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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Taking a stab at projecting the Tigers' 2013 playoff roster

[Note: This is just a *projection* and is not to be assumed to be concrete. The Tigers have until noon the day of the first game of the series — in this case Friday, Oct. 4 — to submit their final playoff roster. They have not made any roster public, as of yet. This projection is based on knowledge of the situation.]

DETROIT — Things have a way of working themselves out. 

When the Tigers began preparing themselves for the chance that they’d have to put together a postseason roster, they made certain moves before the Aug. 31 roster deadline that set them up to make this week’s decisions easier.

But it appeared like there were still going to be some tough choices to make, to get down to the best 25 for the playoffs.

Now that the final month of the regular season has played out, and injuries to Phil Coke, Bruce Rondon, Jeremy Bonderman and Danny Worth have put those players’ availability in question, the decisions look much simpler.

If Coke — last year’s surprise postseason closer — is not recovered from a sore elbow he says he’s been dealing with all season, then no decision will have to be made, trying to predict how effectively he may or may not pitch. If he’s healthy, it’s a toss-up between he and Darin Downs (or maybe Jose Alvarez) for the second lefty role in the bullpen. Now, that spot could very well belong to Downs, who was a late add to the active roster, midway through September.

If Rondon’s healthy — he’s dealing with a sore elbow, as well — he’s on the roster. If not, that probably means that Luke Putkonen is, or possibly Evan Reed. Bonderman might have had a puncher’s chance at that last relief spot in the bullpen, but a sore thumb limited him to two appearances in September. And neither of them were anything to write home about.

Same thing with Worth, who could’ve been the last man on the bench, to be used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, if not for a displaced shoulder that ended his season. That job probably falls to Hernan Perez, who’s the speediest option left, with no Avisail Garcia or Quintin Berry on this year’s team.

All of those decisions worked themselves out.

Even the one tough one remaining — the platoon in left field — seems not to be as nail-biting a decision as it might have been earlier.

Andy Dirks hit a respectable .278 in the second half, and is the best defensive player of the available options. His .268 average and seven homers against right-handed starters is good enough to keep him in the lineup more often than not.

His partner for most of the season, however, may have slumped his way off the postseason roster.

Matt Tuiasosopo finished the season on an 0-for-23 skid, and didn’t have a hit in 20 September at-bats, striking out 13 times. After a four-home run July — which left him still hitting just a notch below .300 — he hit .140 the rest of the way to finish at .244. That’s a long drop after hitting .350 as late as mid-June, and .329 at the All-Star break.

Rookie Nick Castellanos does not get the nod there because has not — or not yet, anyway — hit for what will eventually be his trademark, extra-base power. All five of his hits in 18 September plate appearances were singles. That, and he doesn’t really have another attribute that would lend itself to a reserve role: he’s not speedy enough to be used as a pinch runner, and he’s not a defensive replacement for anyone.

That leaves shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who looks likely to get a second chance, after the expiration of his 50-game suspension for violating the league’s Joint Drug Agreement.

Peralta was 3-for-12 with a double in his three-game audition in Miami, after a short stint in Instructional League to learn how to play the outfield. Before his suspension, he was hitting .305 with 11 home runs and 29 doubles before his suspension, and his .352 average against lefties still ranks ninth-best in baseball.

No question, it’s his bat that should earn him a second chance.

All the Tigers need Peralta to do is not be horrendous in left field, and his bat should compensate for any shortfall in defense. He also can play third or shortstop in a pinch, too, should the Tigers need that in a game, giving them as much positional flexibility as Tuiasosopo would bring.

If the Tigers do indeed put the recently suspended Peralta on the postseason roster, probably the only way Tuiasosopo makes it on as well, is if the brain trust doesn’t want to have both Perez and Ramon Santiago — nearly identical players, as far as skill set, although Perez is far faster — on the bench.

Backup catcher Brayan Pena and utility man Don Kelly are no-brainers to make the squad, especially Kelly, who will be the best defensive option in the outfield, coming off the bench.

On the pitching side, the four-man rotation of (in no particular order) Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister is set, pushing Rick Porcello to the bullpen for the second straight postseason. Porcello will give the Tigers an option to use in long relief, or in a jam where a ground-ball out is the best option.

Al Alburquerque may have been on the fringe several weeks ago, but he’s pitched well enough lately (a 0.00 ERA in his last nine appearances, 11 strikeouts, three walks, .037 batting average allowed) to be assured of a spot. His strikeout rate (12.9 per nine innings) is the best on a strikeout happy staff, and — when he’s right — he gives the staff an option that can get out lefties (.228 average) as well as righties (.202 average). His midseason binge of home runs allowed are the biggest concern.

Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly and Jose Veras are the triumvirate at the back end of the bullpen, leaving the last two relief spots as the only real decisions.

ELIGIBILITY NOTE: Of the 25 players on the projected roster below, three were not on the active roster as of the Aug. 31 deadline — Putkonen (sent down that day, to bring Coke back), Downs and Peralta. All three were members of the organization, so they can be swapped out for three disabled list slots the Tigers have (Luis Marte, Octavio Dotel, Worth). Perez was added to the roster on Aug. 31, as well, making him eligible. The roster can also be changed between series, adding any eligible player, as well as mid-series, to replace any injured player.

Max Scherzer, RHP
Anibal Sanchez, RHP
Justin Verlander, RHP
Doug Fister, RHP

CL: Joaquin Benoit, RHP
SU: Jose Veras, RHP
SU: Drew Smyly, LHP
LR/MR: Rick Porcello, RHP
MR: Al Alburquerque, RHP
MR: Luke Putkonen, RHP
LOOGY: Darin Downs, LHP

1B: Prince Fielder
2B: Omar Infante
SS: Jose Iglesias
3B: Miguel Cabrera
C: Alex Avila
DH: Victor Martinez

CF: Austin Jackson
RF: Torii Hunter
LF: Andy Dirks
LF: Jhonny Peralta

C: Brayan Pena
UT: Don Kelly
UT: Ramon Santiago
PR: Hernan Perez

Postseason picture finally clear in MLB: updated playoff brackets

The schedule has been out for a while, but the combatants are finally set — even if there does need to be a one-game playoff to determine the second Wild Card participant in the American League. This is what the MLB postseason bracket looks like, with the match-ups lined up.

And, no, we don't have start times past the first two games of each LDS.

