Set points: Tigers get outplayed for three games

The Tigers have had their share of postgame quotes lately about dealing with pressure and trying to do too much. Thursday wasn’t one of those days.

“We are in a tough situation,” Ian Kinsler said. “We’re all continuing to work hard and trying to play our game the best we can. This game offers different challenges and right now we are in the middle of one. I hope we get out of it sooner than later.”

More than anything, there was attention turning to the next day. After three games of frustration, the Tigers have had it with Oakland.

“The greatest thing about this game,” Joba Chamberlain said, “is you get an opportunity to play tomorrow. There’s a bunch of guys in this clubhouse that know exactly what it takes and what we need to do. Obviously it’s the beginning of June, there’s no panic. We just gotta continue to try and get better every day.”

Or as manager Brad Ausmus said when asked about getting Victor Martinez and Alex Avila back at some point soon, “Right now, it is about the White Sox. We have to find a way to win.”

The Tigers’ seven-game losing streak is their longest since 2011. They haven’t had a longer one in this era of contention that began in 2006. Detroit’s last eight-game losing streak happened in 2005, the year before Jim Leyland was hired. Among the losing pitchers in that stretch: Vic Darensbourg, Chris Spurling (twice), Matt Ginter, Jeremy Bonderman, Craig Dingman, Nate Robertson and Fernando Rodney.

That was during an 8-23 final stretch that led to changes, a month that began with a nine-game losing streak before an eight-gamer later. Even during the Tigers’ miserable closing stretch in 2008 that led to a last-place finish, they never lost more than seven in a row. Part of the Tigers’ ability to contend, to survive slow starts and close in during the summer, has been the ability to cut off losing streaks before they get too long.

It’s too early to say a long losing streak could doom these guys, especially with Martinez on his way back at some point and Justin Verlander potentially back next week. The Tigers want to see what kind of boost they get from returning players before deciding on any moves. But they have to play better. Thursday’s ninth-inning was an encouraging sign, but they have to build on it.

They’ve been needing better baseball for a while now.

The Tigers had an 11-2 record and a plus-34 run differential on April 20. They’re 17-25 with a 44-run deficit since. It’s the third-lowest run differential in baseball in that span, better than only Boston (minus-55) and Philadelphia (minus-47 entering Thursday). It’s not just offense, because their 197 runs allowed since April 21 is the highest total in the American League. Their 153 runs scored, isn’t the worst.

The White Sox, Detroit’s next opponent, has a minus-35 run differential.

The Tigers have been around .500 this late and later in recent years. They were 25-30 after 55 games in 2012 with a minus-16 run differential and a six-game division deficit, stuck in third place, and didn’t get over .500 for good until July 7. They were three games over .500 with a minus-7 run differential and a five-game gap in 2011. The 2012 team started playing consistent baseball from July on, while the 2011 team turned it on in September with a 12-game winning streak fueled in part from a rotation that turned it on down the stretch following Doug Fister’s arrival.

This year’s rotation has to stabilize, not just for the team’s sake but for the bullpen. Getting Verlander back in even decent form would help, taking up innings, but Detroit needs Shane Greene and Anibal Sanchez to turn it around (Sanchez has shown signs). The Tigers desperately need a healthy Victor Martinez in the middle of the lineup.

In the meantime, they have to survive. It’s not do-or-die yet, but the losing streak has to stop.

What went right: Miguel Cabrera hit, and Al Alburquerque continues to get his pitching in order, albeit in lower-leverage situations. That might be about it.

What went wrong: Sanchez and Greene continued to struggle, albeit in different ways from their last starts. The lineup, aside from Cabrera, continued to struggle until the final inning of the series. Angel Nesbitt appeared to be shaken up by a Ben Zobrist grand slam in the opener, then tried to make the perfect pitch the next night and couldn’t. Ian Kinsler’s series, until his final at-bat, might have been his worst three-game stretch as a Tiger.

