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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 Jason Maxfield 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 Jason Maxfield 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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Justin Verlander Dominates On the Mound, at the Plate in Victory Over San Diego Padres

April 13th, 2014 at 11:17 AM
By Jason Maxfield DeMara

Justin Verlander has long been known as a savant of pitching, but Saturday night, he managed to help himself with hitting, stroking two singles and scoring a run in the midst of the Detroit Tigers' 6-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

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

Unlike Friday where pressure on the Padres never materialized, the Tigers got off to a faster start with the bats, as Rajai Davis scored on a double by Ian Kinsler. San Diego wasted no time tying the game in the bottom of the inning on a single by Jedd Gyorko, setting up a two inning pitchers duel between Ian Kennedy and Verlander.

In the third inning, Miguel Cabrera, who's struggled to a slow start early in the year, finally woke up at the dish and gave the Tigers a lead doubling home Kinsler. After Verlander slapped a single to the delight of his teammates in the fourth, Torii Hunter scored him and Rajai Davis for Detroit's commanding 4-1 lead.

That was more than enough support for Verlander the pitcher, who cruised through seven innings with eight strikeouts and eight hits. Verlander would only surrender one more run in the fourth, when Yasmani Grandal plated Chase Headley to cut Detroit's lead in half.

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Detroit Tigers’ Inconsistent Offense Against Good Pitching Proving to Be Major Early-Season Concern

April 12th, 2014 at 8:34 AM
By Jason Maxfield DeMara

It's far too early to draw any strong conclusions about the 2014 season, but one fact is proving more true by the day: the Detroit Tigers' offense is wildly inconsistent, especially against starting pitchers with quality stuff.

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

Friday night into Saturday morning, the Tiger bats proved to be their undoing again in a tough 6-0 loss to the San Diego Padres. Rick Porcello didn't pitch well, but considering he settled down after the first inning and didn't give up more runs until the sixth, Detroit had their chance to get back into the game time-wise.  They could only manage one hit the entire game.

Over the span of two games, the Tigers will put up 17 runs, then over the next four, disappear totally at times while only putting up 16 total. The team ranks 13th in batting average (.253), 24th in runs scored (33) and 21st in on base percentage (.304). Those aren't totals that set the world on fire.

Detroit has run into a few tough pitchers along the way such as Chris Tillman, Andrew Cashner and Dan Haren, but that's no excuse for only nine total hits and two runs against those particular starters. The Tigers have hit quality pitching before, but have either lacked the mindset or discipline to do so early this season.

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Joe Nathan Faces not Only a Dead Arm, but Now, a Major Crisis in Confidence as a Result

April 10th, 2014 at 11:04 AM
By Jason Maxfield DeMara

A grimace. A shake of the head in disbelief. A look skyward.

'IMG_1369 Joe Nathan' photo (c) 2014, Roger DeWitt - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

All of those body language elements are not the signs of a mentally sound closer, and early Thursday morning, all were on display courtesy of Joe Nathan, who blew his second save of the season in extremely rough fashion.

Before the game, Nathan admitted he had a problem physically, saying he felt he had a dead arm. As he struggled his way through a messy ninth inning Thursday morning at Chavez Ravine, however, it appeared clear that Nathan's problem is becoming as much mental as it is physical.

Despite whatever feelings he may have inside, Nathan still wasn't ready to say he was worried about the physical nature his arm issue presents. Asked what effect the dead arm might have, Nathan bristled in the midst of his Sirius XM radio interview on Wednesday, then later downplayed the nature of his issue.

"It's not an injury," Nathan said. "It's something every pitcher goes through every year. It's not even newsworthy, so you guys shouldn't even waste your time writing about dead arm, because it's basically like knowing there's second base on the field."

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