Through eight games and change against the Cleveland Indians this season, the Detroit Tigers had yet to even hold a lead, much less win a game. That all changed when their power-hitting right fielder stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third. J.D. Martinez? Nope. Steven Moya? Nuh-uh. Utility man Mike Aviles was the one to go deep, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead at the time.
While the end result wasn’t all that surprising given how things have gone against the Tribe this season, Aviles’ first homer of the year was still a bit of a shocker for some fans.
Old friend @Themikeaviles homers in the third for a 1-0 Tigers lead -- Detroit's first lead against us this season.— #WWWWWWWWWindians (@Indians) June 26, 2016
Absolutely incredible that this is the first lead the Tigers have had on the Tribe this year. And it took Mike Aviles to do it.— Effing Koo (@EffingKoo) June 26, 2016
Mike Aviles homered. I mean, I prayed this morning in church but didn't expect THAT— NCDee (@deenazee) June 26, 2016
Mike Aviles did WHAT?— Danielle (@tigersdani) June 26, 2016
Repent all ye sinners. Mike Aviles has homered. The end is nigh.— Brandon Day (@Fiskadoro74) June 26, 2016
Watch, on Wednesday Mike Aviles will be batting clean-up— #StamkosSweepstakes (@FIPmyWHIP) June 26, 2016
MIKE AVILES DID A THING. pic.twitter.com/kiWwryBFrR— Emily Waldon (@wefoundwaldo2) June 26, 2016
Even after Sunday’s big fly, Aviles is still hitting .222/.255/.278 on the season. He has been a little better lately, but is still producing at a below-replacement level rate on both sides of the ball. He’s also a great guy, by all accounts, so it’s important to separate player and person when offering criticism of his on-field performance.
However, the Tigers’ issues run deeper than that. Justin Verlander was the problem on Sunday, allowing four home runs — and eight runs in total — in the 9-3 loss. The rest of the pitching staff wasn’t much better; Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann worked a combined 8 2/3 innings on Friday and Saturday. Along with Verlander’s 4 2/3 frames, the Tigers’ bullpen actually logged more innings than the starters did over the weekend.
The offense was a problem as well, totaling eight runs in the three-game set. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have all but disappeared against the Tribe this season, Martinez's two home runs on Sunday aside. The Tigers also missed J.D. Martinez in the series, as the ailing outfielder is a career .281/.344/.599 hitter against Indians pitching. Steven Moya also missed time over the weekend due to a mysterious knee injury.
Oh, and we get to do this all over again in a week's time (in the middle of an 11-game road trip, no less).
If you're going to take hitting advice from someone, might as well be him
James McCann has made a noticeable change to his swing recently, eliminating a leg kick that may have been impacting his timing. Most would chalk that up to good coaching, but McCann says that Albert Pujols was the one who suggested the adjustment. He may know a thing or two about hitting baseballs.
Miguel Cabrera can't hit lefties for some reason
FanGraphs' Corrine Landrey dives into Cabrera's mysterious splits this season -- he has also performed poorly on the road -- but comes up with the same conclusion we do:
Actual news-y things
Mike Pelfrey and Daniel Norris will start the two games in the upcoming home series against the Miami Marlins. Pelfrey threw 47 pitches on Friday -- and looked pretty good doing so -- but should be fine for Tuesday's game after three days rest. Meanwhile, the Tigers will not face Jose Fernandez, as he was too busy dominating the Cubs on Sunday.
This kid is great pic.twitter.com/Lo9TvWt2tO— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) June 26, 2016
I'm writing him in on my ballot.