Takeaway: The Tigers came home with a bitter taste in their mouths, rested with an off-day, then came out looking flat. That doesn’t mean they were flat, but it wasn’t a good look.

Snapshot moment: What else could it be? The look on the young fan’s face upon catching the grand slam Tuesday night, then realizing it was a go-ahead grand slam for the A’s.

Cespedes update: Expecting to play Friday

Credit MLB.com associate Alejandro Zuniga for checking postgame with Yoenis Cespedes, who said he was ill Thursday but expects to be OK for Friday’s series opener against the White Sox in Chicago. He, too, said his third-inning exit had nothing to do with fouling a ball off his foot.

“I threw up, and I felt a little lightheaded,” Cespedes told Zuniga after Thursday’s loss. “But I’m good now.”

Cespedes is 6-for-9 with four home runs for his career against Friday’s scheduled White Sox starter, Jose Quintana. He’ll probably need to be a lot sicker on this to miss out on that matchup.

The Tigers are also getting Rajai Davis back from the paternity leave list. Daniel Fields was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo, as was always the plan.

Cespedes leaves with flu-like symptoms

The struggling Tigers offense has lost its second cleanup hitter in three weeks, albeit temporarily. Yoenis Cespedes left Thursday’s series finale against the A’s with what the team called flu-like symptoms.

Cespedes, who has taken over the cleanup spot with Victor Martinez on the disabled list, fouled a ball off his foot in the second inning before striking out swinging at a Jesse Hahn changeup. He walked back to the clubhouse as Daniel Fields began warming up. Fields replaced him in left field for the start of the third inning.

Considering the Tigers entered Thursday having scored 18 runs over their last nine games, any loss of a productive hitter is a big one. Cespedes entered the day batting .286 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs.

For Fields, called up Tuesday with Rajai Davis on paternity leave, it was a sudden entrance for his Major League debut. The son of former Tigers player and current Tigers hitting coordinator Bruce Fields became the first Detroit-born player to take the field for his hometown team since Dave Borkowski in 2001.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

It appears Daniel Fields’ first Major League stint will not include a start. Tigers stick with their lineup except at catcher, where Bryan Holaday gets the day game after a night game.

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

tigerhitterlogoTIGERS (numbers off Jesse Hahn)

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

P: Shane Greene

elephantsunglasseslogoATHLETICS (numbers off Greene)

  1. Billy Burns, CF (0-for-3)
  2. Ben Zobrist, 2B (1-for-3, 2 walks)
  3. Stephen Vogt, 1B (1-for-3)
  4. Billy Butler, DH (1-for-3)
  5. Josh Reddick, RF (2-for-3, triple)
  6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
  7. Eric Sogard, SS (0-for-2, walk)
  8. Josh Phegley, C
  9. Sam Fuld, LF (1-for-3, double)

P: Jesse Hahn

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

Same lineup as Tuesday — not that there are many good numbers against Sonny Gray, who has allowed a .210 average and .512 OPS to right-handed batters, compared to .185 and .510 to lefties.

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

tigerroarlogoTIGERS (career numbers off Gray)

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

P: Anibal Sanchez

elephantlogoATHLETICS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Billy Burns, CF
  2. Ben Zobrist, LF (3-for-16, 2 walks, K)
  3. Stephen Vogt, C (3-for-7, triple, 2 K’s)
  4. Billy Butler, DH (6-for-21, 2 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
  5. Josh Reddick, RF (1-for-13, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
  6. Brett Lawrie, 3B (4-for-8, double, triple)
  7. Marcus Semien, SS (2-for-8, double, 4 K’s)
  8. Stephen Canha, 1B
  9. Eric Sogard, 2B (2-for-10, double, K)

P: Sonny Gray

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

In addition to the roster moves, the Tigers did some shuffling in the batting order. Jose Iglesias moves up to the fifth second spot in the lineup, with Ian Kinsler moved down to fifth. Brad Ausmus said he thought about it on Sunday and ran it by Kinsler after the game. Kinsler told him that he’d been considering going to Ausmus and proposing the idea himself.

