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Ex-Tiger Davis still a menace on the bases

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Rajai Davis is the second run to score on a triple by Jason Kipnis in the third inning to make it 2-0 Indians Friday night.

Detroit – Guess who’s leading the American League in stolen bases?

How about 35-year-old Rajai Davis.

“Shocking,” deadpanned Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. “He’s having a great year, actually.”

That he is. The former Tiger continues to thwart father time. He’s swiped 21 bases in 24 attempts and in the month of June, he’s hitting .313 with a .819 OPS. He's on a streak of 16 straight stolen bases.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” said Davis, who’s is hitting .264 with seven home runs on the year batting in the ninth hole in the Indians lineup. “Just taking care of my body.”

The last time he was caught stealing, Tigers lefty Kyle Ryan picked him off.

“That’s right,” he said. “We didn’t have the intel on him at that time.”

Ryan was just unveiling his new pick-off move to first back on April 23.

Davis credits regular playing time and the Indians’ aggressive offensive approach for his success on the bases thus far.

“You can get into a rhythm,” he said. “Even if you lose it, (manager Terry Francona) has been good about keeping me in there. You go through your struggles and he lets you work out of it.”

Consistent playing time, Davis said, has not only helped keep him sharp at the plate, but also on the bases.

“It’s part of being out there on a regular basis and finding a little groove,” he said. “You get into a rhythm, just like you do with everything else. It’s how I’ve always been. I notice that if I stop going (attempting to steal bases), I lose that edge, that aggressiveness.

“Sometimes you’re going to miss an opportunity, but you see it. So the next time you see it, you aren’t going to let it slide.”

The Indians as a team are second in the American League with 58 stolen bases, just one less than the Astros. Clearly, stolen bases are more part of the Indians’ offensive DNA than they were in Detroit.

“We had a lot of big boppers in Detroit,” Davis said. “Lot of big boppers. You don’t manufacture runs with all those big boppers. Unless you want to.”

Davis said the key to being a good base stealer is to have no fear of getting caught. He has absolutely no fear. A lot of base stealers have a minimum time to the plate they won’t run on – anything inside 1.1 seconds as a general rule. That does not apply to Davis.

“There is no number,” he said.

There is also no count he won’t run on.

“Believe me, I’ve checked them all,” Ausmus said. “I know.”

There is also no catcher he won’t run on, which should make for a fun sidebar to this series, since Tigers James McCann is among the leaders in baseball throwing out 56 percent of base stealers (14 of 25).

“If the game is on the line, I’m going,” Davis said. “I have a mindset. I know when I am going and I know, even if the pitcher and catcher do everything just regular, I am going to be safe. They have to be so, so perfect to get me.

“I know that if the game is on the line, I have to put that pressure on them.”

Twitter @cmccosky