The one given for the Detroit Tigers this season was supposed to be offense. The defense was going to be questionable and there was some uncertainty over the back end of the rotation, but no one doubted that the Tigers would hit.
Right now, they aren’t hitting.
In Detroit’s past 10 games, the offense has produced only 30 runs and a .210 batting average – a rate that has let the pitching-rich White Sox stay within a half-game of first place. Cleveland is another half-game behind in third.
“We’re not hitting right now,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We’re not swinging the bats well at all. We’re going to hit. Look at the track records of these players. But we’re not hitting now.”
The problem isn’t limited to one player, either. Brandon Inge’s struggles at the plate — he’s hitting .056 — have drawn the most attention from the fans, as shown by the boos that rained down Sunday when he came out to pinch-hit, but it isn’t as though Leyland has great options behind him at second base. Ryan Raburn is off to his customary terrible start, batting .045 in the past 10 games, and Ramon Santiago is a better fit as a part-time player.
Leyland doesn’t think the boos are having an effect on Inge, even as they get louder and louder.
“That’s something we all have to deal with in this game,” he said. “I don’t think the fans in this town boo the person as much as they boo the results, and that’s their right. You just have to tune it out and do your job.”
The second basemen have plenty of company, though. After a great start, Austin Jackson is slipping back into his old habits. In the past 10 games, he is hitting only .179 and has 11 strikeouts. The good news, though, is that his new stance is still letting him hit the ball hard. He has two doubles and two homers in the 10 games.
Alex Avila is struggling more than most, at .130, in that same 10-game stretch. Brennan Boesch is in a .205 slump. Jhonny Peralta is hitting .233. Miguel Cabrera is at .244 with only one extra-base hit. Prince Fielder has a decent .289 batting average in the 10 games, but he hasn’t homered since the second game of the year.
Seven of the 10 games were against the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers — two teams with strong pitching staffs — but the offensen didn’t even get going against the hapless Kansas City Royals. As Leyland said, it isn’t going to be a long-term problem, but the offense needs to kick into gear this week against the Seattle Mariners, considering the Tigers have to travel to Yankee Stadium over the weekend.
LAST WEEK April 16: Tigers 3, ROYALS 2. Justin Verlander threw a 131-pitch complete game, freezing Alex Gordon with a 100-mph fastball with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to end it.
April 17: Tigers 3, ROYALS 1. Drew Smyly allowed one unearned run in six innings, and the Tigers broke open a tie game on back-to-back, eighth-inning RBI singles by Cabrera and Fielder.
April 18: Tigers 4, ROYALS 3. Cabera and Fielder keyed another late-inning rally. Fielder drove in Cabrera with a seventh-inning single to put the Tigers ahead.
April 19: RANGERS 10, Tigers 3. Detroit’s four-game winning streak got wrecked by the red-hot Rangers. Japanese star Yu Darvish baffled the Tigers’ hitters, and Texas banged out 19 hits.
April 20: Game postponed. On Tiger Stadium’s 100 birthday, the Tigers and Rangers were rained out before a pitch was thrown. April 21 (Game 1): RANGERS 10, Tigers 4. Rick Porcello had the worst start of his career, allowing nine runs without getting an out in the second inning. Duane Below was the only bright spot; he threw six shutout innings of relief.
April 21 (Game 2): TIGERS 3, Rangers 2. Verlander didn’t have his best stuff, but he held the Rangers to one unearned run in six innings. Santiago’s two-run single was enough to win.
April 22: Rangers 3, TIGERS 2, 11 innings. The Rangers scored the winning run on a blown call — even the umps acknowledge after the game — when a suicide squeeze should have been ruled foul. Still, the Tigers offense managed only one baserunner in the final five innings.
Verlander: He probably will be a fixture in this part of the column, but he went 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 15 innings. People will remember the 131-pitch complete game in KC, but grinding out six innings against Texas without his best fastball was just as impressive.
Smyly: In the second and third starts of his career, Smyly pitched 12 innings and allowed one earned run. He still hasn’t gotten a win, but his 1.13 ERA had turned the fifth-starter spot from a question mark into a strength.
Porcello: He’s going to remember the first game of the doubleheader Saturday for a while. Even against baseball’s best offense, nine runs and 10 hits while getting only three outs is a disaster of epic proportions.
Daniel Schlereth and his 10.29 ERA were banished to Toledo between games Saturday. He was replaced by Thad Weber, who has been in the Tigers system since 2008. Weber pitched well in two starts for the Mud Hens but was also in the right place at the right time. Toledo was at home on Saturday, and he was scheduled to start at a time when the Tigers needed long relief. He made his major-league debut in the 11th inning Sunday and took the loss.
Monday, April 23: No game.
Tuesday, April 24: Mariners at TIGERS, 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday, April 25: Mariners at TIGERS, 7:05 p.m.