DETROIT -- "Anemic." That's how Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus described the recent offense. Not for a lack of hits, though. The Tigers are averaging 8.1 hits per game over their last 10 games with a 5-5 record. However, making good contact with the ball hasn't translated to the scoreboard.
Tuesday night was the latest example, with Sunday not far behind. Miguel Cabrera, who smoked a pitch to deep right center field, was robbed for the fourth time in two nights. Sunday he tattooed three line drives toward left field. All three landed right in the Kansas City Royals' third baseman's glove. Victor Martinez may have essentially torn the cover off the baseball in Tuesday's first inning after an 11-pitch at-bat, but the warning track in deep left center still isn't a home run.
And that's just the way it's gone for the Tigers in the past week. They've managed a 26.7 percent line-drive rate over the past seven days. That's good for No. 2 in MLB and No. 1 in the AL. They just don't have anything to show for it -- yet.
"It just tells me that, at some point this offense will bust out," Ausmus said of the offense's anemic ways. "You always go through stretches where you have trouble scoring runs. You seem to even get your hits, but then you have trouble scoring runs. I'm very confident in this offense in the long term."
After a red-hot start to the season where everything seemed to fall the right way, suddenly the offense can't get timely hits. With runners in scoring position the past seven games, the Tigers hit .217 (15-for-69). Only two losses can be attributed to poor pitching. Even in one of those the team came within one before the bullpen blew it, something that has actually been a rarity for the Tigers.
Cabrera can't buy a hit. Victor Martinez is still strengthening his at-bats from the left side. J.D. Martinez only just now has begun to get back into the swing of things over the weekend, after an 0-for-25 slump that resulted in him being dropped to the No. 6 spot in the lineup. That's one-third of the lineup that has been relatively dry for some time.
What's wrong with J.D. Martinez?
And then you have Nick Castellanos, who has been in his own hitting slump. Dating back to his last multi-hit day, April 29, Castellanos is batting just .195 since then. He's struggling, but he's perhaps the only player in the lineup who has not been able to get solid contact against pitches in the last 10 games.
On the upside, the Tigers' four- and five-hole hitters have shown signs of breaking out. J.D. Martinez's bat looks as if it has turned a corner, ending what was a brutal dry spell. Victor Martinez is heating up, slowly but surely. While Cabrera's hits aren't falling in, but he's making plenty of contact, and as the weather heats up, so does Cabrera.
"Miggy's ball is a home run in any other ballpark, quite frankly, but we took some good swings," Ausmus said. "It was good to see J.D. (Martinez) take a few good swings again. (Yoenis) Cespedes hit a few balls hard, (Anthony) Gose hit a few balls hard, even got that hit to leadoff the game for us.
"So, yeah, there were some good swings, and when you have a good offensive team, usually when you're not scoring runs or you're not getting hits, you're still hitting the balls hard. Maybe not as many, but they're just going in the wrong direction."
For now the Tigers are going to need to rely heavily on their starting rotation and hope the bullpen can continue what has been a solid overall trend. No matter how hard they hit the ball, though, until balls start dropping in for hits the Tigers' slump will continue. Tuesday night the walk-off win courtesy of Gose and Ian Kinsler gave the team a sense of relief, especially coming on the heels of an identical extra-inning game that didn't end as well.
"It's just nice to win a game, really," Kinsler said. "Get back on track. I think everyone felt like we should've won Sunday. Coming after a day off to get a win, it's a good feeling. ... Everyone's swinging the bat well, right now we're just not having anything to show for it. Hopefully we can start clicking in that aspect."