“Things weren’t working,” Ausmus said. “We looked at it, I looked at it, tried to find ways we could mix it up and try to score more runs.”

tigerslogoTIGERS

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

P: Alfredo Simon

swinginaslogoATHLETICS

  1. Billy Burns, CF
  2. Ben Zobrist, LF (3-for-12, triple, walk, 3 K’s)
  3. Stephen Vogt, C
  4. Billy Butler, DH (1-for-3, 2 walks)
  5. Josh Reddick, RF (3-for-4, double)
  6. Brett Lawrie, 3B (2-for-3, 2 HR)
  7. Max Muncy, 1B
  8. Marcus Semien, SS
  9. Eric Sogard, 2B

P: Kendall Graveman

Brewers claim Hernan Perez off waivers

So in the midst of the Daniel Fields call-up, the Tigers apparently have more roster upheaval, as the awkward roster situation with Hernan Perez comes to an end. The Brewers claimed the utility infielder off waivers from Detroit this afternoon.

Perez was out of minor-league options, which played a part in the Tigers taking the former top-10 prospect on their Opening Day roster. Another part, too, was the extra insurance of another infielder capable of playing shortstop with Jose Iglesias coming back from a lost season. But Iglesias has been fine, leaving little playing time for Perez, and the rust showed in his bat.

The 24-year-old Perez batted just 2-for-33 with a walk and 11 strikeouts this year. He started all over the infield, but still started in just seven games.

Daniel Fields headed to Detroit, Davis to paternity leave (updated)

The Tigers are making a roster move Tuesday, albeit a temporary one. Outfielder Rajai Davis is being placed on the paternity leave list to be with his wife for the birth of their second child, MLB.com has learned.

To take his place, the Tigers are calling up Daniel Fields for what will be his first big-league stint. Fields strongly hinted on Twitter at getting the call after Monday night’s game for Triple-A Toledo against Indianapolis, and it was later confirmed by several outlets, including MLB.com and Chris Iott of MLive.com. The Tigers have not yet announced the move.

It’s a first Major League stint for Fields, but he spent a good part of his childhood around Comerica Park. His father, Bruce Fields, spent three seasons as Tigers hitting coach under Alan Trammell, and countless more years in the organization, where he currently serves as the minor league hitting coordinator. Bruce Fields also played for the Tigers in 1986, making Daniel a second generation Tiger.

Daniel Fields was a sixth-round pick in the 2009 Draft by the Tigers, who signed him away from a commitment to the University of Michigan. He was a star athlete at University of Detroit Jesuit High School. He has had speed bumps up the system, but has found his offensive form over the last few years. He’s batting .271 in his second season at Triple-A Toledo with three home runs and 21 RBIs.

Davis said after Sunday night’s loss in Anaheim that he was headed to meet his wife at the hospital once he landed in Detroit. Players can spend one to three days on the paternity leave list.

On missing hitters and pressing ones

The frustration level in the Tigers clubhouse after Sunday night’s loss was high, probably the highest it has been all season. It was clearly visible, and I wrote about it last night on the site. So the sense that players don’t care and have shut it down is a bit off, based on clubhouse atmosphere compared to dugout demeanor.

There was another sense coming out of last night’s clubhouse, and something that hasn’t been so chronicled: A lot of hitters are doing a lot of pressing with Victor Martinez out of the lineup and the numbers sagging without him. And the longer the offensive struggles go, the more pressure builds, even on a veteran club like this one.

Asked if hitters are pressing, Miguel Cabrera believed so.

“I think everybody,” Cabrera said. “That’s the thing. When you put a lot of pressure on yourself, you overdo it. You overswing. You want to make the extra play. You want to take the extra base. And that’s when you make mistakes, when you try too hard.

“I think we have to cut down a little bit. We still have to play aggressive. We have to go out there and play aggressive and play better, man. We don’t play good right now.”