Monday, Sept. 30, TBS
Tampa 5, Texas 2
(Umpires: Tim Welke [CC], Jeff Kellogg [HP], Bruce Dreckman, Chris Guccione, Tom Hallion, Ron Kulpa)

National League
Tuesday, Oct. 1, TBS
Pirates 6, Reds 2
(Umpires: Joe West [CC/HP], Dale Scott, Dan Iassogna, Rob Drake, Tim Timmons, Lance Barksdale)
American League
Wednesday, Oct. 2, TBS
Rays 4, Indians 0
(Umpires: Gerry Davis [CC/HP], Ted Barrett, Mike Everitt, Greg Gibson, Phil Cuzzi, Brian Knight)

(Best of 5; 2-2-1 format)
American League DS
Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A’s
Radio: 97.1-FM The Ticket (Dan Dickerson/Jim Price) and ESPN Radio, 105.1-FM locally (Michael Kay/Aaron Boone)
G1: Tigers 3, Athletics 2 [LINEUPS] [LIVE CHAT] [RECAP
G2: A's 1, Tigers 0 [LINEUPS] [LIVE CHAT] [RECAP] [PHOTO GALLERY] (series tied 1-1)
G3: at Detroit, Monday, Oct. 7, 1:07 p.m. MLBN
G4: at Detroit, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 5:07 p.m. TBS* (or 7:07 if Boston-Tampa series is over)
G5: at Oakland, Thursday, Oct. 10, 9:07 p.m. TBS* (or 8:07 if Boston-Tampa series is over)

(Umpires: Gary Darling, CB Bucknor, Mike DiMuro, Tom Hallion, Jim Reynolds, Mark Wegner)

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox
G1: Red Sox 12, Rays 2 (Boston leads series 1-0)
G2: at Boston, Saturday, Oct. 5, 5:35 p.m., TBS
G3: at Tampa Bay, Monday, Oct. 7, TBS/MLBN
G4: at Tampa Bay, Tuesday, Oct. 8, TBS*
G5: at Boston, Thursday, Oct. 10, TBS*
(Umpires: Dana DeMuth, Eric Cooper, Paul Emmel, Chris Guccione, Larry Vanover, Mike Winters)

National League DS
LA Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
G1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1
G2: Braves 4, Dodgers 3 (series tied 1-1)
G3: at Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 6, TBS
G4: at Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 7, TBS/MLBN*
G5: at Atlanta, Wednesday, Oct. 9, TBS
(Umpires: John Hirschbeck, Laz Diaz, Marvin Hudson, Bill Miller, Tim Welke, Hunter Wendelstedt)

Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals
G1: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
G2: Pirates 7, Cardinals 1 (series tied 1-1)
G3: at Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 6, TBS
G4: at Pittsburgh, Monday, Oct. 7, TBS/MLBN*
G5: at St. Louis, Wednesday, Oct. 9, TBS
(Umpires: Jerry Layne, Wally Bell, Sam Holbrook, Jim Joyce, Paul Nauert, Tony Randazzo)

(Best of 7; 2-3-2 format)
American League CS
(All games on Fox)
G1: Saturday, Oct. 12
G2: Sunday, Oct. 13
G3: Tuesday, Oct. 15
G4: Wednesday, Oct. 16
G5: Thursday, Oct. 17*
G6: Saturday, Oct. 19*
G7: Sunday, Oct. 20*

National League CS
(All games on TBS)
G1: Friday, Oct. 11
G2: Saturday, Oct. 12
G3: Monday, Oct. 14
G4: Tuesday, Oct. 15
G5: Wednesday, Oct. 16*
G6: Friday, Oct. 18*
G7: Saturday, Oct. 19*

(Best of 7; 2-3-2 format; All games on Fox)
G1: AL city, Wednesday, Oct. 23
G2: AL city, Thursday, Oct. 24
G3: NL city, Saturday, Oct. 26
G4: NL city, Sunday, Oct. 27
G5: NL city, Monday, Oct. 28*
G6: AL city, Wednesday, Oct. 30*
G7: AL city, Thursday, Oct. 31*

* — if neccesary

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tigers first playoff-bound MLB team ever no-hit in final game of regular season

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers finished the regular season with one last singular achievement.

As in, they failed to get a singular hit off Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez, becoming the first-ever postseason-bound team in Major League Baseball history to be no-hit in their final game of the regular season.

“You never want to get no-hit, but sometimes you just have to tip your cap,” Justin Verlander, the author of two no-hitters himself, and Alvarez’s opposition Sunday, said on the Fox Sports Detroit postgame show. “You never want to get no-hit, but I guess better now than later.”

Only eight playoff-bound teams had previously been no-hit in September. The last was the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, who were victim of a perfect game by Cincinnati’s Tom Browning on Sept. 16, before going on to win the World Series. The 1969 “Miracle Mets” also ended up as World Series champs, after being no-hit by Pittsburgh’s Bob Moose on Sept. 20.

The only other teams to be no-hit on their final game of the regular season were the 1984 Texas Rangers, who were blanked by California’s Mike Witt on Sept. 30, and the 1975 California Angels, who were no-hit by the A’s Vida Blue on Sept. 28.

Alvarez’s no-hitter was also the sixth time since 1900 that a no-hitter ended on a walk-off play, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Sunday’s game ended 1-0, when Giancarlo Stanton scored from third on a bases-loaded, two-out wild pitch by Luke Putkonen.

The most recent three were all settled on hits, including Vic Wertz’s ninth-inning HR that won Virgil Trucks’ no-hitter for the Tigers on May 15, 1952.

Playoff-bound teams no-hit in Sept.
2013 Detroit Tigers (Sept. 29, by Miami's Henderson Alvarez)
1988 Los Angeles Dodgers (Sept. 16, by Cincinnati's Tom Browning)*
1986 California Angels (Sept. 19)
1983 Chicago White Sox (Sept. 29)
1981 Los Angeles Dodgers (Sept. 26)*
1970 Minnesota Twins (Sept. 21)
1969 New York Mets (Sept. 20)*
1968 St. Louis Cardinals (Sept. 17)
1958 New York Yankees (Sept. 20)*
* — Went on to win World Series

Teams no-hit on final day of regular season
1984 Texas Rangers (Sept. 30 by California's Mike Witt)
1975 California Angels (Sept. 28 by Oakland's Vida Blue)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tigers pitching staff ties single-season MLB strikeout record

Tigers pitchers struck out seven batters in Friday’s game against the Marlins, allowing them to tie the Major League Baseball single-season record for strikeouts by a pitching staff.

The 2003 Cubs held the record for a decade, after Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement spearheaded a staff that racked up 1,404 punch-outs (8.7 strikeouts per nine innings).

Detroit’s staff of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and company came into Friday’s game with an MLB-best 1,397 strikeouts — already a franchise record and 57 more than the next closest team — as well as an MLB-best 8.75 K/9 ratio, best in franchise history.

Jose Veras struck out Giancarlo Stanton to tie the record.

The Tigers have put together 59 games with double-digit strikeout totals.

REPORTS: Tigers pinch-hitting legend Gates Brown has died at age 74

One of the most accomplished pinch-hitters in baseball history, Gates Brown had a lasting legacy for someone who was never a full-time player.

According to several published reports, the 74-year-old Brown passed away Friday. [UPDATE: The organization has confirmed his death.]

Brown, who had recently been hospitalized in his fight with diabetes, had been in failing health for several years. He was able to attend this summer’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of the 1968 World Series championship, but came in a wheelchair, and only made it up on to the stage with the assistance of several of his teammates.

