Atlanta — Tigers center fielder Cameron Maybin has had to sort out a lot of different emotions coming into this series against the Atlanta Braves.
First and foremost, the Tigers’ quest for a playoff spot is down to a final four, win-or-else games. And, in his 10th major league season, it’s as close as Maybin has ever come to playing in the postseason.
“This is what I’ve dreamt of,” he said. “Being this close. I would love to get in, man. In my journey, I’ve played on a lot of teams at the bottom of the pack. At this time of year, you are kind of just waiting for it to be over.
“But having a different mind-set is fun. It’s funny how you don’t feel as tired this time of year when you are in the middle of things. Usually you are carrying the weight of the whole year — I don’t feel that. I’m still feeling fresh.”
He continues to battle through a painful left thumb injury, though given his production of late, you would never know it. In the last nine games, he’s hitting .421 with a .488 on-base percentage and a 1.146 OPS. He’s produced two doubles, two triples and a home run in that span.
“All you’ve got to do is watch the video; everyone knows how I feel,” he said. “But it’s winning time right now. All that matters to me is having a chance to be this close to the postseason.
“I really don’t care how I feel right now. It’s just about being out there for my teammates. I’ve been able to put forth a good effort when I am out there and I am able to affect the game and have an impact.”
He still takes treatment daily and he wears protective padding both at the plate and in the field.
“Nobody is going to feel good every day,” he said. “Ian Kinsler played with a broken tip of his finger for a couple of days. Lots of guys are banged up. But we’re in a position to do something special.
“Just have to put all that aside and play.”
The curtain is closing on the relatively brief history of Turner Field this weekend, and that is tugging at Maybin’s heart a bit, too.
Turner Field was the first place he ever saw a major league game as a kid.
“I grew up in North Carolina (Asheville) and this is the closest chance to a big league game that I had,” he said. “So coming here as a kid, then having my parents and my family come to watch me play in a Braves uniform last year, was a great experience for me.”
You could probably guess who Maybin’s favorite Braves player was growing up: center fielder Andruw Jones.
“I used to love to watch him shag balls in the outfield,” he said. “He would play behind second base and shag balls all the way to the warning track.”
Field of dreams?
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus accumulated a bushel full of Turner Field memories during his 18-year playing career — some good, some not so good.
“I think we clinched a playoff series here one year, when I was with the Astros,” he said.
True story. Ausmus’ Astros team finally broke through and beat the Braves, clinching the NLDS at Turner Field in 2004.
But not all of his memories were that happy. He had the misfortune of having to come in here and face the Braves’ vaunted, Hall-of-Fame pitching rotation of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz year after year.
“You didn’t want to face any of those guys,” he said. “But my numbers against Glavine are as bad as anyone’s vs. anyone in the history of the game. I was like 2 for 50. But none of those guys were a joy to face.
“The one upside with Maddux was you knew the game would be over quickly.”
Ausmus was actually 2 for 43 against Glavine, with one strikeout.
“Just bad luck,” he said, chuckling. “I hit rockets all over the yard. That’s really not true. My two hits, one was a double down the right-field line and the other was a bloop that barely got over the second baseman’s head.”
He did get three hits off Glavine in the postseason, though.
Speaking of good memories of Turner Field, Jordan Zimmermann, who gets the start Saturday, is 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA and 0.886 WHIP here.
“I’ve pitched pretty well here a number of times,” he said. “I know they have a lot of new faces, but I know a lot of their hitters pretty well.”
This will be Zimmermann’s third start since June 30, and his last chance to salvage his injury-wracked season.
“I feel I’ve done all my work preparing for this start,” he said. “I might be rusty, but everything feels good. It’s been a tough year, up and down, shut down, built back up three times. I’m looking forward to helping us get a win here tomorrow.”
Around the horn
Ausmus said rookie Michael Fulmer will, as expected, get the start against the Indians on Monday, should that game need to be played. “He hasn’t pitched well against the Indians, but he is our second-best pitcher,” Ausmus said. “Every game is a must-win. We’re going to go with the guy we think can help us win.”
… Ausmus also said Buck Farmer would be available to pitch out of the bullpen. Presumably, both Anibal Sanchez and Matt Boyd are being held out for possible starts should the Tigers survive this weekend and get into the wild-card game.
... Ausmus got off a pretty good line when he was asked how difficult it might be for Brian Snitker to be an interim manager for the Braves. “I’ve never really been in that position,” he said, then caught himself. “Although, I’ve kind of been an interim manager here the last two years,” — with all the rumors of his imminent firing.