Cabrera knows what it’s like, because he had to learn how to play with added pressure from the time he got to Detroit, if not sooner. He struggled with it his first few years as a Tiger, then broke out when he learned how to handle it. Few guys have handled that pressure as well as Victor Martinez.

“When you press, you try to do something you’re not used to doing. That’s when you make mistakes,” Cabrera said. “That’s when everything goes wrong.”

When whatever good at-bats hitters have go unrewarded, the frustration compounds it.

“Not an excuse,” Cabrera said, “but we try and we play to make something happen. But you see we hit a line drive right at them. We have good at-bats and strike out. When you put that together, you see we aren’t doing good.

“We have to keep battling. It’s not going to be easy but we have to go out there and try to do our best. We have to try to do better.”

Ian Kinsler referenced that as well.

“You have to take your at-bat for what it’s worth,” Kinsler said. “However many at-bats you get every night, you need to be prepared for those at-bats. When you start adding extra pressure on yourself because the way the team as a whole is swinging, then it becomes difficult. You’re adding unneeded pressure. Everybody needs to take their at-bats one at a time, quality at-bat after quality at-bat, and then start rolling.

“But also, there are plays that happened that sucked the wind out of us. Hitting into that double play [Saturday] with first and second, nobody out, it seems like that’s been happening a lot lately where the wind’s kind of getting taken out of our sails. That’s part of the game.”

The double plays, of course, are a big part of their game lately. Somehow, though, they have to try to create something.

One of manager Brad Ausmus’ ways of trying to ward off pressure is to trust in the numbers. The track records suggest slumps will fade, numbers will rebound.

“When you sign a player or acquire a player or bring a player up, you’re doing that based on what you think he can do over six months of baseball,” Ausmus said. “When things aren’t going well for a month and a half, or a month, you assume that over six months it returns to the norm.”

Even Ausmus, though, is showing concern over the struggles, even if he sees them as short-term blips. Asked at what point he gets worried about the offense, he said, “I’m a little worried about it right now.

“I still think long term the offense will be fine, but with every passing day, it becomes more of an issue.”

With every passing day, meanwhile, the pressure builds, even on guys who have been used to it.

“We want to win,” Cabrera said. “But if we keep thinking like we’re thinking right now, I think we’re going to be in trouble.”

Sunday night lineups: Tigers at Angels

Nick Castellanos gets the night off amidst an 0-for-11 slump and a 3-for-21 road trip. Asked if it was simply a day off for Castellanos, Brad Ausmus said, “Just a game on for Romine.”

The Angels, meanwhile, get Erick Aybar back to put up against David Price. He had missed the last couple games after tweaking his hamstring Thursday night.

With a 5pm PT start, keep an eye on the shadows in the early innings. The light towers will cast a shadow around the pitching mound as the sun begins to set behind the third-base dugout, giving hitters a challenge picking up the spin on the ball. At the same time, Miguel Cabrera was having a devil of a time with the glare while playing first base in the first inning or two Thursday night, and that was a 7pm PT start.

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

tigerhitterlogoTIGERS (career numbers vs. Matt Shoemaker)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-3, double, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (0-for-3)
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-2, 2 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, K)
  6. Tyler Collins, DH
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Andrew Romine, 3B

P: David Price

halologoANGELS (career numbers off Price)

  1. Erick Aybar, SS (6-for-23, 2 doubles, walk, K)
  2. Mike Trout, CF (2-for-9, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  3. Albert Pujols, DH (3-for-11, 2 HR)
  4. David Freese, 3B
  5. Chris Iannetta, C (5-for-15, double, HR, 3 K’s)
  6. Kole Calhoun, RF (1-for-3, K)
  7. Grant Green, 1B (3-for-6)
  8. Alfredo Marte, LF
  9. Johnny Giavotella, 2B (0-for-3, 2 K’s)

P: Matt Shoemaker

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