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Ian Kinsler’s Home Run Breaks Floodgates for Detroit Tigers in 7-5 Victory Over Cleveland Indians

April 17th, 2014 at 5:52 PM
By Max DeMara

With warmer temperatures returning to Michigan, there was a feeling that Thursday afternoon's game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians may feature a few long-balls. It was true. Ian Kinsler's home run ended up speaking the loudest in a 7-5 Tigers win. 

'Ian Kinsler' photo (c) 2009, Keith Allison - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Justin Verlander started things like Anibal Sanchez did the night before, walking the first batter of the game, but was bailed out by a sparkling play by Alex Gonzalez at shortstop. Verlander would tiptoe around damage until the fourth, when his own error cost him. David Murphy's single scored Asdrubal Cabrera, who had reached thanks to Verlander's costly throwing mistake.

Detroit's offense was slumbering early against Danny Salazar, who motored through the first three innings without trouble. Finally, Austin Jackson added a sacrifice fly to tie the game in the fourth after a pair of singles by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Verlander couldn't keep things square for long. Following a single, an error by Nick Castellanos and a walk, Michael Brantley ripped a single that gave Cleveland a 3-1 lead the very next inning.

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With Nowhere to Hide Him in the Order, Patience is a Virtue for Detroit Tigers and Alex Avila

April 17th, 2014 at 11:23 AM
By Max DeMara

Being a catcher is the most thankless job around a baseball diamond. Not only is the back stop in charge of his pitching staff, additionally, he's expected to be a major contributor in the order. When that element falls out of whack, a lineup can catch a major cold.

'Alex Avila' photo (c) 2011, Keith Allison - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

For Alex Avila, that pressure is magnified more in 2014. After Brayan Pena departed to Cincinnati, Bryan Holaday was left as Avila's lone backup. Holaday hasn't had enough time to cut his teeth at the major league level, meaning the spotlight is cast on Avila and Avila alone.

Not only must Avila improve throwing runners out and playing defense, Detroit is counting on him to improve upon last season's rough .227 average at the plate. So far, not so good. Despite two hits on Wednesday night, the catcher is only hitting a paltry .195 with no home runs, no RBI's and a noticeable lack of clutch hitting. He's also whiffed far too many times (15).

Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus stated his hope that Avila's hits against Cleveland, particularly the ninth inning triple, can light a fire under his catcher. Without his output, Ausmus knows the order will lack balance. Considering the hole at shortstop with inconsistent Alex Gonzalez and light-hitting Andrew Romine along with rookie Nick Castellanos at third base, there's not much additional room for error.

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Sloppy First Two Innings from Anibal Sanchez Costs Detroit Tigers in Defeat to Cleveland Indians

April 16th, 2014 at 11:03 PM
By Max DeMara

The Detroit Tigers have lost some bizarre games, but perhaps none more strange this season than their 3-2 defeat against the Cleveland Indians which featured a maddening first two innings which proved to be Detroit's downfall.

'IMG_1129' photo (c) 2013, Jeff Dunn - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Anibal Sanchez, who had enjoyed a sparkling 4-1 career record against the Indians, started slowly, walking the first three batters of the game. While only one run came in to score, the pitcher's erratic tone had been set. Detroit quickly tied the game after a double by Ian Kinsler and a groundout by Miguel Cabrera, but the square score wouldn't last for long.

The next inning, Cabrera made a critical error, bobbling a ball at first base. After a walk to Daniel Murphy, Yan Gomes hammered a triple to right center field, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead. Sanchez, astonishingly, settled down after that, rebounding to finish his night with eight strikeouts.

Detroit's offense continued to scuffle. Alex Avila stifled a mini-rally in the fourth inning after solid at-bats from Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson. Though the bullpen, led by Evan Reed, Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain did their jobs, the Tigers weren't able to cut into the lead at all through the middle innings.

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Rejuvenated, Motivated Ian Kinsler Making Major Impact Atop Detroit Tigers’ New Batting Order

April 15th, 2014 at 3:40 PM
By Max DeMara

It's time for a blind statistics test. Player A has a .302 batting average, one home run, four RBI's and two stolen bases. Player B, meanwhile, is hitting .176 with no home runs, three RBI's and a miserable .263 slugging percentage.

'STTX13Kinsler_038.jpg' photo (c) 2013, Mike LaChance - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Player A and B, of course, are Ian Kinsler and Prince Fielder respectively, who were swapped for each other last November in a highly-publicized trade, and as a result, will be tied at the hip for the rest of their careers. At the time, many wondered if Kinsler might be on the downswing, or if the Tigers would at least regret dealing Fielder for him right off the bat in 2014.

So far, the answer is a resounding no. Kinsler has changed the game early on in Detroit. His speed at the top of the order has helped manufacture runs, while his contact hitting has helped set the table for the middle of the order. He's also been able to contribute some clutch hits to the cause.

Fielder has struggled out of the gate in Texas, proving he could miss hitting in the Tigers' lineup more than the team has missed him hitting in theirs. The lack in power and average is a stunning carryover from last postseason, which saw Fielder take a step back in both areas in addition to awareness on the bases.

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Detroit Tigers’ Week at a Glance: Return to Tough American League Battles Looms at Home

April 14th, 2014 at 1:00 PM
By Max DeMara

After returning from the west coast and dates with two National League foes, the Detroit Tigers will once again ramp up their American League competition.

'Mike Trout' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Tuesday through Friday, the Tigers will take on the Cleveland Indians for three games, then tangle with the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend before starting the next week with a four game set against the Chicago White Sox. All three teams are between .5 and 2 games of first place early in the season within their divisions, making the competitions very intriguing.

It's the type of early season stretch that could help the Tigers distance themselves from some of the Central Division competition early in 2014, or come back to the pack and allow the competition to step up.

Some big-name stars and hot teams are set to visit within the next 10 game homestand. Here's a look at what to watch for when baseball kicks off back in Detroit after the first brief road trip of the year.

April 15-17 vs. Cleveland Indians

2013 Record Against Detroit: 4-15

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