McCann scraps leg kick and helps kick Sox in opener

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — When you’ve had success hitting a baseball for as long as James McCann has, you are naturally reluctant to change the way you do it.

However, prolonged failure can be a strong persuader.

Three days ago, McCann decided to get rid of his leg kick, which he’s always used to generate bat speed and torque. He was given two days off in a row to work on it.

Then Friday happened.

McCann, mired in a month-long malaise at the plate (165, 22 strikeouts in 65 at-bats in May), homered, tripled and singled, knocking two runs in the Tigers' 10-3 romp over the Central Division-rival White Sox.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 10, White Sox 3

“It was just about being consistent,” McCann said. “When Tampa came to town, I felt my timing was starting to come around, then it went away. I was just looking to get more consistent.”

As he often does, he studied the approach of both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

“You look at those guys, who are consistent day in and day out, and their feet are always on the ground,” he said. “I’m not saying a leg kick doesn’t work. But for me, coming back from an injury (ankle), for timing purposes, it was time to give in and limit my movement.”

His home run in the second inning, a high-arcing blast that just snuck into the visitor’s bullpen in left-center field, tied the score at 1. He dropped a two-out single into shallow center to make it a 4-2 game in the sixth.

Both were huge hits at the time.

In fact, it took a terrific defensive play by the White Sox to prevent a second run from scoring on McCann’s single. The ball fell between center fielder J.B. Shuck and second baseman Brett Lawrie. Lawrie picked it up, whirled and threw a strike to the plate.

Catcher Alex Avila, the former Tiger, had to make a quick, sweeping tag to get Mike Aviles trying to score from first.

The Tigers blew it open against the White Sox bullpen, scoring twice in the seventh and four times in the eighth. McCann’s triple to the cutout in right-center was part of the eighth-inning uprising.

“I’ve been working hard all season,” he said. “It’s never easy to come back from an injury and obviously I’ve gotten off to a lot slower start than I hoped for. But it’s a long season and it’s all about trusting the process.

“Thank the lord there were some results tonight.”

Victor Martinez had himself a night, as well, with a double, his ninth home run of the season and a single with a pair of RBIs.

Ian Kinsler (two hits and two RBIs) and J.D. Martinez (two hits and an RBI) also keyed the Tigers’ 14-hit attack.

“This division is a bit of a scrum right now, so any win inside the division is a big win,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “This was a good way to start the series.”

There was one worrisome note for the Tigers. Cabrera left the game in the seventh inning with lower-back stiffness. He had singled in a run and made it to third base before walking off with trainer Kevin Rand.

“Earlier in the game (fifth inning), he took a hard swing when he popped up and his back tightened,” Ausmus said. “He got it worked on between innings, but it tightened again and we took him out.”

Ausmus said Cabrera told him afterwards that he thought he’d be ready to play Saturday. Ausmus said he will reserve judgment until Cabrera is reexamined before the game.

The offensive onslaught made a winner out of starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (8-2) who went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs in his first start in 13 days, coming back from a groin strain.

“He tired a little bit at the end,” Ausmus said. “The two weeks off took a little toll on him in terms of his endurance. But overall, it was a very good start.”

It was a 3-2 game in the sixth inning when Zimmermann departed, leaving runners at second and third. Alex Wilson came on and stuck out Jimmy Rollins looking to end the inning, aguably the biggest out of the game.

“Bullpen did great tonight,” Zimmermann said. “They’ve had their ups and downs but tonight they were on. Bullpen was great and the offense put up 10, so it’s a lot easier to pitch when you have that lead.”

Twitter: @cmccosky