While the Detroit Tigers already have baseball’s most feared slugger in Miguel Cabrera, they also have one of the hottest hitters in the game at the moment.
Ian Kinsler looks to continue his torrid stretch Sunday when the Tigers close a three-game series against the Houston Astros seeking their ninth win in 10 games.
After their seven-game winning streak ended Friday with a 4-3 loss in 11 innings, the Tigers (44-33) bounced right back in Saturday’s 4-3 victory – and it’s Kinsler who deserves much of the credit.
The second baseman hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth – his 10th of the season – to put Detroit ahead. He also doubled for his seventh straight multihit game and 33rd this year, which trails only Houston’s Jose Altuve (34).
Kinsler is batting .433 with four home runs and 14 RBIs over his last 14 games and is 17 for 36 during an eight-game hitting streak. His .479 slugging percentage is the highest of his career and his 25 doubles trail only Cabrera’s 28 in the AL.
"I’ve been getting some hits to fall in. That always helps," he said. "And when you’ve got Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hitting behind you, that always helps, too."
Given Kinsler’s bat and Drew Smyly’s recent performances, Detroit has to like its chances Sunday.
Smyly (4-6, 4.19 ERA) could use better offensive backing, though. He’s 2-2 in his last four starts despite a 1.44 ERA and has received just one run of support over 13 innings in the two losses. The left-hander gave up three runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 6-2 home loss to the Astros (35-47) on May 8.
Houston’s starters have given up only three earned runs over 20 innings in the last three games and own a 3.19 ERA over their last 12, but the Astros are averaging just 2.8 runs while dropping nine of those games. They are hitting .195 with runners in scoring position during that stretch with just four extra-base hits.
George Springer is 1 for 13 with seven strikeouts in those situations during that span, while Jason Castro is hitting .179 overall in his last 12 games.
Altuve continues to be immune to the rest of the lineup’s struggles, going 2 for 4 Saturday and batting .489 over his last 12. He’s also stolen eight bases over his last five games, including two in three straight.
Scott Feldman (3-5, 4.00 ERA) has certainly grown accustomed to a lack of timely hitting from his Houston teammates, who are 5 for 30 with runners in scoring position over his last four starts.
Feldman is 0-3 in his last five outings, though two of the last three have been quality starts. He gave up three runs over six innings in a 3-2 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday, surrendering a home run to each of the Upton brothers.
The last time he went without a win in six straight outings was an 11-start stretch from Aug. 10, 2012-April 21, 2013.