. The last examination came Wednesday from Dr. Kyle Anderson, a former Tigers team physician and current Lions team physician.

“With further examination and an enhanced MRI, they’re not convinced that it’s a loose body, that it may not be loose,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “There’s something there, but they’re not convinced that it’s loose.”

A loose body in the knee typically requires arthroscopic surgery to remove, which carries a typical timetable of six weeks recovery time. If the body isn’t loose, however, then rehab and treatment could help.

“It wasn’t something that I was trying to find a doctor that was going to tell me not to have surgery,” Avila said. “It was kind of a collaborative thing to find out the best course of action on both. Basically the second MRI kind of made it look a little more clear and we were able to come up with this plan of action, to make sure it’s something that can get me back on the field as quick as possible but at the same time, with long-term in mind as well.”

There’s no timetable yet for a return, but Avila admitted he’s hoping for a quicker return than the aforementioned timetable for arthroscopic surgery.

“I would hope so,” Avila said. “I’m not sure just because everybody’s body heals differently. Basically, it’s going to go how the body feels, what it tells me.”

Avila has been sidelined since last weekend, originally by a bruised right forearm suffered on a foul tip. While he sat Friday, he had his knee checked out. The knee had been bothering him for the last few weeks, Avila said Saturday, becoming increasingly difficult to play through. It’s a knee that had tendinitis a few years ago, but nothing major enough to require surgery.

The 28-year-old is batting .200 (12-for-60) with a double, two home runs, eight RBIs, 13 walks and 21 strikeouts this season.

From a team standpoint, Avila’s left-handed bat in a predominantly right-handed lineup and his handling of the Tigers’ pitching staff makes him a major part of Detroit’s postseason hopes, though rookie James McCann has filled in capably. From an individual standpoint, Avila is a free agent next offseason, making his health critical for his future.

His decision, he said, is a balance of the two.

“The reason why I had doctors looking at it and took a few days, I wanted to make sure I exhausted all my options because I wanted to make sure I got back as soon as possible,” Avila said. “But at the same time, I’m thinking long-term and my career going forward. So that’s why I took a couple days, a few doctors saw it and all the doctors were in communication so it was kind of a collaborative effort. Anytime you have an injury and stuff like that –you know I don’t like talking about injuries –but one that’s going to keep me out as long as like this, it’s always going to be a tough decision.”

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Twins

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Nolasco)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-5, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-14, 3 doubles, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-10, double, walk, 5 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-8, double, 3 walks)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-13, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-2, K)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-7, double, HR, 2 K’s)
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-2, double)

P: Kyle Lobstein

TWINS (career numbers off Lobstein)

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-4, walk, K)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B (1-for-4, 2 walks, K)
  4. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  5. Kurt Suzuki, C
  6. Eddie Rosario, LF
  7. Eduardo Escobar, DH (3-for-5, double)
  8. Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-2)
  9. Danny  Santana, SS (2-for-4, triple, walk, K)

P: Ricky Nolasco

Game 33: What to make of Tigers offense

Not long after delivering the game-winning single Tuesday night, Ian Kinsler was asked to sum up the state of the Tigers offense. It was Kinsler, after all, who said Sunday that they should’ve scored more runs and that they lost the game.

“We’re actually swinging the bats pretty well, I think,” Kinsler said. “Runs-wise, it’s not good, but we’re swinging the bats well. I think Miggy on Sunday night lined out three or four times. Victor’s definitely coming around and getting his rhythm back. Everyone’s swinging the bat well. It’s just right now, we’re not getting anything to show for it. Hopefully we can start clicking in that aspect.”

Brad Ausmus was asked something similar.

“Anemic right now,” Ausmus said, “but it just tells me that at some point, this offense will bust out. You always go through stretches where you have trouble scoring runs. You seem to even get your hits, but you have trouble scoring runs. I’m very confident in this offense in the long term, even though it’s been a little struggle lately to score.”

Tuesday was the third consecutive game – and the eighth game in the last 13 — the Tigers were held to two runs or less, albeit from a starter who hadn’t allowed a run in 20 innings until J.D. Martinez jumped Kyle Gibson’s first pitch after a 10-pitch battle with Victor Martinez.

They have six wins when scoring two runs or less. They have six 2-1 games, of which they’re won four. They have nearly twice as many games scoring four runs or less (21) than five-plus runs (12).

They have the second-best batting average in the American League, trailing only the Royals. They’re one point off KC’s pace for on-base percentage, and their .751 OPS ranks fifth.

