Toronto — More and more, you see opposing teams and pitchers go for it.
A high fastball they hope to throw past Victor Martinez.
It often works. More often, it seems, than has been the case in previous seasons, and perhaps as an indicator a 36-year-old hitter, either because of advancing age or that troublesome left knee, isn't handling high heat as he once did.
Martinez was 1-for-12 in this week's three-game series against the Angels and was riding a 5-for-27 (.185 batting average) southbound train as the Tigers tuned Friday for a weekend series against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
"Victor has always been good at getting to pitches, even when they're up," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus "But I don't know that this year is really a good indicator. I don't know if his knee's ever been right."
Ausmus was referring to a left knee Martinez tore in February. He had surgery to mend a damaged meniscus and, although he joined the team ahead of Opening Day, there were lingering issues.
April gave way to May and the switch-hitting Martinez steadily foundered. The Tigers eventually put him on the disabled list. But even after he returned in June there has been little resemblance to the batter who hit .335 a year ago, with a league-best .974 OPS. Or to the 13-year star whose career average ahead of 2015 was .306.
Martinez braced for the Blue Jays carrying a .241 batting average, as well as a .664 OPS — more than 300 points beneath his 2014 package.
"Is it throwing his mechanics off?" Ausmus asked, searching for ways in which a healing knee might have affected a hitter who, again Friday night, was batting cleanup for the Tigers.
"I just don't think he's ever been right. Sometimes, with players who've had surgery, it takes an entire offseason (year) to get 'em right."
Matt Boyd supposedly was a straight four-seam fastball man when he came to the Tigers a month ago.
Over-the-top delivery. Boring action on his heater. With a change-up and a breaking pitch.
Make that two breaking pitches.
Boyd was throwing a curveball early in Friday night's game against the Jays, which turned into a 5-3 victory for Toronto in the first of a three-game weekend series at Rogers Centre.
And the reason he was being so exclusive with his curveball was simple. His slider wasn't behaving acceptably. It wasn't a pitch he could trust, not until the fifth inning when he mixed it with pitches that led to back-to-back strikeouts of Edwin Encarnacion and Chris Colabello.
"I should have thrown it early," Boyd said, shaking his head after a night that saw him allow the Jays five runs and seven hits in six innings. "I really felt I was within a few pitches of owning this game."
Boyd's fastball got him in trouble Friday. Fastballs in the area he loves to work, inside on right-handed batters, were turned into home runs by Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. Another homer came on a change-up Troy Tulowitzki was able to half-golf over the short left-field wall.
Boyd tends to live at higher altitudes in the strike zone. Ausmus isn't bothered.
"It kind of rides high," Ausmus said of Boyd's four-seamer. "It's kind of sneaky. He and Norris (Daniel, a left-hander also snagged in July's trades) can both pitch up with their fastballs."
Location, of course, will need to be refined. And secondary pitches are required to stay down, as Ausmus noted is the case with Norris and his very good curveball.
Boyd even used a rarely unveiled two-seam sinking fastball Friday. It's all part of a young pitcher's evolution, an interlude the Tigers knew they were inviting when he was included in last month's trade that sent David Price to Toronto.
Tigers right-hander Shane Greene was scheduled to have surgery Friday to repair a pseudoaneurysm in his throwing hand.
Ausmus, however, said no word had yet been received by the Tigers on Friday's procedure.
Tigers at Blue Jays
First pitch: 1:07 p.m. Saturday, Rogers Centre, Toronto
RHP Buck Farmer (0-2, 7.80), Tigers: Hasn't been able to work deeply, or terribly effectively, into games in which this rookie has been summoned. Has to avoid big innings. Stuff is good, but consistency has been the issue for a young pitcher.
RHP Drew Hutchison (12-2, 5.06), Blue Jays: Gives up a lot of hits, and walks two or three batters per start. But he also has won 12 times, which is at least a partial tribute to his hammering Blue Jays lineup. Tigers will get their swings.