Tigers Notes: Tigers continue to hit, just not in right situations

Torii Hunter has struggled more than anyone lately, hitting .188 with two walks against 17 strikeouts.

David Banks

DETROIT — Brad Ausmus has been saying it for almost a month now, and the numbers back him up.

The Tigers haven’t stopped hitting during their 7-17 slump. They just aren’t hitting in the right situations.

During Detroit’s 27-12 start, the offense was averaging 0.9 homers a game and 2.6 walks. In the four weeks since the infamous Zubaz-colored flight delay in Boston, they’ve picked up those numbers — they’ve gotten 1.2 homers and 2.8 walks a game.

They just haven’t been able to put the pieces together, with the average runs scored dropping fom 4.8 to 3.6.

We’re just not getting the opportunities, especially when we have been playing from well behind.

Brad Ausmus

"If you look at the numbers, we’re still getting hits," Ausmus said. "But we’re getting solo homers instead of three-run homers, and we’re getting doubles with no one on base instead of with two guys on."

A big problem comes from the speedsters that are supposed to be setting the table for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Rajai Davis, who had 14 steals in the early surge, only has four during the slump, while Ian Kinsler is only hitting .220 with a .250 on-base percentage.

Austin Jackson isn’t much better, batting .225 with almost a strikeout per game, and Torii Hunter has struggled more than anyone, hitting .188 with two walks against 17 strikeouts.

Without those players on the bases, Detroit’s run-and-gun offensive style has ground to a halt. They were stealing nearly a base a game during the good days, and have seen that drop to 0.3.

"It is a lot tougher to steal bases when your basestealers aren’t getting on," Ausmus agreed. "We’re just not getting the opportunities, especially when we have been playing from well behind."

There’s nothing wrong with Cabrera (.337) and Martinez (.311), who are still drawing and hitting with power, but as Ausmus pointed out, it is hard for them to hit three-run homers with no one on base.

Ausmus: Nathan not plagued by old age

COKE IS BACK: Ausmus confirmed that Phil Coke has regained his place as a key member of the bullpen. The lefty has a 1.80 ERA in June, striking out five batters in five innings without walking a batter.

Friday night, Ausmus brought in Coke with the bases loaded to get the final out of Joe Nathan’s ugly ninth inning, and he promptly struck out Dany Santana to keep the Tigers within 2-0. That, though, wasn’t the out that first convinced Ausmus that Coke was ready again.

"When Boston was here, we brought him in to face Big Papi," he said with a smile. "There’s no bigger situation that that, and he got him."

LINEUP CHANGES: J.D. Martinez is starting for the second straight game, this time in left field. He gave Hunter a day off in the series opener against Minnesota, and is doing the same for Davis on Saturday.

Martinez has done what the Tigers wanted with the bat — his .260 average isn’t going to win any prizes, but his .468 slugging percentage is the more important number. He has also been impressive with the glove. Advanced defense metrics have him as a much better right fielder than Hunter, who has been badly slowed by age, although he’s behind both Kelly and Davis in left.

"We brought him up here because he gave us someone off the bench who can run into one and give you some quick offense," Ausmus said. "But he’s done a nice job with the glove. That’s something we weren’t counting on."

Martinez, though, might have some competition if Ausmus decides someone needs to take over for Hunter in the late innings. It turns out that, like Danny Worth and his knuckleball, Ausmus might have another secret weapon in the back of his mind.

"I’ll tell you who can play the outfield — Ian Krol," Ausmus said of his other lefty reliever. "If you watch during batting practice, he’s one of our best outfielders. If we ever get to the point where I had to use a pitcher in the field, that’s what we would do."

TELEVISON: The Tigers and Twins are on FOX Sports 1 Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 4:08 pm.