Detroit — Tigers rookie second baseman Dawel Lugo showed up from Triple-A Toledo with a wide-open batting stance and he was hitting balls hard to the pull field repeatedly. He got 10 hits in his first seven games, hitting .345.
Then pitchers adjusted. With his right-handed stance that open, he was setting up with his left foot on the outside of the batter’s box, his hips open to the pitcher, they realized quickly he could not reach pitches on the outer edge of the strike zone.
Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon quickly got him to close his stance, but it’s a work in progress. He’s gone 4 for 39 in the last 12 games, and his average has sunk to .206 entering Thursday.
“When you are open to start with and then if you open up any more, then you are really off the ball,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s when you see him reaching out for balls because he can’t cover the outer half of the plate.”
Compounding Lugo’s issues, he has exceptionally quick hands and he was pulling them through the zone so fast, he was even squibbing pitches over the middle of the plate — hitting them off the end of the bat.
“We’ve closed him up and in batting practice he really looks good,” Gardenhire said. “Being able to take it into the game, that’s an adjustment. Hopefully he sticks with it because he can really drive a baseball. I think this is going to work better for him.
“He was so far away from the plate, anything away from him he’ll have a hard time with. He has to reach out and poke it with one hand.”
Matthew Boyd has allowed a career-high 15 stolen bases (out of 17 attempts) in his 29 starts. Eight of those were by the Royals and Indians (four each). It’s a problem the Tigers believe they have solved.
“A lot of those came in Cleveland,” Gardenhire said. “Those guys were on him pretty good.”
Indians first base coach Sandy Alomar, a former All-Star catcher, picked up something in Boyd’s delivery that tipped off whether he was going to first or going to the plate.
“Sandy had something figured out,” Gardenhire said. “They were running on first pitch. But this is what it is with left-handers. They guess first pitch. Or they watch a lot of video and they pick something up.”
That’s what happened in the Indians’ case. Alomar noticed that Boyd would angle his hand in his glove a certain way when he was going to pick to first, and another way when he was going to deliver the pitch to the plate.
“We watched all kinds of video trying to find out what they had,” Gardenhire said. “Boyd finally saw it. It was a simple adjustment with his hand. They didn’t hurt him with it after that.”
Boyd has allowed only four stolen bases since the Indians got him for three on June 24. They didn’t steal off him in Cleveland last Friday night.
Around the horn
Asked whether Blaine Hardy figures to be in the mix as a starter next season, Gardenhire said, “That’s going to be determined by what we do in the offseason (free agency-wise). Some of the arm issues he’s had with the elbow, he might be better fitted out of the bullpen. It depends on what they do and who they bring in.”
… Seventy-seven of the 152 games the Tigers played entering Thursday were decided by two runs or fewer. They were 21-26 in one-run games, 13-17 in two-run games.
Royals at Tigers
First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Friday, Comerica Park, Detroit
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
RHP Ian Kennedy (2-8, 4.73), Royals: This will be his third start back after he missed two months with an oblique strain. He’s pitched well in his two previous starts (three runs in 12 innings with 10 strikeouts). In May he shut the Tigers out over six innings at Comerica Park.
LHP Francisco Liriano (5-10, 4.54), Tigers: He’s finishing the season like he started — effectively. He’s allowed four earned runs in 18 innings over three September starts, with 19 strikeouts and an opponents’ average of .217. This will be his fifth start against the Royals (1-0, 2.28, OBA .173).