Tigers contend offensive ills are temporary

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — The cooling of the offense can be explained up to a point — cold weather, hot pitchers and the usual ebb and flow of a long season. They weren't going to score runs like a softball team all season.

"Every year our lineup is pretty good," catcher Alex Avila said. "And every year we go through a cold spell at some point. The pitchers we've faced, those types of guys will make you go cold pretty quick."

Cleveland's Danny Salazar was painting the edges of the plate with his upper-90s fastball Friday. The day before New York's Masahiro Tanaka mesmerized them with an array of off-speed pitches. Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Sale, CC Sabathia — there have been no vacation days for Tigers hitters.

Still, take away the 9-1 win against the White Sox Sunday and the Tigers have scored 18 runs in their last nine games. This after they scored 51 in their first seven. They struck out 13 times against the Indians Friday. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

There were, as manager Brad Ausmus pointed out, some hard hit balls that were caught, too. Yoenis Cespedes hit it hard three times with nothing to show. Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez did, as well.

"You can't do anything once you've hit the ball and it's left your bat," he said. "All you can do is try to put a good swing on it. We had some at-bats tonight where we hit the ball hard…You can't control it once you've hit it. Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don't."

What about the 13 strikeouts?

"Well, Salazar's throwing 100 mph at times," Ausmus said. "It's not like this guy is flipping soft-toss up to them. This guy's got some velocity behind it. He's a power arm. He has the ability to rack up strikeouts at times."

It's a lull, Ausmus said, not a trend.

"It happened when I was a playing, too," Ausmus said. "Good offensive teams, they seem to go into lulls for whatever reason. But this is a good offensive club and we expect to hit over the long haul."

Mental lapses?

The Tigers had two mental defensive lapses Friday, which have been rare. Both came in the six-run fifth inning.

Jason Kipnis dropped a spinning bunt down the third baseline. Third baseman Nick Castellanos charged and hurriedly pick it up. The ball, however, was still on the line. Fair ball. Single.

"He was trying to grab it," Ausmus said. "I guess it hit the edge of the grass and it started coming back fair. He tried to grab it before it hit the line again. At that point you assume it'll be fair and apparently he grabbed it a little too late."

Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Carlos Santana sent a line drive to right field. J.D. Martinez didn't move on the ball. Either he didn't see it at all or he thought it was going out. Had he broke on the ball, he might have got to it.

Instead, it was a two-run double. That kind of night.

Troubles for Al-Al

Al Alburqueque had given up four runs, four hits and five walks in 4.1 innings coming into the game. He gave up four runs and four hits in two innings Friday, including home runs to Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Moss.

"He's a little bit out of sorts," Ausmus said. "We were hoping to give him two innings today, and that might sort some of it out. It was a little bit better but it's still not the Albie of old."

His fastball velocity had been down in previous outings. The home run Moss hit was on a 93 mph fastball.

"He says he's fine," Ausmus said.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky