Kinsler's once downtrodden season takes off
Boston — Earlier this season, when his struggles were at their worst — he was mired in one of the worst hitting and base-running slumps of his career — Ian Kinsler kept repeating the same refrain, like a mantra.
"It's a long season," he said. "A lot can still happen."
Well, once the calendar flipped to July, he has been making a lot happen. Kinsler has been on a tear. He's had at least two hits in the last five games before Saturday — going 13 for 25 with four doubles, one triple and two home runs in that span.
His 36 multi-hit games ranks second in the American League.
In July, he is hitting .386 — third in the American League — with eight doubles, two triples, three homers and 13 RBIs.
"When he was scuffling, he was really pulling with his front side, almost over-swinging and now he's stopped doing that," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's driving with his back side and keeping his head on the ball.
"It was almost like he was trying to hit the ball harder and harder when he didn't need to and it was causing him to pull his front side."
That's what happens to a player, one who has had 30-home run seasons, when he only hits two home runs in the first three months of the season. It was the longest homer run drought of his career and he got into some bad habits trying to force the issue.
"He knew what he was doing wrong," Ausmus said. "Hitting can be funny like that. You can know exactly what you are doing wrong and it's hard to fix. It's hard to get rid of a bad habit."
Ausmus recalled a conversation he had with Kinsler before the All-Star break.
"He said, 'I can feel it. I am just having trouble stopping it from happening,'" Ausmus said. "It took a little while and a lot of repetitions doing it properly to get rid of the bad habit. You can know exactly what you are doing wrong and not be able to stop yourself from doing it."
Victor Martinez can certainly relate to what Kinsler went through. Martinez has fallen back into an old habit himself lately, not keeping his weight on his back foot long enough and swinging off his front foot.
"The last couple of days it looks like he's releasing off the back foot early, kind of like he was doing early in the season, before he went on the disabled list," Ausmus said. "Then it was because the knee was bothering him. Now he's just kind of getting out front. It doesn't look to be anything physical."
Martinez has uncharacteristically struck out eight times in the last eight games. He's hitting .188 over that stretch with just two extra base hits.
"It's not typical of Victor," Ausmus said. "But overall he's been pretty good."
Around the horn
The Tigers are racking up some dubious distinctions this season. Saturday was the seventh straight time the lost with Justin Verlander starting. That's never happened before in his career. It was their fifth walk-off loss of the season. It was also their fourth straight road loss. Entering Saturday, they had lost five of their last eight on the road.
… Ausmus is eligible to be on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2016. "I should get in, I would think," he deadpanned. "Maybe I will get five percent of the vote, or .5 percent."
… The Tigers released Triple-A first baseman Jordan Lennerton Saturday.