Denver — It’s a gruesome record. And as the Tigers spilled into Coors Field for a three-game series that began Monday evening against the Rockies, Detroit’s record might well have been heading for deeper bruises.
The Tigers were 25-41 in 66 road games, good (bad) for a winning percentage of .379, which was the third-lowest record of any American League team this side of the White Sox (22-43) and Oakland A’s (21-41).
The slide has turned steeper as the season has slogged on.
The Tigers were 6-6 in their first dozen road games but since May 6 are 19-35.
They prepared Monday for three consecutive skirmishes with the Rockies, who are chasing a wild-card playoff spot and famously have been considered a home-team rage, given the altitude and antics that tend to make Coors Field games “pinball baseball,” as Tigers manager Brad Ausmus described it Monday.
The Rockies, however, have been close to equal-opportunity winners in 2017, building a 38-25 record at Coors while playing nearly break-even baseball on the road (33-34).
The good news, perhaps, for the Tigers as they took in Denver’s thin air is they have only two more road trips in 2017: to Toronto and Cleveland, and then, finishing out the 2017 schedule, journeys to Kansas City and Minnesota.
Worth a look?
Ausmus was asked Monday if he had thoughts of sticking Dixon Machado more regularly into the lineup as the Tigers begin, unofficially, looking toward 2018.
Machado, 25, is batting .301 in 54 games for the Tigers. But he has only 113 at-bats, all because he is a shortstop, and Jose Iglesias happens to be the Tigers’ preferred choice there.
There is speculation the Tigers won’t be able to justify Iglesias in 2018 when he already makes $4.1 million and, by way of arbitration, figures to get a handsome upgrade in 2018.
With a potentially solid replacement in Machado, had Ausmus any inclination to get Machado more seasoning?
“Veteran guys have shown they deserve to play,” Ausmus said. “I’m not gonna just sit Jose Iglesias.”
Iglesias is batting .256, with a .289 on-base percentage and .659 OPS. Although his defense is upper-tier, the offensive numbers help explain why the Tigers likely won’t be wild about handing Iglesias a hefty raise in 2018.
But that’s a different issue, Ausmus made clear Monday, from sticking with Iglesias as his day-to-day starter.
“I can’t just punish him (Iglesias) and throw the job to Dixon Machado,” said Ausmus, who also said September could be another matter as the Tigers more aggressively begin to arrange a roster for 2018.
Machado, in his small sampling of 2017 at-bats, has a .336 on-base percentage and .708 OPS. He, of course, at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, is bigger than Iglesias, and his right-handed bat is expected, as he grows more mature and stronger, to bring pop Iglesias can’t match.
His range isn’t likely to be a match for Iglesias, at least to each man’s right, but Machado moves well to both sides and has a shotgun arm that shouldn’t be noticeably beneath that of Iglesias, whose quick throws and deep heaves from the infield’s left-side hole can be things of beauty.
Daniel Norris has one more rehab start ahead of a probable return to the Tigers rotation and is expected to make it Thursday for Triple A Toledo at Columbus.
Norris has been missing since July 6 due to a groin strain.
Anibal Sanchez will also pitch Thursday as he begins a rehab assignment following his hamstring layoff.
Sanchez will start Thursday for Single A West Michigan in its game at South Bend.
Tigers at Rockies
Time: 8:40 Tuesday, Coors Field
RHP Michael Fulmer (10-11, 3.69), Tigers: First start since last week’s brawlgame against the Yankees at Comerica Park. The Tigers expect Fulmer’s fastball-slider mastery to hold up, even if Coors Field can be rough on a pitcher’s breaking stuff.
RHP Chad Bettis (0-1, 3.79), Rockies: Great recovery story as Bettis makes it back following a bout with testicular cancer and chemotherapy. This will be his fourth start since rejoining the team. Not overpowering, but effective.