Boston – Never has there been any doubt. At least in a manager’s mind.
The Tigers will score runs. In fact, their offense isn’t anywhere close to high on Brad Ausmus’ list of ongoing team concerns.
So, what he saw from his team Sunday night during a 4-hour, 6-minute exercise in baseball protraction, was no big deal, as the Tigers whipped the Red Sox, 8-3, at Fenway Park.
“We had double-digit hits,” Ausmus said. “We had double-digit hits the first two games.”
He was off by a single hit in referring to Saturday’s 11-3 tumble against Boston, but Ausmus’ abiding thought – that bats won’t be his team’s undoing in 2017 – got some credence in a 14-hit Tigers burst Sunday that featured a grand slam home run, three hits, and five RBIs from Justin Upton, as well as a 444-foot, two-run homer by Nicholas Castellanos.
Just as important perhaps to the Tigers, their immortal No. 3 hitter, Miguel Cabrera, had a pair of singles, one of which was a line-drive rocket against the Green Monster in left field.
It might have been the hardest-hit ball Cabrera has mashed in three weeks as he continues to fight his way out of a rare Cabrera stint in baseball’s icebox.
“I thought Miggy looked a lot better at the plate,” Ausmus said. “He was quieter. His hands were moving better. He was staying in the strike zone.”
Also helping Sunday were Ian Kinsler, who had a pair of hits and is batting .333 in six games since he was reunited with the club following a layoff due to hamstring issues.
Mikie Mahtook, who is proving to be a handy answer against left-handed pitching, also had a pair of hits.
Upton is suddenly the Tigers’ hot hand. He has a 10-game hitting streak rolling during which he has four home runs, 17 RBIs, and five multi-hit games.
His grand slam was the fifth of his career and first for the Tigers.
He also made sure he wasn’t forgotten as a left fielder.
Upton threw out Hanley Ramirez at second base in Sunday’s first inning when Ramirez tried to turn a single into a double. It was Upton’s fourth assist in his last five games, and his second this series.
Daniel Norris was, in the eyes of his manager, just fine Sunday.
“He pitched well,” said Ausmus, agreeing that, yes, it would have been terrific had Norris gotten six, seven, or eight innings rather than five.
But there were no grievances as Norris threw 96 pitches, allowed seven hits and a pair of Red Sox runs, walked two batters unintentionally, and struck out six.
Norris had to agree that, while not optimum, it was a game and a victory he could feel good about.
“I’d liked to have gone six or seven,” he said, adding that “I feel close” to being that more efficient, more greedy pitcher who can cut through innings with a minimum of pitches and work deeper into games.
“All year, I’ve never stopped competing. This game I didn’t feel like I had a stretch where I had to throw 88 miles an hour to get a strike.”
Norris stopped for a moment and repeated what he believes might be the best of all lessons a man who recently turned 24 has learned about himself in 2017.
“I won’t stop competing and searching," he said.