Jim Leyland: Tigers’ swoon nothing to scream about

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Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — Your team is 5-17 since the All-Star break. Against the Los Angeles Angels starter, Jered Weaver, your lineup gets four hits, three of them singles, during yet another evening when the Tigers had a hostile relationship with the scoreboard.

Someone asked manager Jim Leyland if there was any merit to holding team meetings, or perhaps unleashing a verbal flame-thrower against his tumbling team.

“A lot of team meetings are held for eyewash for the fans,” Leyland said in the quiet of his manager’s office Friday, after the Tigers had lost to the Los Angeles Angels, 4-2.

“It’s no fun when you’re losing, but you don’t yell and scream at a bunch of your players.

“I can turn over a spread, tip over a table, yell and scream, but I don’t think that’s gonna help (rookie players).”

Leyland said his famous lashing of the Tigers in April 2006, which seemed to ignite a team that six months later played in a World Series, was “a totally different team and time.”

But he believes a team loaded with rookies can’t be horse-whipped into playing, or trying, harder than his current squad.

“Fans are upset when we lose, and they have a right to be,” Leyland said. “But they’re furious when you’re not giving a great effort. And we are giving a great effort. We’re just not hitting much. No extra-base hits with men on.”

Star stuff

Defensively, at least, the Tigers were sterling Friday.

In the second inning, Austin Jackson made a stunning, over the shoulder catch of Bobby Abreu ‘s blast to deep center field.

Brennan Boesch , who earlier hit a long home run, ran and ran and made a diving, sliding grab of Howie Kendrick ‘s foul fly along the right-field line in the sixth.

Brandon Inge ‘s 0-for-4 night was minimally redeemed in the ninth when he made a brilliant, falling-away snare of Kendrick’s hot shot, turned and whipped a gorgeous throw to Miguel Cabrera at first.

Ryan Raburn finished off the defensive show with a full-tilt reach and grab of Peter Bourjos ‘ drive to deep left-center to end the ninth.

“We played a pretty good game,” Leyland said. “We just didn’t hit.”

Boesch’s back?

Boesch was in an 8-for-80 skid before he ripped a Weaver change-up deep into an upper bank of seats inside the right-field foul line, 407 feet, in the third inning.

“I thought he swung the bat very well,” Leyland said after Boesch had also ripped a single to right-center. “He has actually hit a few balls very well lately.”

Leyland said, even during Boesch’s six-week slump, that he believed the 25-year-old outfielder would be an excellent hitter — in time.

He said the same Friday.

“I think he’s got a bright future,” Leyland said. “I think he’s got a chance to be a really productive major-league hitter.”

Sticking with it

Tigers starter Justin Verlander ‘s two strikeouts were the fewest since he struck out two White Sox on Sept. 14, 2008.

Verlander is more than happy with his new slider.

“It’s gotten me a lot of outs,” said Verlander, who admits the slider he began throwing a year ago was “horrible” but has since become a dependable fourth pitch.

Angels at Tigers

First pitch: 7:05 tonight, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/WXYT 97.1, 1270

Tonight’s probables

Scott Kazmir, Angels (7-9, 6.92): Left-hander is expected to come off DL (shoulder) to pitch today.

Jeremy Bonderman, Tigers (6-6, 4.84): His fastball isn’t the mid-90s heater it once was, but he’s been mixing things up more.

Aug. 7, 2010