With the Detroit Tigers still showing faint signs of life in the AL wild-card race, a healthy and productive Miguel Cabrera would certainly boost their chances.
Cabrera looks to build off his first strong performance since returning from the disabled list in Sunday’s series finale against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The two-time MVP went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in Friday’s 5-1 loss, his first game since July 3 due to a strained calf. He looked more like himself while serving as designated hitter Saturday, going 2 for 4 with a walk in a 4-2, 11-inning victory.
Victor Martinez, making his first start of the season at first base, put the Tigers ahead with a go-ahead double during Detroit’s three-run 11th.
"I kind of held back out of an abundance of caution," Ausmus said of not using Martinez as DH for the first time this season after he underwent knee surgery in the offseason. "I have come around and reluctantly let him play first because it’s a way to get Miggy off his feet and allow him a chance to get his timing back."
The Tigers (56-60) gained a game on the Los Angeles Angels but are still four behind the pace for the league’s second wild-card spot. They’re 41-38 when Cabrera plays.
Preston Tucker’s ninth-inning homer forced extras for Houston, which had won 15 of 17 at home prior to Saturday’s loss. Manager A.J. Hinch was ejected for the second time this season in the fifth inning after a Detroit replay challenge prompted an overturned call and awarded the Tigers their first run.
Carlos Gomez continued to struggle, going 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. He’s batting .091 in his last nine contests and owns a .510 OPS for the Astros (63-54) compared to a .751 mark in 74 games for Milwaukee.
This matchup features two pitchers who were moved at last month’s trade deadline.
Mike Fiers (0-0, 5.40 ERA) impressed in his first start for Houston, limiting Oakland to one run over 6 2-3 innings last Sunday in what was eventually a 5-4 loss. The lone run came on Danny Valencia’s homer, a marked improvement over his Astros debut when he surrendered six runs over five innings of relief in a 12-9 loss at Texas on Aug. 3.
"A solo home run? I can live with that. We were right there," he said. "When I came out, I felt like I did my job."
Fiers, who is making his Minute Maid Park debut, gave up two runs over 5 2-3 innings against Detroit on May 18 in Milwaukee’s 3-2 win.
Matt Boyd (1-3, 7.11) hasn’t been as bad as his ERA indicates, which is still swollen thanks to a July 2 disaster against Boston in which he gave up seven runs without recording an out while still with Toronto.
He owns a 3.79 ERA over his three other outings and allowed three runs – all in the first inning – over 5 1-3 in Monday’s 4-0 loss at Kansas City.
"He came right back after that first inning, made the pitches to get out of that and limited the damage to three runs," catcher Alex Avila told MLB’s official website. "He pitched his butt off the rest of the way."
The Astros’ .238 batting average against left-handers is one of the majors’ worst, though their 45 homers are the most. They’re hitting .138 against southpaws since Aug. 3.