Detroit — A 99 mph fastball is tough for hitters in the prime of their careers to catch up to, let alone square up and hit hard. So what was 39-year-old Torii Hunter doing Sunday, turning on a 99 mph fastball from Kelvin Herrera, and lacing it into the left field corner for a double?
"I've done that like five times this year," Hunter said. "It's just smarts. Just being there when it's there, that's all. I've hit them before. I've seen them before and I know what I need to do to get ready to hit it. So I got ready, got my foot down and let it ride."
Still, it's not natural for a 39-year-old to pull a 99 mph heater.
"It's not natural because not too many people my age have my athletic ability," Hunter said.
It's also not natural for a 39-year-old to be carrying his team down the stretch of a pennant race, but here's Hunter, on a seven-game hit streak entering play Monday, hitting .406 in that span. He hit .407 on the recently completed road trip and has been hitting at a .333 clip over the last 38 games.
"Torii has been extremely impressive for any player, never mind a player his age," manager Brad Ausmus said. "There was a point in the middle of the season where in my mind, it crept in that maybe age was catching up to him. Man, he proved me wrong, he really did."
In praising Hunter, a free agent after the season, Ausmus sounded like a manager lobbying his general manager to consider bringing him back for another year.
"He's 39; just a remarkable player," Ausmus said. "His clubhouse presence is so valuable. I really can't say enough good things about Torii. I played against him but I never really knew him. He's been a huge asset for me.
"I don't see any reason why the guy couldn't keep playing."
For a Price
David Price, who will get the start Tuesday, makes no excuses for pitching below his standards recently.
"It's just executing pitches," he said. "That's what it boils down to. It doesn't matter how good your stuff is, you've got to be able to go out and execute. If you do, you will give yourself a chance to have success."
In his last five starts, Price is 2-3 with a 5.81 ERA. Opponents are hitting .331 against him with 45 hits in 31 innings.
Asked if any of his pitches have deserted him in this stretch, he said, "No, it's just executing, period, something I haven't done very well since I've been here and that's why I haven't been very good."
Ausmus agreed Price's stuff isn't the issue.
"Sometimes the difference between a perfect inning and one where you give up three runs is just inches on location," he said. "His stuff is still there. His command, for the most part is there. But sometimes he's missed over the plate as opposed to a little bit off the plate. And that will cost you."
Around the horn
Speaking of campaigning, former Tigers outfielder Avisail Garcia seemed to be stumping for Victor Martinez, also a free agent-to-be, to consider the south side of Chicago. "He likes Chicago," Garcia told Chicago reporters. "He said that to me: 'I like Chicago. I'd love to play there.' But, it's a business."
…Asked if he's thought about using Joakim Soria in the eighth inning instead of Joba Chamberlain, Ausmus said, "I've thought about many things, that being one of them." He did not, however, commit to changing the roles for the back end of his bullpen.