Detroit Tigers Win Third Straight Game Despite Shuffled Lineup
They won their third consecutive game Tuesday night – a 19-9 clobbering over the Seattle Mariners – with yet another shuffled lineup. The injuries of J.D. Martinez, Jose Iglesias, Miguel Cabrera, and JaCoby Jones so far this season have forced manager Brad Ausmus to rearrange his starting nine, and play some of his players in unfamiliar positions.
But it doesn’t seem to be slowing them down.
The Tigers could be easily stumbling out of the gate, and even more so with the horrendous bullpen. But instead of rolling over, it is the bottom of the order and a few new faces that have provided the spark that currently has them atop the American League Central.
Since Martinez suffered an ankle injury in Spring Training, the search for an interim right fielder began. The team broke camp with Justin Upton in left field, Jones patrolling center, and a makeshift platoon of Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Collins in right.
Detroit got a peek of what was to come from their utility players in just the third game of the season; the home opener against the Boston Red Sox. The pinch hitter Mahtook drove Robby Scott‘s 74 mph curveball down the left field line, which tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Tigers would end up winning the game, 6-5.
Since that comeback win over the Sox, Detroit would go on to lose its starting shortstop, rookie center fielder, and the best hitter on the planet in Cabrera.
Cue the heroics of the supporting cast.
Despite Injuries and a Faulty Bullpen, the Tigers Sit Atop the AL Central with an 11-8 Record
John Hicks and Jim Adduci, both regulars for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, are rising to the occasion when their numbers have been called. The sample size is small – just two games – but the results bring optimism while the starters remain on the disabled list. On Sunday in Minnesota, Hicks finished 3-5 with five runs driven in and his first career big league homer. Adduci tallied three hits of his own, and two RBI.
The 31-year-old Adduci found himself in the lineup again Tuesday, and fell a homer shy of the cycle. He’s now hitting .600 (6-10) in his first two games with the Tigers. It’s likely to believe that the team is already working on retiring his number and honoring him with a statue next to the rest of the Tiger greats beyond the left field seats at Comerica Park.
Andrew Romine, the do-it-all utility man, now finds himself as an everyday player, bouncing around from center field to shortstop. He added three hits of his own Tuesday night, which bumped his average to .250. On April 12, the Romine propelled the Tigers to a 5-3 win over the Twins with the first grand slam of his career.
The tandem behind the plate, James McCann and Alex Avila, have played a big role as to why the Tigers are three games over .500 after the first 19 games of the season. McCann leads the team with five long balls, while Avila has four of his own. Avila’s also slashing a ridiculous .407/.500/1.426 over 11 games.
All of this is going on without much production from designated hitter Victor Martinez, who’s practically been nonexistent thus far. The 38-year old is hitting .222 and has yet to hit a home run.
The Achilles heel also known as the bullpen has also been a huge letdown, which is another reason the Tigers should be pleased with their start. Closer Francisco Rodriguez has been shaky, the walks are at an absurd rate, and they shamefully own the worst ERA in all of baseball.
When you take a step back and realize what all this team has endured through the first three weeks a play — another God-awful bullpen and injuries to four starters– it’s almost amazing to see them in first place in their division.
It’s scary, even. If this patched up lineup made up of several Mud Hens are able to hold it down until these starters return within the next two weeks, the Tigers could prove to be a threat out of the Central.
While it may not be ideal, Detroit is in a pretty good position right now. It could be much worse, but instead it looks like it’ll get a whole lot better fairly soon.