Signed by the Tigers in 1960 after serving time for burglary, Brown played 13 seasons in the big leagues -- all with the Tigers -- hitting .257 with 84 home runs. But he started in the field in just 386 of 1,051 career games, and at the new spot of designated hitter 117 times after it was added in 1973, two years before he retired.

He holds the American League record for pinch-hit at-bats (414), hits (107) and home runs (16).

Brown also played a large part in the Tigers’ last two World Series titles, coming off the bench in 1968 -- and hitting .370 with 15 extra-base hits -- and acting as a hitting coach for the 1984 team.

[UPDATE II: Funeral arrangements have been set for Brown, according to the team. There will be a public viewing from noon-9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Swanson Funeral Home's Northwest Chapel. The address is 14751 West McNichols in Detroit.]

Alvarez will take Porcello's start in Friday's series opener in Miami

DETROIT — The first Tigers player to get the day off after clinching is ... Rick Porcello.

Scheduled to start the series opener against the Marlins, the Tigers switched it to Jose Alvarez Friday morning. The team web site still lists Anibal Sanchez (Saturday) and Justin Verlander (Sunday) as the final two starters of the series.

Alvarez will be making his sixth start for the Tigers, after filling in earlier this season for the injured Sanchez. He's the only extra starter the Tigers have used this season, the lowest number in all of baseball.

Porcello is likely to be the odd man out of the four-man playoff rotation for the Tigers, so don’t be surprised if he gets some relief work in the series, considering he’d otherwise end up with 12 days off between appearances.

The Tigers are likely not done fiddling with the rotation, either, since Sunday’s starter, Verlander, would be the only one on normal rest for the Oct. 4 playoff opener. Max Scherzer, the odds-on favorite to start that game, would be on eight days rest, if he does not throw this weekend.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

AL Central gear on sale at D Shop, starting at 5 a.m.

The Tigers will have a day off Thursday, after clinching their third straight American League Central division title late Wednesday night.

Salespeople at The D Shop will not, however.

The store, built into Comerica Park's exterior, on the corner of Witherell and Montcalm streets, will be open at 5 a.m., and stay open until 7 p.m., selling AL Central champions gear. The store will have extended hours all week, the club announced.

It's the first time the franchise has been in the playoffs three straight years since 1907-09.

Items are also on display here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

DFM postseason preview live chat

The Tigers are not in -- yet.

Tuesday marks their third straight day starting with a magic number of two. They just need a win or a Rangers loss to clinch a spot in the playoffs, and any combination of wins of their own and Indians losses adding up to two, in order to clinch their third straight American League Central title.

Digital First Media will be reviewing baseball in 2013, and will be looking ahead to the postseason. We'll be taking your qeustions and offering predictions on the first two rounds of the playoffs. We'll be taking questions, starting at 2:30 p.m.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tigers hold annual 'Rookie Dress Up Day' en route to Minnesota

Getaway day for the final road trip of the season is traditionally the day that Major League Baseball rookies get their yearly dose of hazing, forcing them to dress up — and usually as things like Disney princesses or butterflies. Tigers reliever Darin Downs posted an Instagram picture of the Detroit group of rookies — (from left) Bruce Rondon, Bryan Holaday, Hernan Perez, Jose Alvarez, Jose Iglesias, Evan Reed, and Nick Castellanos in front — dressed up as the team left for Minnesota.

(Side note: I'm not sure if the rookies would have been forced to wear that attire had the Tigers clinched on Sunday. Also not sure what that much silk would've looked like, when drenched in champagne.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tigers take a reign check, falling short in final chance to clinch division at home

DETROIT -- The Tigers had to take a reign check.

Poised to clinch their third straight American League Central title, and mathematically needing both a win over the White Sox and an Indians loss to the Astros to make it happen, the Tigers didn’t get either.

A 6-3 loss to the ChiSox, coupled with Cleveland's 9-2 win, kept the magic number at two for another day, meaning the earliest the Tigers can clinch the division is Tuesday in Minnesota.

And it means that the Tigers, who played their final home game of the regular season Sunday, won’t be able to celebrate a clincher at home, yet again. The last time they did so was 1987.

Detroit finishes the home season with 51 home wins, its fifth straight season with 50 or more wins at home. The Tigers, who went over the 3-million mark for the fourth time in franchise history on Saturday, finished the home campaign with 3,083,397, the second-most in franchise history. The franchise record of 3,202,645 was set in 2008.

Like they had in Saturday’s monumental comeback win by the Tigers, the White Sox again took an early lead, with Connor Gillaspie scoring on a first-inning RBI single by former Tiger Avisail Garcia.

One of the guys Garcia was traded for, shortstop Jose Iglesias, did not play, still out with a left hand contusion. Miguel Cabrera, the man Garcia was often mistaken for, did not play either, after his sore groin flared up in Saturday’s comeback.

Prince Fielder tied it with one swing of the bat in the fourth inning, depositing an 89 mph fastball from Erik Johnson about halfway up the right-field seats.

That would not last.

Chicago fought back with three runs in the fifth inning, the first two on Gillaspie’s triple over Austin Jackson’s head in center field, and the next one on Garcia’s bloop single to shallow left, that dropped in between three Tigers, making it 4-1.

Sanchez was done after the 25-pitch inning, lasting just five frames, only the second time in his last 13 starts he’s gone fewer than six innings. The four earned runs allowed dropped him out of the American League ERA lead, as well.

He left the game in line for his first loss since July 19, a span of 12 starts ago. He’d gone 7-0 with four no-decisions in the interim.

Reliever Evan Reed gave up two runs in the seventh on a bases-loaded double by Jeff Keppinger, making it 6-1.

Detroit got one run back in the bottom of the seventh, on Austin Jackson’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

After that, the Tigers tried another ninth-inning comeback, but fell three runs short.

Brayan Pena led the ninth off with a pinch-hit double, followed by a single by Omar Infante. Ramon Santiago’s fielder’s choice scored Pena to cut it to 6-3.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tigers beat Mariners, 5-4, cut magic number to four

DETROIT -- The sense of anticipation in the Detroit Tigers’ locker room is palpable.

It’s getting so close that they can taste it. They can feel it.

Either that, or they’re feeling the bass from the new speakers hooked up in the clubhouse this week, allowing them to crank up the music for their victory celebrations.

Thursday, after a come-from-behind 5-4 win in the series finale against the Mariners cut the magic number to four, it was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” blaring down the hallway, as reporters gathered in manager Jim Leyland’s office.

“It’s not Bobby Vinton, I know that,” Leyland quipped of the music selection.

With the Tigers having the possibility of being able to clinch their third straight division title as soon as Saturday -- enabling them to celebrate a clincher in their home park for the first time since 1987 -- there’s been plenty to laugh and joke about for the players.

“It’d be awesome (to do it at home), but wherever we get it done, we get it done. It would be great. You don’t have a crystal ball so you never know,” Prince Fielder said.

“That’s part of why it’s so much fun at this time. Everything’s starting to get closer, starting to be able to go to the next level. It becomes a little more exciting.”

