Kinsler dropped to two-hole to 'change his luck'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers' Ian Kinsler has saw his batting average drop 21 points in the past 14 games.

Detroit — Manager Brad Ausmus admitted the move wasn’t based on analytics; it was more of a hunch.

He decided to drop Ian Kinsler to the No. 2 in the batting order and put Cameron Maybin in the leadoff spot.

“Change his luck, maybe?” Aumus said, meaning Kinsler’s. “He’s been barreling the ball up, but getting under it sometimes, and sometimes hitting it right at people. We’ll see if this helps. There is no mathematical formula behind it.”

Kinsler’s batting average has dropped 21 points, from .292 to .271 in the last 14 games. He’s gone 5-for-55 in that stretch, with a .180 on-base percentage. But supporting Ausmus’ point about Kinsler hitting in some tough luck — his batting average on balls put in play is .073 in that 14-game skid.

Such a low BABIP screams for a correction.

“Just trying to get Kins a breather,” Maybin said. “The guy has been grinding. Brad thought it’d be a good idea to hit me first. I am down with whatever he wants me to do.”

In 543 plate appearances in the leadoff spot, Maybin has hit .240 with a .308 on-base percentage.

“My approach doesn’t change,” he said. “I see a lot of pitches, whether I’m up in the lineup, bottom of the lineup. Again, my approach is to have a consistent at-bat, quality at-bat. That’s my mindset every time I’m out there — continue to have quality at-bats, and good things will happen.”

Kinsler has hit first or second for a good portion of his career, with similar success. At the leadoff spot, he’s hit .274 with a .341 on-base percentage in over 3,700 at-bats. In the No. 2 hole, he’s hitting .277 with a .332 on-base percentage in nearly 1,100 at-bats.

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Soldiering on

Maybin’s sprained left thumb is still not healed completely and doctors have told him it won’t be until the offseason, when he stops playing baseball for an extended period of time.

He’s resigned himself to the fact that he will have to deal with the soreness and discomfort the rest of the season.

“Yeah, it is what it is,” he said. “I really try not to dwell on it too much, just go out there and play, just be there for my teammates emotionally. Just give my best effort every day, to the fans — that’s what they deserve.

“We’re trying to do something special. We have a chance, and I feel like I’m a big part of it, and I’ve got to be in the lineup, whether I’m 100 percent or not. It’s going to affect some things that I do, but again, my effort’s going to be there every day, my energy’s going to be there every day. And that’s really all I can do.”

In the six games he’s played since coming back, he’s produced eight hits in 22 at-bats, with two double and a home run.

“It affects everything, but no excuses, man,” he said. “You just go out there and get your job done. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

Central focus

The three-game series with the White Sox starts a stretch where there Tigers will play 26 of 29 games against divisional opponents.

“We have to win, it doesn’t matter who,” Ausmus said. “When you are trailing in the division and in the wild-card race, you’ve got to win games. Hopefully we are at a point now where we can still control our destiny, but we’ve got to win games. And it may come to a point where we’ll need someone to help us.”

The Indians began Monday with a 4.5 game lead over the Tigers. The Tigers are 23-27 in the division this season, including 1-11 against the Indians.

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“If our record against the Indians was .500, that changes the landscape of the division completely,” Ausmus said. “But I don’t worry so much about what our record was in terms of going forward against these teams. That doesn’t concern me.

“But obviously we need to play better against them the rest of the way.”

Around the horn

Ausmus said right-hander Michael Fulmer’s next start will be Saturday in Kansas City. That will give him one extra day off, plus the off-day Thursday, between starts. Anibal Sanchez will pitch Friday and Matt Boyd on Sunday in that series.

…General manager Al Avila and his staff, as well as Ausmus, are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to decide the September call-ups. Some will be summoned on Thursday and others after the Triple A and Double A seasons end on Sept. 5.

…Third baseman Nick Castellanos (fractured left hand) played catch for the first time Monday, but it was just a small step forward. He was catching every ball in the webbing of the glove, and not really squeezing his glove. He’s still not ready to take ground balls or swing a bat.

… Tigers right-hander Mike Pelfrey threw 37 pitches in the first of two rehab starts with Toledo. Pitching in Indianapolis Monday, Pelfrey went three innings, allowed a run and three hits with two strikeouts. Of his 37 pitches, 25 were strikes.

Twitter: @cmccosky