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Kinsler's bunt backfires against Yankees

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

New York – It seemed odd at the time.

In a scoreless game in the third inning, with a runner on and one out, Ian Kinsler attempted to bunt. Kinsler, who had five RBIs Saturday night and has been the Tigers’ top run producer the last couple of weeks – bunting?

“I was a little bit upset at myself for trying to lay down that bunt,” Kinsler said. “I was probably thinking a little bit too much. Thinking can only hurt the ball club is what they say. But I was thinking about trying to get Miggy (Cabrera) up there with a couple of runners on.

“Cam (Maybin, who was up after Kinsler) isn't going to hit into a double play too often and if you can Miggy up with two guys on, you have a good chance to score. We needed to get on the board.”

Kinsler popped the bunt up to the pitcher and kicked himself back to the dugout.

“Right now I need to be swinging the bat and trying to drive guys in,” he said.

Kinsler his hitting .326 with three home runs and 18 RBIs since May 31. He hit his 13th home run in the seventh inning to extend the lead. So, yeah, maybe pass on thoughts of bunting in the future.

But believe this, his heart and head were in the right place.

“That’s just trying to do what it takes,” Kinsler said. “Trying to do what it takes to score first. Just get on base and set the other guys up.”

Mound visit

So why did manager Brad Ausmus race out to the mound with two outs and a runner on second base in the fifth inning?

Jacoby Ellsbury was the batter, and after Michael Fulmer walked him on four pitches, the thought was Ausmus advised Fulmer to pitch around Ellsbury.

That was not the case.

“No, not at all,” Ausmus said. “That was just strategy.”

Defensive strategy.

Fulmer wound up walking Brett Gardner, too, to load the bases but he got Carlos Beltran to fly out.

“He got in trouble there, but made the pitches he needed to get out of it,” Kinsler said. “Then the next inning he came out and had a 1-2-3 inning. He’s kind of his own shut-down guy.”

Rationing pitches

Ausmus pulled Fulmer after the clean sixth. He was at 91 pitches.

“We do have to be cautious of his innings and how many pitches he throws,” Ausmus said. “But he had an extra day of rest before this start and he didn’t throw that many pitches last time. We pulled him early.”

Fulmer threw 88 pitches in six innings against the Blue Jays in his last start.

That said, Ausmus thought the long, 30-pitch fifth inning may have fatigued Fulmer a bit.

“Yeah, it looked like he was getting a little tired after the fifth inning,” Ausmus said. “I think the fifth might have worn him down. So we went a little cautious there, too, and got him out.”

Bullpen aces

This moving Shane Greene to a set-up role seems to be working out OK.

He’s faced 17 batters since coming off the DL and fanned 10 of them. He pitched a clean seventh Sunday, striking out Aaron Hicks and Rob Refsnyder.

“So far so good,” Ausmus said. “There were a lot of people who felt he could pitch in this role. In the short amount of time he’s done it for us, he’s been outstanding.”

Closer Francisco Rodriguez, meanwhile, quietly posted his 19th straight save, striking out the side on 12 pitches in the ninth.

“That’s part of the reason I felt comfortable pulling Fulmer out after six inning,” Ausmus said. “I thought he was getting tired, but if you’re not comfortable with who you are bringing in behind him, maybe you send him back out.”

Knee pain

Victor Martinez pulled up in some discomfort after he ripped a single off pitcher Michael Pineda’s hip in the fourth inning.

“His knee acts up from time to time and we check on him,” Ausmus said. “He assured me he was all right. It doesn’t really bother him swinging the bat, as you can tell by his swings today. It’s just running a little bit, he gets an achiness in there. We have to keep an eye on it.”

Martinez is hitting .393 on the road this season, second best road average in the Majors.