Shoot, the Tigers are so loose, Prince Fielder even grabbed a nacho from a fan’s plate, after chasing down a foul ball down the right-field line.

“That’s the kind of guy he is: very focused, but still trying to keep it light,” starting pitcher Doug Fister laughed, when told the story.

Maybe that’s what they’re tasting: Nacho cheese?

“The chip? I thought about dipping in the cheese but he might double dip,” Fielder laughed. “I’ve never taken a chip. It looked good. Cheese would have been better. ... I don’t think he (the fan) even noticed it.”

His teammates did, though.

“Hey, he ran all the way over there, I think he deserved a nacho,” Torii Hunter joked.

It’s all fun and games until ... well, something breaks.

That was the only downer on the party that was the Tigers’ last home weekday game: Something nearly did break.

Starting shortstop Jose Iglesias left the game after getting hit by a pitch on the left hand. Everyone, including Iglesias, thought his hand was broken, but X-rays were negative.

“We really need that glove, and his bat in the lineup,” Hunter said. “Whenever you get hit in the hand, you always worry, because you got so many little bones there. Just a small fracture can put you out.

“So we’re glad we got some good news that nothing’s broken, nothing’s fractured, and we might have him in, I guess, a couple days.”

Could be just in time for the bigger party.

The Tigers (89-64) have put themselves in that position by winning their last three series, and eight of their last 10 series at home.

They also have done it recently by finding a way to come from behind in the later innings, and win some tight, one-run games -- both of which were struggles earlier in the season.

“We got a good team. I think, anyway. We can do some things. We’re a little more athletic than we were,” Leyland said. “We’re kind of missing one of our bigger bats toward the end of the lineup. You all know who I’m talking about (Jhonny Peralta), ... We picked up some other things by way of that.

“We got a good team, and we’re pretty good when we hit it in the gap and over the fence.”

Hunter got the offense started by hitting one over the fence, but the game was decided by the shots that the Tigers put in the gaps. He kick-started the game-winning rally in with a leadoff double in the seventh, while Fielder doubled twice, and Victor Martinez did the same, both times scoring Fielder all the way from first.

“You see I’m jumping up and down, dancing like I’m running with him. You see your kid, he’s running for a touchdown in little league, and you start running down the line with him. That’s what I do with Prince, every time he scores from first to home,” Hunter said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s exciting. That big boy can move.”

Seattle manager Eric Wedge, who’d tutored Martinez in his earliest days, in Cleveland, didn’t want that red-hot bat to be the one to beat him, intentionally walking Martinez twice in the game.

“Obviously he’s got a huge amount of respect for me, and I got a huge amount of respect for him and the rest of his staff,” Martinez said. “I kind of grew up with him and the staff in Cleveland. I guess he saw a lot from me in Cleveland.”

The first time, it bit him, when starter James Paxton followed the intentional walk with a bases-loaded walk to Omar Infante. The second time it worked, as Paxton got Infante to fly out, stranding two on.

Wedge just couldn’t do it three times, and it cost him.

“I've known him a long time, and I know all the ways he can beat you,” Wedge said. “The last time, there was anywhere to put him because Prince was on first, and he did what he’s done for years. He’s just a great hitter.”

Fielder rumbled all the way around, and home plate umpire Ron Kulpa said he slid in ahead of the tag from catcher Mike Zunino.

“It was pretty close. I was just faster, I guess,” Fielder said.

Wedge’s strategy was perfect, his counterpart admitted.

“Eric Wedge did the exact proper thing. He did the right thing. However, I’ve done the same thing: You’re taking one risk, that you got a young pitcher that might walk the next guy. Unfortunately for them, he did exactly that,” Leyland said. “But he did the right thing. That was a no-brainer.”

Facing his old team, Fister gave up a run on three straight hits in the first, then clamped down for three straight innings, before giving up a go-ahead, three-run home run to Dustin Ackley in the fifth.

He left after a two-out walk to Justin Smoak in the eighth, in line to win for the second time in three starts vs. his old team. He came in with a 1.29 ERA in two previous outings vs. the M’s.

His 7 2/3 innings of work also put him past the 200-inning plateau for the second time in his career.

Fister struck out 10, giving him 151 for the season, eclipsing his previous single-season career high of 146 from 2011. His total also allowed the Tigers to surpass last year’s franchise record of 1,318 strikeouts as a staff.

“Fister today, he gave up a three-run homer, and could’ve folded up, but he stayed out there and battled, and we got some runs to get him the win,” Hunter said. “I think the last couple games, the last week or so, we’ve been battling. We’ve battled some good pitching, some good arms. We’ve been battling. That’s baseball. We gotta go out there, and, as long as we got outs left, we’ve got a chance to win.”

Matthew B. Mowery covers the Tigers for Digital First Media. Read his “Out of Left Field” blog at

Iglesias leaves game after being hit by pitch, X-rays negative; 'I got lucky'

DETROIT — It did not sound good. It did not look good.

Obviously, it did not feel good.

When Jose Iglesias crumpled to the ground, and huddled there, clutching his left arm to his chest, knees drawn up, having just gotten nailed by a 95 mph pitch from Seattle’s Tom Wilhelmsen, everyone feared the worst.

“To be honest with you, I thought it was probably broke. It didn’t sound good,” manager Jim Leyland said. “When I heard it, I thought it was probably not good.”

“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Iglesias said later in the locker room, his left hand encased in an Ace bandage. “I’m feeling that way, too. It was 95 mph in the hand. I got lucky. We got lucky it’s not broken.”

Head trainer Kevin Rand hustled out to check on Iglesias the second he went to the ground. He helped the shortstop get his left batting glove off then, after a short conversation with Leyland, assisted him into the clubhouse where they got X-rays taken.

Those, thankfully, were negative.

“It’s big for me. The only thing I’m concerned about is a broken hand, miss the rest of the season, which would be not good for us. You know, it’s not broken, that’s a good thing. And I’m happy about it,” Iglesias said.

“It is painful, it is painful. But we’ll see.”

While the news that it was just a contusion was the best-case scenario, it doesn’t mean Iglesias will play Friday, when the Tigers open a three-game series against the White Sox.

“The other part of that is, that doesn’t mean he can play for three or four or five days, necessarily. So I’m hoping we can get it right,” Leyland said. “We’re getting it treated, getting it iced, everything we’re supposed to do. Probably won’t be able to play tomorrow. I don’t know that for a fact. Just have to wait and see.”

The contusion is on Iglesias’ glove hand, so the main impact may be when he’s swinging a bat. The left hand is the bottom hand on the bat for a right-handed hitter.

“That’s probably where. That left hand is your lead hand, too, so it’s not -- I mean, it’s not good,” Leyland said.

It’s better than it could’ve been, though.

“I was on deck. I was getting ready to hit, so I didn’t know the buzz in the dugout, but we were just hoping he was OK. When we heard the news, it was like ‘OK, good,’ because anybody, if you get hit in the hand, we think the worst,” Torii Hunter said. “It’s weird, especially for a ballplayer, whenever you get hit in the hand. There’s a lot of little bones in your hand, and the smallest fracture can put you out, and we really need that glove, and his bat in the lineup.”

