Boston — These are not numbers to dismiss. Not when the Tigers are still on the hunt for a regular center fielder.
One of Friday night’s limited-edition Tigers highlights gleaned from a 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park came when Mahtook bashed a fourth-inning leadoff homer against Brian Johnson.
It was a pure bomb, soaring 420 feet beyond the Green Monster’s extremities in left-center field. It was also Mahtook’s fourth home run in 29 games. And anyone versed in even fundamental math knows that’s a 20-plus home run clip stretched across 162 games.
It takes on a bit more reality and perspective when you factor in his 2015 season at Tampa Bay when Mahtook slammed nine homers in 41 games for the Rays.
“My swing’s been good,” said Mahtook, who has been working steadily with Tigers batting gurus Lloyd McClendon and Bull Durham.
Mahtook, in fact, has a five-game hitting streak rolling during which he is 6-for-13 and batting .462.
He nearly had another hit Friday night. Had replay been available, he likely would have had an infield single sealed.
It happened in the fifth, when the Tigers had runners at second and third with two out. Mahtook slapped a hard grounder that Xavier Bogaerts tracked down. Bogaerts’ throw to first, in the eyes of first-base umpire Dave Rackley, beat Mahtook.
But in the Tigers’ view — beginning with Mahtook — the throw was late. And replays confirmed as much.
There was one problem. The Tigers had lost an earlier review on a Nick Castellanos groundout and had to sit silently as Rackley signaled “out” and Mahtook begged for a review the Tigers couldn’t request.
“Kind of the way it goes,” Mahtook said, with a sigh and a smile. “They missed it.”
The Tigers, however, might not have missed on Mahtook. They pried him from the Rays in a January deal that ultimately sent right-handed pitching prospect Drew Smith to Tampa Bay.
The deal looked like a stop-gap move for much of the spring. It’s taken on slightly greater sheen as Mahtook has settled in.
Jordan Zimmermann seemed Friday night to have found his old Washington Nationals fastball, the pitch he typically threw at 93 mph or so during his final National League season in 2015.
And, for sure, Zimmermann’s fastball during his six-inning stint Friday clipped along most at 93.
But neither he nor Tigers manager Brad Ausmus believed Zimmermann’s heater was all that exceptional, at least compared with past Tigers starts.
His two-seam fastball — a sinker, as it were — was in both a pitcher’s and a manager’s opinion sharp.
But it still is a matter of Zimmermann’s slider. It is his put-away pitch. It is his trademark. He has been working on grips and believes the slider, maybe more than any other of his options, is behind two consecutive quality starts.
“I feel like I can throw it for strikes,” said Zimmermann, who has a 2.25 ERA in his last two games. “It feels how it used to feel when I was in Washington.
“I don’t feel myself losing the grip.”
Miguel Cabrera had been acting as if June would be his lift-off month.
It might yet be the case. But if it happens, it will occur in spite of Friday night’s forgettable evening at Fenway.
In five at-bats, Cabrera had four strikeouts and was thrown out on a hard comeback liner fielded by Red Sox starter Brian Johnson.
Cabrera is batting .263 with a .780 OPS.
On the plus side, Jose Iglesias is suddenly rocking. He had three hits Friday, the fourth time in his last nine games he has had at least a trio of hits. He’s batting .441 in that dreamy stretch and is hitting .396 in his last 14 games.
J.D. Martinez also had three hits and is batting .421 in his last five games.
James McCann was activated after a two-week layoff due to a hand gashed when he was hit by a pitch in a May 26 game against the Astros.
The Tigers made room for McCann by returning John Hicks to Triple A Toledo.
McCann was in the lineup and was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.
Ausmus said McCann and Alex Avila would work as a 1-2 catching unit, mostly with matchups in mind.
“It won’t be a strict platoon,” Ausmus said. “But it will be platoon-oriented.”