Go to runs, though, and the production doesn’t compute. Their 140 runs tied them with the Red Sox for eighth, and their 128 RBIs place them 10th. Reduce the sample size to May, and their .238 average ranks ninth, their .648 OPS ranks 11th and their 32 runs rank 13th. The result is a run differential that looks more resembling a .500 club than a team that’s a game off the pace for best league in the American League.

Even with serious questions about Victor Martinez and his knee, and Nick Castellanos’ sophomore season, and a rookie catcher in James McCann, it’s a better offense than this. Ausmus clearly believes that, and players seemingly feel similar. Players believe there’s a BABIP factor that should balance out for them over the long haul, given their relative lack of strikeouts.

“We might not be getting the hits or pushing across runs,” Anthony Gose said, “but I think overall, personally I feel like we’ve swung the bats well and everything else will fall into place.”

Some of that will come by balls falling in. More, ideally, will come through balls clearing the fence, which hasn’t happened much lately between Victor Martinez’s recovery and J.D. Martinez’s recent slump. Still more could come if they’re able to exploit baserunning opportunities at the rate they did in April.

For now, they’re trusting in a turnaround.

Play of the game: Kinsler’s RBI single completed the Tigers’ second walkoff win on a ball he put in play. Given Gose’s speed, though, his double was the setup piece, an extra base that meant Kinsler merely needed to flare a single and didn’t have to worry about a potential double play. “Just trying to get a good pitch to hit, like any other at-bat,” Gose said. “That’s basically it.”

Out of the game: The strikeout-throwout double play from Angel Nesbitt and James McCann was a potential mistake pitch, a cutter that didn’t move much and rose up and out of the strike zone. Because the Twins had Aaron Hicks running, though, Brian Dozier chased a full-count pitch that would’ve surely landed him on base and moved Hicks to scoring position if Dozier hadn’t swung.

“We got away with ball four, but we’ll take it,” James McCann said. “It just ended up working out.”

Strategery: Once Nick Castellanos struck out in the seventh inning, Brad Ausmus was pretty well committed to bringing in Andrew Romine as a defensive replacement at third base for the eighth inning in what was then a 1-0 game. Once Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly tied it, though, Ausmus had to worry about more innings and Castellanos’ spot, which came up in the ninth after Yoenis Cespedes’ one-out double. Ausmus hit with Rajai Davis, whose groundout to the right side advanced Cespedes to third base but with two outs.

Line of the game: Because Simon lasted 7 2/3 innings, Ausmus had a situation where he could go to his setup relief because he wanted to, as Jim Leyland would put it with himself, not necessarily because he had to. He could turn to Joba Chamberlain for one out, which he got in four pitches for the strikeout.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Twins

  
Jose Iglesias returns to the Tigers lineup — tentatively, pending how he runs on the field during batting practice — after missing the previous four games with tightness in his groin. In addition, J.D. Martinez moves back into the fifth spot behind Victor Martinez, swapping spots with Yoenis Cespedes again.

“I’ve seen better at-bats from him,” Brad Ausmus said of the switch.

The Twins welcome back Trevor Plouffe, who missed the weekend to attend to a family matter. They’ve also called up Aaron Hicks, who has spent parts of the last two seasons in Minnesota but has yet to stick. A .336 (36-for-107) start and .975 OPS at Triple-A Rochester earned him another shot.

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers off Kyle Gibson)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (3-for-3, double)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-15, HR, 3 walks, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-12, double, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-14, double, 3 walks)
  5. D. Martinez, RF (6-for-14, double, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (2-for-2)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-13, walk, 4 K’s)
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-2)

P: Alfredo Simon

twinslogoTWINS (career numbers off Simon)

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-5, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B (0-for-5)
  4. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (1-for-3, K)
  5. Kurt Suzuki, C (3-for-7, 2 HR, K)
  6. Kennys Vargas, DH
  7. Eduardo Escobar, LF
  8. Aaron Hicks, CF
  9. Danny Santana, SS

P: Kyle Gibson

Set points: Ausmus calls his shot and misses

Brad Ausmus went for it and lost.

Not the replay challenge. The pinch-runner.

It’s a move he’s admittedly reluctant to do, pinch-running for Miguel Cabrera and risking the loss of his best hitter in extra innings. Yet as Cabrera tossed his bat towards the dugout and trotted to first base on his leadoff walk in the ninth, it’s a move Ausmus was willing to make.

