Once again, there was no Miguel Cabrera in Wednesday’s Tigers lineup.
Once again, no Victor Martinez.
But the Tigers still scored six times Wednesday in a 6-2 whipping of the Rockies at Coors Field as a couple of fill-in bats pitched in, which in their cases isn’t the first time they’ve helped rescue an offense.
James McCann had “the big blow for us,” as manager Brad Ausmus attested when McCann took a swerving slider from Rockies starter Chad Bettis and rode it 420 feet into the left-field bleachers.
It was a three-run bomb that became McCann’s 13th homer of the year.
“It’s a good place to hit, I’ll tell you that,” McCann said of Coors Field, a supposed source of hitting euphoria thanks to Denver’s thin air. “The ball travels just as advertised.”
Nicholas Castellanos, were this a NHL game, would have been one of the three stars doing a circle-skate after he lashed three hits, including a homer into the left-field seats, a double over the center fielder’s head, and a single.
Castellanos’ homer was his 19th of the season, the most he has hit in a single year for the Tigers.
McCann and Castellanos have identical .252 batting averages that testify to uneven years for each batter.
Castellanos has had cold spurts and a fair amount of bad luck, as baseball analytics confirm. But he looks like a cinch to reach 20-plus homers and to perhaps flirt with an OPS in the upper-.700 range, which might make 2017’s pains a bit more tolerable.
McCann, likewise, could have a season of 15 or more homers and a final OPS within binoculars range of .800. It sat at .764 following Wednesday’s game.
Ausmus said earlier this week that Castellanos, next to Justin Upton, has been one of the team’s top run-producers in 2017, an opinion that took on some extra credibility Wednesday.
The Tigers manager also repeated that McCann, who during the early season’s “first two-and-a-half months looked like he was starting to lift the ball,” has settled the past six weeks into a more straightforward swing.
After a chat in Seattle between Ausmus, McCann, and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, McCann made a switch.
“His swing isn’t as uphill as it was,” Ausmus said. “He’s not striking out as much, and his average has climbed about 60 points."
Together, they’ve helped take some of the sting from a 2017 season when performances and injuries have created something of a nightmare for two former mid-order beasts.
Martinez is on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat. Cabrera, who had a pinch-hitting cameo Wednesday, has missed all or part of the past three games with a tight lower back.