Coke shut down for a few days with elbow soreness

DETROIT — Phil Coke has not fared well in his last few outings, to be sure, but there might be a reason.

The veteran left-handed reliever was unable to get through the Mariners’ run of lefties in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game, leaving with the bases loaded. Three earned runs would eventually go on his record.

Maybe a better question than ‘Is Coke pitching himself out of a postseason roster spot?’ might be whether or not he’ll even be available.

The lefty complained of soreness in his elbow after the game, and he was examined by the team physician after the game.

“Phil came in last night after the game, complaining of some tenderness in his elbow, felt like he couldn’t finish his pitches,” head trainer Kevin Rand said. “We had an exam, and we’re shutting him down for the next couple of days.”

It’s the first time the issue had cropped up.

Of the 21 pitches Coke threw Wednesday, six were breaking balls. Five of those went for strikes, three were put into play, two of them for outs.

The three earned runs runs gave Coke an ERA of 11.57 in September, following his return to the team after his hiatus in Toledo to work on control issues. Prior to Wednesday, though, he had not allowed a run in five outings. At the moment, left-handed batters are hitting .299 against Coke.

The Tigers have three other lefties in the bullpen: Drew Smyly, Jose Alvarez and Darin Downs. Smyly is a lock to be on the postseason roster, should the Tigers get there. The other lefty slot is still a mystery.

“I’ll make this simple. Phil’s just not making good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now. He’s hanging his breaking ball, he’s throwing the ball in the middle of the plate. I mean, it’s as simple as that. Certainly nobody’s upset with him. But that’s the simple fact. I’ll answer it that way and we’ll move on to the next question. He’s just not throwing good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now,” manager Jim Leyland said.

Nor was it just a case of giving Coke a chance to pitch his way out of his funk.

“It’s a little late to be experimenting,” Leyland said. “Obviously (Alvarez) and Smyly wasn’t available tonight, Phil Coke’s a veteran that’s got good stuff. Right now, as I said before, and we’ll stop this conversation about Phil Coke right after it, he’s just not making -- and I’m not defending anybody and I’m not criticizing anybody -- he is just not making good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now. Next question.”

The next question might be, if not Coke, who?

Downs has not pitched since Sept. 1, when he was still with the Triple-A Toledo club. He held left-handed batters to a .233 average against, but his effectiveness slipped before he went on the disabled list with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder in early July.

Despite his recent effective relief outings, Alvarez has allowed lefties a .279 batting average in the big leagues this season.

“Our bullpen looks good. The lefties are doing good. Coke was looking good for a minute right there,” Torii Hunter said. “He’s going to be the key for us. We want him to step it up, because we’re going to need him. He’s throwing 95, 96. We need that in the bullpen.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tigers lose 8-0 to M's, shut out for 11th time this season, the most since '08

DETROIT -- Mention 2008, and every Tigers fan cringes.

Those players who were here in that lost year do, too.

Certainly Justin Verlander, whose 2008 season remains the low point in his otherwise-stellar career.

That was the year the high-priced, high-powered Tigers were supposed to score 1,000 runs, as a modern-day Murderers’ Row. They finished with 821, and just 74 wins to go with it.

This year’s team has been far more successful in nearly everything -- except keeping itself from getting shut out.

The Seattle Mariners won 8-0 Wednesday, shutting out the Tigers for the second time this season, marking the 11th time the 2013 Tigers have been blanked, the most since ... you guessed it ... 2008.

That team was shut out 12 times, just as improbably as this one has been shut out 11 times.

“Well, it’s unbelievable. I think we went four times 1-0. That’s hard to do. Some of that is, probably overall, our lack of speed,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said last weekend.

“I know there was a game in Pittsburgh we got four hits in one inning, and didn’t score a run. So some of that’s who’s on the bases, and stuff like that. That’s some of it. Some of it is really good pitching. ... There’s been quite a few games where we got quite a few hits, and we didn’t score a whole lot of runs. Sometimes 11 hits and two runs, or something. That’s pretty uncommon.”

Four of those shutouts have come with Verlander on the mound, including one head-to-head matchup with Wednesday’s starter for the Mariners, Hisashi Iwakuma.

The two squared off on April 18, with Verlander striking out 12, but taking the 2-0 loss, when Iwakuma and two relievers shut out the Tigers for what was already the second time in the season’s first 15 games.

Iwakuma gave up three hits in six scoreless innings in that start, and matched the feat Wednesday, and more.

“He was really good. He’s an All-Star pitcher, he was terrific tonight. Ball moves all over the place, he can throw a lot of different pitches in any count at any time. Sneaky with the fastball with movement. He was really good,” Leyland said.

“This guy’s a very good pitcher. You gotta hand it to him.”

Despite the loss, the Tigers (88-64) still shaved one game off their magic number to eliminate Cleveland, dropping it to five when Kansas City beat the Indians, 7-2, Wednesday night.

Verlander’s pitch count began to run up in the second inning, when he walked the leadoff hitter, Justin Smoak, then gave up an RBI double to Michael Saunders, followed by an RBI single by Nick Franklin. He’d get a double play to get out of the inning, and strand two more runners aboard in the third, but had already run his pitch count up to 62.

“I think the walks hurt me. Seemed like every inning, before I came out, I was very erratic the first batter of the inning. And in that one inning, where they put up a couple hits in a row to score a couple runs, obviously a walk contributed to that. But I wasn’t really able to execute fastballs to my glove side. I tried to go in on both of those guys, and left it middle, middle-away. That play into obviously what they were trying to do at that point, because they both drove that ball to left-center. If I get that ball in, it might be a totally different situation,” said Verlander, who did still think the start was a continuation of the progression he’s been making recently.

“At that point, went into a pitch-conservation mode, because I knew I had a lot of pitches, and I wanted to go deep into the ballgame, give us a chance.”

After retiring 10 straight, Verlander gave up a home run to Smoak on his 105th pitch to make it 3-0 in the sixth. Smoak was the only baserunner allowed in the final 15 batters Verlander faced, as he got through seven innings, finishing with 124 pitches -- two shy of matching his season high.

“Smoak actually hit a really, really good pitch. I couldn’t have thrown any better pitch at that point, for what I was trying to do. I was trying to get them to put it into play and put it into play early,” Verlander said. “He just elevated it, and he’s got a lot of power, and it just went out.”

Phil Coke gave up a two-out RBI single to Smoak followed by an RBI double by Saunders in the eighth, making it 5-0. Coke left with the bases loaded.

“I’ll make this simple. Phil’s just not making good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now. He’s hanging his breaking ball, he’s throwing the ball in the middle of the plate,” Leyland said. “I mean, it’s as simple as that. Certainly nobody’s upset with him. But that’s the simple fact. I’ll answer it that way and we’ll move on to the next question. He’s just not throwing good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now.”