He had done it in the past. He ran Ezequiel Carrera for Cabrera in the ninth inning last Sept. 16 at Minnesota in what was then a 2-0 deficit, Cabrera representing the tying run. J.D. Martinez’s homer off Glen Perkins put Detroit in front before the Twins scored twice off Joe Nathan in the bottom of the inning to win it. He did something similar Sept. 2 after Cabrera singled, and J.D. Martinez homered there, too.

At that point, however, Cabrera was running on a hobbled ankle. He has had no such problems lately.

“You don’t want to remove your best hitter from the lineup,” Brad Ausmus said, “but it’s the bottom of the ninth. Raj is a significantly faster runner than Miggy, so you hope you can win it right there with Raj. It didn’t work out this time, but to me it’s a move you have to make at that point in the game.”

Davis had been warming his legs up in the Tigers dugout since well before the game resumed from its 1-hour, 43-minute rain delay, so Ausmus seemingly had the move in mind. Davis took first base with a perfect 6-for-6 record stealing bases against the Royals and catcher Salvador Perez since joining the Tigers last year. Perez hasn’t thrown out Davis since July 3, 2012.

Davis had the green light, but didn’t go on either of the first two pitches from Jason Frasor before Victor Martinez singled through the left side against the infield shift. Once Davis got to second base, he got the stop sign.

“Once he was at second with Victor at first, it becomes a little more difficult to steal,” Ausmus said. “First of all, it’s a little more difficult to steal third. But secondly, if he gets caught and Victor goes as well, now you end up with Victor on second, who probably can’t score on a single. I just felt like Raj could score on a single, he’s in scoring position, so at that point I held him up, hoping for a single.”

He didn’t get it. Jason Frasor retired Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez on popouts. Davis did get to third when Nick Castellanos drew a two-out walk, but Frasor retired James McCann to send the game into extra innings.

Perez took over at first base batting in Cabrera’s spot, which was due up fourth in the 10th inning. Andrew Romine’s single and back-to-back walks from Greg Holland to Anthony Gose and Ian Kinsler made it a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity.

Perez was vastly different protection in the lineup for Kinsler. However, Ausmus had Kinsler trying to bunt the runners over.

“We’re down one run. It’s first and second,” Ausmus said. “If he gets the bunt down, the winning run is now in scoring position.”

It was a bizarre scene, Kinsler trying to lay down a bunt, Holland not throwing him enough strikes to try, instead walking him on five pitches. Intent or not, it set up an out at every base for Perez, whose ground ball to third thus produced a crushing double play, and a rubber-game victory for Kansas City to hold onto the division lead and end a closely played series.

What went right: Shane Greene shook off his recent doldrums and delivered the kind of outing that reminded people how he can quiet a lineup without a high-strikeout performance. His eight innings of one-run ball Sunday including 15 consecutive batters retired from the second inning through the sixth, and 10 consecutive groundouts. “Just threw strikes, changed speeds,” Greene said. “They swing early and often, and I knew that going into it. So I knew if I made my pitches, I could be out there for a long time.” … Also, the Tigers running game gave Salvador Perez fits.

What went wrong: After seemingly settling into his old form for a couple starts, Anibal Sanchez struggled once again, this time against an aggressive-hitting Royals lineup. So did David Price, who gave up a career-high 13 hits to Kansas City before a slight hamstring strain pretty well knocked him out of Friday’s series opener.

Sunday night lineups: Tigers vs. Royals

Anthony Gose gets the start in center field for a third straight game. Andrew Romine gets his third straight start as well.

The forecast seems like it has changed a dozen times today, not so much whether it would rain as when, and what the chances of would be around game time tonight. The Dark Sky app is calling for a 68 percent of light rain at 8pm, turning potentially heavier as the evening rolls on. The radar, however, suggests a potentially dry evening if the worst of the system stays to the east. Stay tuned.

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

tigers1927logoTIGERS (career numbers off Chris Young)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-2, 2 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-16, HR, walk, 5 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-10, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-9, double, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  6. D. Martinez, RF (1-for-5, double, 2 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-6, K)
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS (2-for-4, double)

P: Shane Greene

royalslogonotextROYALS (numbers vs. Greene)

  1. Alcides Escobar, SS (1-for-2, K)
  2. Lorenzo Cain, CF
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B (1-for-2)
  4. Kendrys Morales, DH
  5. Alex Gordon, LF (0-for-2, walk, K)
  6. Salvador Perez, C (0-for-3, K)
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-3, K)
  8. Christian Colon, 3B
  9. Jarrod Dyson, RF (0-for-1, walk)

P: Chris Young

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