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.”
Eugenio Suarez returns to the lineup for the first time since last Saturday after Brad Ausmus started Andrew Romine for the entire Royals series.
“He wasn’t being punished for anything,” Ausmus said of Suarez during his pregame session. “Certainly, I think young guys at this point put a little more pressure sometimes on themselves.”
Ausmus said again that he started Romine this week trying to take advantage of his defense while his bat was hot.
Rajai Davis, meanwhile, returns to center field against a right-hander, in this case Carlos Carrasco.
On the Indians side, Mike Aviles starts in the outfield for the first time since his disastrous defensive display on Labor Day against the Tigers in Cleveland. Aviles starts in left, while lefty nemesis Ryan Raburn gets the start in right. Michael Brantley is the DH.
The forecast looks like it’s going to hold up for baseball, albeit with the first bit of fall chill in the air. Rain isn’t scheduled to arrive until after midnight.
Injury update: Phil Coke said today he was feeling improvement in his back, but he was still clearly limited in his movements. He was on the field for batting practice for a brief while before going back in.
“He still feels it a little bit in his lower back,” Ausmus said. “He’s touch-and-go at this point.”
Broadcast note: Tonight’s game is on MLB Network everywhere outside of the Detroit viewing market. Jack Morris is still in the booth this week along with Rod and Mario.
TIGERS (career numbers off Carrasco)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-12, 2 doubles, walk, 4 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (6-for-15, double, triple, 2 HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, DH (5-for-15, double, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, 1B (4-for-14, 2 doubles)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-7, K)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-9, double, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-4, walk, K)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS (1-for-4, 2 K’s)
- Rajai Davis, CF (2-for-7, K)
P: David Price
INDIANS (career numbers off Price)
- Michael Bourn, CF (3-for-12, double, 3 K’s)
- Jose Ramirez, SS (0-for-4, 3 K’s)
- Michael Brantley, DH (2-for-13, walk, 2 K’s)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (6-for-15, 4 doubles, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Yan Gomes, C (0-for-3, K)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Ryan Raburn, RF (5-for-16, double, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (3-for-6, double, HR)
- Mike Aviles, LF (5-for-20, double, walk, 2 K’s)
P: Carlos Carrasco
Not to presume anything or look too far ahead, but for planning purposes, below are the relevant dates for the MLB postseason schedule released today.
The Tigers announced earlier Thursday that they’ll put tickets for potential Wild Card and Division Series home games on sale next Wednesday 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. Surprisingly, those ALDS matchups are the only postseason games scheduled on a Sunday until the World Series.
The good news for AL fans is that there shouldn’t be much searching up and down the TV listings to try to find which network has which game in a series. TBS has the entire AL postseason, from Wild Card game through the ALCS. The National League games are being distributed among ESPN (for the Wild Card game), FOX, Fox Sports 1 and MLB Network. FOX has just two postseason games before the World Series, carrying Games 1 and 6 of the NLCS.
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)
Under most circumstances, an opponent taking offense to an Al Alburquerque out celebration is a sure sign of postseason baseball. It came a little early this season.
It hasn’t gotten much attention, but Alburquerque has been increasingly celebrating big strikeouts, big game or not, if they’re in a big situation. Usually, it involves a fist pump. When he struck out Mike Moustakas in the eighth inning Wednesday to keep the Tigers-Royals series finale a two-run game, however, he paired up a fist pump with a leg kick. He also happened to do so in the direction of the Royals dugout.
There was more than a few Royals glaring back.
“It definitely got me fired up,” Lorenzo Cain said, “because I was on deck. So to see him strike Moose out and fist pump like that, I was fired up the entire half inning I was out there. And I felt like I had to go up there and do something and prove myself in that next at-bat and that’s exactly what I did.”
Cain tripled and scored an insurance run in the ninth.
Alburquerque has a history of getting a reaction. He kissed a ball after inducing a comebacker in Game 2 of the 2012 AL Division Series against Oakland. That said, there seemed to be more than a little back-and-forth going on between the Tigers and Royals this week, including Royals players with Miguel Cabrera.
Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, whose 2014 season ended in Spring Training when stress fractures were discovered in both leagues, received a major go-ahead towards being ready for 2015 when he was cleared for lower-body rehabilitation and conditioning exercises Tuesday.
Iglesias received the go-ahead from Dr. Thomas Clanton during a follow-up exam at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado on Tuesday, six months following his initial diagnosis. An MRI, CT scan and other exams showed sufficient bone healing in both legs that he could increase his workouts and put more weight on the legs.
“This was the best possible news we were looking at,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Wednesday. “As far as Dr. Clanton is concerned, it appears the bone [in each leg] has healed, and it’s now time to put stress back on it and see how the bone responds.”
Iglesias continues to follow a program to strengthen his bones through medication and diet. The goal from here is to get Iglesias to a point where he can have a normal offseason workout program and be ready for full activity when Spring Training begins in February.
“Generally, he would start his normal offseason conditioning program at the beginning of November,” Rand said. “So we have from now until the beginning of November to put him in a position to hopefully be able to do that.”
That involves strengthening muscles and biomechanics. More than that, though, it involves seeing how Iglesias’ legs respond to weight bearing.
Iglesias has had limited lower-body work for the past few weeks, but mainly in the pool, keeping weight off his legs. He has been working out near his home in Miami, rather than at the Spring Training facility in Lakeland, so that he can work out without the pressure of pushing himself too soon.
First things first, I don’t know the chances of getting this game in. The forecast isn’t encouraging, but they’ve dealt with that before. The alternative is to call this game and bring both teams back to Detroit on their common off-day next Thursday — the Tigers flying in from Minnesota on their way to KC, the Royals from KC in the middle of a homestand — and neither team seems keen on doing that. So I’m guessing they’re willing to wait a while to get this game in.
Assuming they do play, Don Kelly starts in center field for the third time in four games, getting a left-handed bat in the lineup against James Shields. Andrew Romine gets his fourth consecutive start at shortstop, which has less to do with lefty-righty splits and more to do with defensive consistency. That said, there’s not a huge lefty-righty split against Shields (.253 AVG vs. righties, .266 vs. lefties). The difference in OPS is minuscule.
TIGERS (career numbers off Shields)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (11-for-50, 2 doubles, 3 HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (18-for-56, 4 doubles, triple, 13 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, DH (19-for-50, 8 doubles, 2 HR, 4 walks, 9 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, 1B (13-for-41, 4 doubles, HR, 9 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (5-for-12, double, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Don Kelly, CF (2-for-9, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-5, 2 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (9-for-28, double, 2 HR, 3 walks, 13 K’s)
- Andrew Romine, SS (1-for-6, K)
P: Rick Porcello
ROYALS (career numbers against Porcello)
- Nori Aoki, RF (0-for-5, 2 walks, K)
- Omar Infante, 2B (4-for-6, triple)
- Alex Gordon, LF (11-for-34, 2 doubles, 2 HR, walk, 7 K’s)
- Josh Willingham, DH (8-for-21, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 5 walks, 7 K’s)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (6-for-19, 2 HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Salvador Perez, C (3-for-16, 2 K’s)
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (5-for-20, 3 doubles, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Lorenzo Cain, CF (0-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (1-for-26, 5 K’s)
P: James Shields