The Detroit Tigers had another rough week with regards to plating runners. Every loss the team sustained, both in Pittsburgh and at home, was at least due in part to a lack of offensive fire power.
Though manager Brad Ausmus was careful about doling out blame to one area or more specifically, one player on Sunday, it's clear from the outside what's been driving the offensive power outage: a lack of consistent hitting from outfielders, specifically newcomer Ezequiel Carrera.
It is certainly unfair to blame everything on Carerra, but this past week, he had a multitude of bad games. Wednesday, he collected one hit in five at bats and scored two runs, but since, he's provided less than stellar results. Saturday, Carerra frustrated with five fly outs. Sunday wasn't much better, with three strikeouts and a lazy fly ball tarnishing his resume.
"We need to swing the bats better, period," Ausmus said after Sunday's loss. The decree wasn't directed at Carerra or any inconsistent outfielder, but in a few big spots with runners on base, the center fielder and his mates have been the ones coming up small in a big way.
In the wake of surrendering Austin Jackson for David Price, it was obvious that Detroit's already sputtering offense would probably break down without Jackson to help pitch in, but it wasn't obvious just how dire things would become. J.D. Martinez is streaky, as are Torii Hunter and Rajai Davis. Add to that the sputtering Carerra who's a minor league talent, though, and it's easy to see why offense is becoming hard to come by. Every outfield position is feast or famine, with Carerra being closer to famine.
With this week's news that Detroit is expected to be a major player for Rusney Castillo, Dave Dombrowski and company must feel exceptional about their chances of landing the next hot Cuban prospect. Otherwise, giving up Jackson for Price at mid-season is looking like a rough move. The stats continue to say Detroit's a good offensive team, but sacrificing a major catalyst for pitching is tough, no matter how much quality starts matter in the playoffs or how wonderfully elite the starter may be.
Thanks to this, Castillo is likely heavily in play now, and quietly, Detroit might actually be leading the race to land him. Why else would Dombrowski temporarily try out Carerra, a career minor league band-aid that clearly probably wouldn't work? Why else would he be willing to deal Jackson? There has to be a bigger plan in place for a surprising addition.
If there's not, get ready for more uneven weeks on the horizon. Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler can't carry a team on their back offensively, and upticks from Nick Castellanos and Alex Avila are probably temporary, as well.
Pitching may always win in the playoffs, but a consistent offense is always needed to get a team there. For the reason Detroit's struggling in that particular department, look no further than the outfielders.
Player Of The Week: David Price. A bright spot for Detroit this last week was Price, and especially his home start against Seattle on Saturday night. Price pitched like the elite pitcher many figured Detroit was getting in outdoing Felix Hernandez. Price has fit in seamlessly, and got his first win to the delight of the home crowd in dominating fashion. Give him credit for stepping up in a big start.
Play Of The Week: Nick Castellanos's home run helps beat Seattle. Not only did Price pitch well, but he finally received some offensive help from his teammates. After the Mariners tied the game, Castellanos came up and smacked a loud home run to left field off Hernandez, immediately giving Detroit a 2-1 lead back. The sudden momentum shift allowed the Tigers to win, and they never looked back from the lead. The rookie is starting to come into his own, and he proved it in a big way with a clutch hit against a great pitcher.
The Challenge Ahead: Cooling a hot team. Detroit heads out on the road, which Ausmus admitted Sunday hopes plays a role in a turnaround considering the Tigers have been better away from home. The problem is, the first team Detroit faces are the Tampa Bay Rays, who are back at .500 and scorching hot after dealing their ace. Price will make his return to Tampa and Max Scherzer will pitch, meaning the pressure will once again be on Detroit bats to get the job done on the road and back their starters. That hasn't happened enough lately.
Question For This Week: Which bullpen will show up? At times, Detroit's bullpen looks good. At times, they look incapable of being handed a double digit lead. On the road, can the Tigers depend on their bullpen to shut things down if they have a late lead? In close games Detroit led this week, the bullpen was much better getting outs, but still had their rough times on the road in Toronto. This time, everyone will have to be better, including newcomer Jim Johnson.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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Tags: Austin Jackson, Baseball, Dave Dombrowski, David Price, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Ezequiel Carrera, J.D. Martinez, MLB, Rusney Castillo, Torii Hunter