The Mariners scored two more when the Tigers botched a throw back to the plate after a wild pitch, as Al Alburquerque couldn’t handle the feed from catcher Alex Avila.

Luke Putkonen gave up a solo home run to Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Despite keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard, Iwakuma would have struggles of his own, loading the bases twice in the first four innings, but wiggling out of both jams.

In the first, he intentionally walked Victor Martinez to pitch to Matt Tuiasosopo, and got the needed strikeout. Hernan Perez grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fourth.

Iwakuma threw eight scoreless innings for the win, allowing just four hits. His stats vs. the Tigers this season: 14 innings, no runs allowed, seven hits, eight strikeouts, three walks.

Danny Farquhar pitch the ninth to finish off the shutout.

“I don’t really care about that. We got beat and that’s all I’m interested in. I’m in tested in wins and losses. It doesn’t matter whether you get beat 2-1, 10-0 or whatever. When you get beat, you get beat,” Leyland said. “We’re in the business of trying to win games. That doesn’t really bother me. That guy that pitched tonight, he would shut out a lot of teams with the stuff he was featuring tonight.”

Tigers tap Larry Parrish for third stint as Mud Hens manager

DETROIT — It’s always good to get a scouting report on things from your minor league affiliates.

Sometimes, it’s not bad to get a scouting report of the guys who will be giving you a scouting report.

The brother of Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, himself a Toledo-area native, is a regular at Toledo Mud Hens games, and praised the organization’s choice to bring back Larry Parrish for a third stint as the manager of its Triple-A affiliate.

“I think he had some success down there at Toledo before, and I know they really liked him. My brother said they really liked him. ... I know for a fact that ... because he won there, he’s a real popular guy,” Leyland said Wednesday, after the organization announced the move.

“He’s terrific. I think the world of Larry Parrish. I think he’s an outstanding baseball man. He’s a great evaluator. I think he’s an outstanding baseball guy ... and a great guy. I really enjoy being around him. He was always very nice to me, and respectful.”

Parrish has already had two successful stints as the manager of the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate for the Detroit Tigers, and he’ll start a new one next spring.

The organization announced Wednesday that the 59-year-old Parrish had been hired as the next manager of the Mud Hens, replacing Phil Nevin, whose contract was not renewed at the end of the 2013 minor league season.

“As a manager, he’s a great teacher and I know we’ll see improvement in player development,” Toledo general manager Joe Napoli said in the Tigers’ news release. “For our fans, he’s always been a favorite, they will be glad to welcome him back.”

Parrish had been the manager of the Tigers Class A West Michigan affiliate this past season, after one full season as the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves.

A two-time All-Star in his playing days for the Expos, Rangers and Red Sox, Parrish began coaching in the Tigers organization in 1992. He was added to Buddy Bell’s big-league staff as the bench coach for the Tigers in 1997, then succeeded the fired Bell late in the 1998 season, before getting the full-time job in 1999.

Parrish managed the Mud Hens in 1994 then again from 2003 to 2010, before spending a year as the Atlanta Braves’ hitting coach in 2011. He led Toledo to International League titles in 2005 and 2006, earning IL Manager of the Year and Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year honors in 2005. He was named to the IL Hall of Fame this season.

Toledo’s pitching coach under Nevin, A.J. Sager, was moved to the organization’s role as roving pitching coordinator, switching places with the man who held that role this season, Al Nipper.

Leon “Bull” Durham will return for 14th season as Toledo’s hitting coach.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tigers inch closer to third straight division title with a 6-2 win over M's

DETROIT -- No wonder we’re all getting gray hairs.

Despite the fact that the Tigers have been five or more games up in the standings virtually the entire time, it’s been a nerve-wracking few weeks for the Tigers, as they inch inexorably toward their third straight division title.

“It tough. It’s tough, and we’re trying our fanny off to get it,” manager Jim Leyland said.

“My stomach hasn’t been too good lately, to be honest with you. It’s not too good when the highlight of your day is getting up at 7 a.m. to go to the grocery store and get prune juice.

“That’s not a very good highlight.”

The Tigers took another step toward that goal with a 6-2 win over the Mariners Tuesday, a game that was a nail-biter until late.

It left them with a magic number of six to eliminate the second-place Indians, and three to eliminate the Kansas City Royals from the divisional race.

Even in the middle of a four-game set against the Mariners, it’s hard for the Tigers to maintain that they’re not watching the series between the Indians and Royals unfold, for all that they outwardly maintain the “one-game-at-a-time” facade.

“I watched it last night. Probably watch it again tonight. Where the (heck) am I going? I sat here in my long johns, barefoot. Had a little plate of food, watch the rest of the game. And loved every run that Kansas City scored,” Leyland said before Tuesday’s game.

“That’s pretty human, isn’t it?”

Kind of hard not to have one eye on a series that might help the Tigers clinch just that much faster.

“To be honest with you — and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t — you obviously watch a little closer now than you did. But I see scores on the scoreboard every night from Day One on. I mean, there’s a time when you have a break in the action, you look out. I mean, I look right out at it (Comerica’s auxiliary scoreboard in right-center field) all season long,” Leyland said. “I look at Pittsburgh, or St. Louis. I look. People are lying if they say they don’t look.”

It was a back-and-forth game that certainly didn’t help anyone’s digestion, at least early on, with rookie Brandon Maurer matching the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez.

“It’s tough, pitchers’ duels all the time, but as long as we come through with the win, it’s all that matters,” Torii Hunter said. “We got the ‘W’ today, we got the ‘W’ the last couple days, and that’s all that matters.”

Don Kelly gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the fourth.

Sanchez was brilliant through the first five innings, striking out nine before giving up a game-tying home run to Raul Ibanez with two outs in the sixth.

Miguel Cabrera untied it with his first home run since Aug. 26 in the bottom of the inning, but the Mariners brought it back even again, knocking Sanchez out in the seventh.

Michael Saunders led off with a triple, and scored on Kendrys Morales’ pinch-hit double two batters later to tie it at 2-2. After Sanchez exited the game having thrown 125 pitches -- five off his career high -- Al Alburquerque would get a pop up and a strikeout to get him out of the second-and-third jam.

“Especially if you throw 120 pitches, 120-plus pitches, for me I would like to be in the eighth or ninth inning, not too early like the sixth inning or something like that. It makes it a little bit tired but at the end, physical, you have to do your best right there. If you’re still on the mound you have to get some outs, especially that situation I have, runners on the corners, I need to make a good pitch,” Sanchez said.

“I’m not tired, more frustrated that I got the lead twice today I don’t keep the score. But at the end we win. That’s the most important thing.”

Sanchez left having struck out 10, the sixth time he’s hit double digits in strikeouts since joining the Tigers, and the ninth time in his career.

The Tigers, who are 10-1 in Sanchez’s last 11 starts, surged ahead again in the bottom of the seventh.

Alex Avila tripled to lead the inning off, but was caught in a rundown trying to score on Austin Jackson’s ground ball. He stayed in it long enough to get Jose Iglesias -- who’d been plunked -- to third, and Jackson to second.

