While they've been all or nothing offensively of late, the Detroit Tigers may have reached rock bottom in the opener of this three-game set in San Diego.
With Torii Hunter expected back and Justin Verlander on the mound, things might improve as they try to even the series.Detroit hopes to avoid its fourth loss in five games while the Padres go after their third consecutive victory Saturday night.The Tigers (5-3) have hit .384 while totaling 24 runs in their last three wins, but they've batted just .120 and scored only three times over their last three losses. On Friday, they managed only one hit off San Diego's Andrew Cashner in a 6-0 rout.Cashner allowed only Rajai Davis' sixth-inning flair to center field and struck out 11 in a complete-game performance for the Padres (4-6). He finished the outing by fanning two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera on a 95-mph fastball."They've got a heck of a team over there," Cashner said. "A lot of guys can hit the ball out of the park."The Tigers had hit 10 home runs over a seven-game homer streak that came to an end Friday. Cabrera (2 for 16), Ian Kinsler (3 for 16) and Austin Jackson (3 for 15) have struggled during the team's 1/3 stretch that followed a 4-0 start.Hunter could provide a much-needed boost as he's likely to return following a two-game absence because of a left knee contusion. The All-Star outfielder is off to a 6-for-22 (.273) start with three homers.Verlander (0-1, 2.57 ERA) has only received two runs of support in his first two starts. He pitched well enough to win again Sunday, allowing two runs and five hits over eight innings in a 3-1 home loss to Baltimore.The right-hander moved into fourth place on the franchise's all-time list with 1,674 career strikeouts, but he's only fanned five in his first two outings."You get a feel for strikeouts and my feel for those isn't there yet," Verlander said. "I'm not executing as well as I should or maybe over-trying a little bit with two strikes and hanging stuff."While he hasn't faced the Padres since 2008, Verlander has gone 21-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 28 interleague outings. The six-time All-Star hasn't lost to an NL opponent in almost four years, winning 10 consecutive decisions while posting a 1.72 ERA in his last 12 starts.He'll try to continue that success while facing a San Diego team that broke out offensively after totaling 20 runs in its previous nine games. The Padres were batting just .185 at home before pounding out a season-high 13 hits there in the opener.After going 4 for 32 in his first eight games, Chase Headley went 2 for 4 with his first home run and three RBIs. Seth Smith and Yonder Alonso had been a combined 11 for 61 (.180) before going 4 for 8 with two doubles.Everth Cabrera has been a bright spot all season, batting 14 for 40 (.350) after two more hits Friday.Ian Kennedy (1-1, 3.27) will try to keep Detroit scuffling at the plate as he looks to build on an outstanding effort in his last outing. The right-hander allowed just one run and three hits over six innings in a 4-2 win at Miami on Sunday.Kennedy, who has gone 3-8 with a 5.84 ERA in 12 career interleague starts, snapped a five-start losing streak versus AL opponents with a 6-3 home win over the New York Yankees last August.
Justin Verlander just got the first hit of his career in his first plate appearance on Saturday vs Padres. His 35 career plate appearances (entering Saturday) were the 2nd-most of any active player without a hit. The most is 38 by Jon Lester.
In 2011, Justin Verlander allowed a .215 batting average in at-bats ending in his fastball. That number rose to .253 in 2012 and .285 in 2013. His batting average against is down to .188 in those situations this year, and he faces a Padres team with an average that is tied for eighth worst in the majors in at-bats ending in a fastball since 2013 (.267).