Iglesias scored the go-ahead run on Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly to center.

With Drew Smyly and closer Joaquin Benoit unavailable, the Tigers had to piece together 2 2/3 innings of relief following Sanchez’s departure. After Alburquerque got two outs, Phil Coke came on in the eighth, with two lefties and a switch hitter due up.

He walked two of the lefties, with an error on Iglesias sandwiched in between, forcing fellow lefty Jose Alvarez to face right-handed hitting Mike Zunino with the bases loaded. After an 11-pitch battle, Alvarez got a double play ball to get out of the jam, preserving the one-run lead.

“Obviously, I was trying for a groundball,” Alvarez said. “That was a good AB for the hitter -- a couple good pitches foul. ... If we don’t make the play in that situation, it costs us the game maybe, but we make it and we take the win.”

Leyland went with the lefty Alvarez to keep the Mariners from pinch hitting the speedy Endy Chavez against a right-handed reliever.

“I knew it was going to be Chavez against a right-hander, and you can’t double up Chavez, so I just took my chances, with (Alvarez’s) repertoire of pitches, that maybe he could get him out front and get a ground ball,” said Leyland, admitting that the 11-pitch at-bat made him nervous. “I don’t like those usually, because when a hitter sees that many pitches, he usually hits it hard somewhere. I wasn’t very comfortable. ... It wasn’t hit very hard, and to turn it was huge. That was obviously the play of the game.”

The Tigers finally broke it open in the eighth, with three straight singles padding the lead to 4-2, then a two-run single by Austin Jackson with the bases loaded making it 6-2.

Alvarez got the first two outs in the ninth, the Jose Veras came on to get the final out.

DFM baseball live chat: Tigers and the pennant races, Wild Card chases

The American League wild card race is one of the more interesting ones left, with a number of teams within only a few games of each other. How will the race play out over the last two weeks of the season? The Digital First Media live chat will check in with Matthew B. Mowery and David Borges.

We will be live at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern).

Monday, September 16, 2013

Worth done for the season with dislocated shoulder

Reserve infielder Danny Worth dislocated his left shoulder diving for a ball in a game in Kansas City on Sept. 6, and it’s an injury that will end his season.

“Danny Worth is not available to do anything. ... We haven’t had Danny Worth. He had a displacement of the shoulder when he dove for that ball. It’s not responded to the point where he’s going to be able to play,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “There’s no fracture or anything. It’s just not gonna be ready to be available for the rest of the year. ... He’s gonna take the year-end physical (Tuesday) and go home.”

Worth appeared in just four games with the Tigers after his September call-up, getting two at-bats. He was one of the final cuts in spring training, then had his Triple-A season slowed by a heel injury in April. He hit .223 for the Mud Hens after returning.

Tigers have backed off Rondon because of a tender elbow

DETROIT — The last time Bruce Rondon took the mound, against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park, may have been one of the more impressive outings of his rookie campaign.

After giving up a two-out double to Dustin Pedroia in the eighth, Rondon uncorked a wild pitch while facing David Ortiz, putting the potential shutout busting run 90 feet away from the plate.

Rondon would end up throwing five pitches of 100 mph or more in the seven-pitch battle against Ortiz, one of them at a blistering 103 mph, according to the Fenway radar gun.

And he hasn’t pitched since that day, Sept. 2. The last eight days, he’s been dealing with soreness in his throwing arm.

“He’s been battling a little bit of a tender elbow. So we backed him off. He’s OK. No red flags. But we’ve backed him off,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I think it was that 103 mph pitch he threw to Ortiz, but I don’t really know that.”

Leyland said he expected Rondon to test things out with a Tuesday throwing session.

He’s not the only reliever to be limited recently.

Jeremy Bonderman has been dealing with tendinitis in his thumb, and hasn’t thrown since Sept. 4.

“He’s supposed to throw today, so I’ll know more when I get out there,” Leyland said before the game. “That’s why we’ve been fighting tooth and nail down there, because we’ve been a little strapped.”

With a couple of guys ailing, the Tigers recalled the contract lefty Darin Downs on Sept. 10, giving them a safety net. They haven’t had to use him, though, meaning he hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 1, when the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens were still playing.

Evan Reed hasn’t pitched since finishing off the blowout, 20-4 loss in Boston on Sept. 4.

“It’s kind of a weird thing. We’ve got Bondo and Reed sat down there for 11 days,” Leyland said. “This is a good thing. It’s one of those situations where they’ve just got to be ready to pitch if they’re called upon. They’re throwing on a consistent basis.”

Scherzer passes two milestones in Sunday's game, both a testament to his consistency

DETROIT — Sunday was a milestone day for Max Scherzer, even if it had nothing to do with whether or not he got a win in the game.

No, Scherzer did not pass the 20-win threshold, and neither became the sixth Tigers pitcher in 40 years to do so, nor the first in the big leagues this season.

His no-decision in the Tigers’ 3-2 win certain was not indicative of how well he’d pitched, either, as he struck out 12 in seven innings.

But the Tigers’ right-hander did pass a couple of other benchmarks:

• With seven innings pitched, he passed the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his career (sitting at 201 1/3).

He’s been oh-so-close before, finishing within one start’s worth of innings twice (195 2/3 and 195) in his first two seasons in Detroit. That mark was something that meant a great deal to him.

“Yeah, that’s a big milestone for me. I’ve always come up short. I’ve been at 195, got rained out, wasn’t able to get it,” Scherzer said. “To get to 200 innings is an important plateau, because that’s just a sign of a starter pitching deep into a game, and giving you a chance to win. That’s not something that I’ve necessarily accomplished with the 200 innings, but obviously this year, I’ve pitched well, and I’ve pitched deep into games, and that’s a result of that 200 innings.”

• The seven innings also tipped him over the 1,000 career inning plateau in his sixth big-league season, putting him at a total of 1,006. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only pitcher to amass as many or more wins (71) and strikeouts (1,045) as Scherzer in his first 1,000 innings was Pedro Martinez (71 and 1,075).

Those are not likely to be the last milestones Scherzer will pass in this career year of his.

He’s five strikeouts (at 227 now) away from setting a new single-season career high, having already gone over the 200 mark for a second straight season.

He currently leads the big leagues in win percentage (.864) and the American League in WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched, 0.959), both of which are far and away career bests, as is his current ERA of 2.95, which is fifth-best in the AL.

If the season ended today (and neither he nor anybody else wants it to), he’d have new career lows in hits-allowed-per-9-innings (6.4), homers-per-9 (0.8), walks-per-9 (2.2) and a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.63.

But no, this is not where Scherzer, or any other Tigers player for that matter, wants the season to end.

Despite the steady workload, he feels everything is where it should be to finish out the regular season, and presumably pitch on into October.

“I feel great. Everything feels great,” he said. “That (watching the workload) is just something throughout the year. When I have extended my pitch count, I know I need to take care of my arm more. That’s just something, knowing my arm, when to push it, when not to.”

And how is it now?

“I’m pitching well. For me, I’m pitching with four pitches, and I’m pitching consistently,” he said. “I’ve had a few games where I haven’t pitched quite as well, but I think I’ve identified some things. I’m where I need to be. I’m strong in September, and hopefully we can get to the playoffs, and I can pitch strong in October.”

Tigers put ALDS tickets on sale

The Tigers announced last week that tickets for any potential American League Division Series games go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 17, at noon. 

They’ll only be available by phone (866-668-4437) on on the website at

There is a limit of six per customer, per game.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Scherzer can't get No. 20 again, but Tigers pull out win on Avila's 2 HRs

DETROIT -- Fourth time isn’t the charm, either.

Max Scherzer failed at his first three tries to win game No. 20, and earned a no-decision again Sunday, as the Royals tied the game an inning after he left.

Alex Avila, though, single-handedly provided the offense for his batterymate, his second home run of the game -- an eighth-inning solo shot -- providing the game-winning score in a 3-2 win.

The Tigers (86-63) cut the magic number to eliminate the Indians to nine games, and the number to eliminate the Royals (78-71) to six.

The offense, which had been Scherzer’s best friend through the first three quarters of the season, hasn’t done its part lately.

Despite an MLB-best 6.81 runs of support per start, in his previous three tries at No. 20, he’s received two total runs of support.

Sunday, he got early support from a second-inning, two-run homer by Avila -- his 10th of the season -- but little more.

The Tigers had 11 hits through the first five innings, but that was the only one that produced runs, a common problem for them both against the Royals, and this month.

Of their 10 shutouts (double the combined total of 2011 and 2012), three of them came against Kansas City, as did two of the Tigers’ four 1-0 losses. Saturday’s game, behind a gem by Ervin Santana, marked KC’s first 1-0 win in Detroit since 1986.

Nine of the 19 games between the Tigers and Royals were settled by one run.

“Well, it’s unbelievable. I think we went four times 1-0. That’s hard to do. Some of that is, probably overall, our lack of speed. I know there was a game in Pittsburgh we got four hits in one inning, and didn’t score a run. So some of that’s who’s on the bases, and stuff like that. That’s some of it. Some of it is really good pitching, like Santana was last night,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

“There’s been quite a few games where we got quite a few hits, and we didn’t score a whole lot of runs. Sometimes 11 hits and two runs, or something. That’s pretty uncommon.

“That’s why I’ve said all along, we normally score when we hit doubles and hit it over the fence.”

In the two weekend games, the Tigers amassed 20 hits (13 of them Sunday) and got just two runs to show for it.

Any runs helped, though.

But Scherzer helped himself, too.

After posting a 6.19 ERA in those three earlier attempts at No. 20 -- and allowing opponents to hit .297 off him -- Scherzer was sterling on Sunday.

He retired the first nine straight before giving up an Alex Gordon home run to lead off the fourth. After a single by Emilio Bonifacio in the next at-bat, Scherzer would strike out the next five, and retire seven straight before a one-out single by Gordon in the sixth. He’d strike out eight of 10 batters in the three-inning span.

It was the seventh time this season Scherzer struck out double digits, the most since Justin Verlander did it seven times in 2009.

Scherzer’s biggest jam came in his final inning, when he gave up a one-out single to Salvador Perez, followed by a double by the left-handed-hitting Mike Moustakas. With runners at second and third, Scherzer got Lorenzo Cain to fly out to right field, then got Jarrod Dyson to ground out to end the threat, and keep it a one-run game.

Drew Smyly gave up the tying run in the eighth, after allowing an Alcides Escobar leadoff double. Smyly got Gordon to fly out, then struck out Bonifacio, but Escobar stole third on the final pitch of that at-bat. That would prove costly, as it allowed Escobar to scamper home on a wild pitch, tying the game at 2-2.

Avila went for the ball, but collided with the batter, Hosmer, both men tumbling to the ground. Avila would atone for the play in the bottom of the inning.

Suspended Peralta working out in left field; Leyland: 'He's doing OK ... I mean, we know he can catch a fly ball'

The Tigers have not yet said whether or not they’ll bring back the suspended Jhonny Peralta for the last few games of the regular season, nor if they’d consider him for a spot on the postseason roster, should they make it.

But they’re giving him a chance to prove his worth.

Peralta rejoined the team last week to work out, and has taken fly balls in left field — one of the only places where there might be a role he could fill, as a platoon bat with lefty Andy Dirks. The Tigers are set at shortstop now, with trade acquisition Jose Iglesias, as well as at third base, with Miguel Cabrera.

“Well, he goes out with Brookie,” manager Jim Leyland said of Peralta’s sessions with Tom Brookens, who tutors the outfielders.

“We have had him there early about three times, and we have worked him out some in left field.

“And he’s doing OK.”

Peralta has never spent any game time in the outfield as a professional, so it’s hard to gauge how well he’d do in that situation, particularly if he’s just shagging flies in batting practice.

“You never really know. You can’t really simulate game stuff, you know. We might try to get him out there if we hit a little extra early on, and take balls live off the bat. Because that’s the only way you can ... I mean, we know he can catch a fly ball. But getting it off the bat with the ball sinking or sailing, or carrying over your head, or something, you never know how that’s going to work,” Leyland said.

“So that’s what we’ve been doing. ... We’ll see.”

Peralta’s suspension is due to expire Sept. 27, with three games to go in the regular season. Before then, he’ll head to the Tigers’ instructional league, where he can get some game action, according to the plan laid out by general manager Dave Dombrowksi. Instructionals start Monday, Sept. 23.

Until then, he can work out with the team before games, but only before the gates open an hour and a half before first pitch.

Castellanos takes grounders at 3B? Just goofing around ...

DETROIT — When is a picture NOT worth a thousand words?

When the image captured doesn’t represent reality — or at least doesn’t represent anything meaningful.

Saturday, Nick Castellanos slipped over to third base, and took some grounders with the infielders, including Miguel Cabrera, the guy who blocked his path to the majors at that position.

The official Detroit Tigers Twitter account posted a picture of the scene (see below), and set people speculating.

Really, though, it wasn’t much of anything.

“Yeah, if you noticed, I also took grounders at short, too, but I’m not going there,” joked the 21-year-old rookie, and former high school shortstop.

“That’s me having fun with Miguel. That’s it. I got my early work done in the outfield before batting practice. I saw Miguel, by himself, taking grounders at third base, so I just went over to help him out.”

Drafted as a third baseman, Castellanos was moved to the outfield in the minors last season, and spent all of this season as a left fielder. He was called up to the Tigers when the rosters expanded in September, and he’s played no other position but left field. If he makes the postseason roster, it would likely be as an extra outfielder, to platoon with the left-handed Andy Dirks.

It won’t be as a third baseman.

“Oh, he’s just messing around, taking a shift. He was just spending some time at an old spot, fiddling around a little bit,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We have a third baseman.”