'Nice job': Patchwork Tigers whip Angels, win series
Detroit — Their lineup was like something the Red Cross submitted.
Pete Kozma at shortstop. A kid named Ronny Rodriguez at second base. Victor Reyes, a Rule 5 outfielder who a year ago was playing Single-A ball, was in left.
Another refugee from Triple-A Toledo named Ryan Carpenter was their starter.
And, of course, the Tigers turned their Mud Hens-heavy lineup into a one-sided 6-2 victory Thursday over the Angels at Comerica Park, which, for those doing their May math, made it six victories in their last eight games for manager Ron Gardenhire's team.
Reyes had three hits, including a bases-loaded triple in the first, as well as a double and a single. Rodriguez, who had been playing at Triple A Toledo, awoke at 4 a.m. in Syracuse, N.Y., to catch a plane bound for Detroit and had singles in his first two at-bats -- his first big-league hits.
In concert with Nick Castellanos, who had three more hits, including a double, they made the formerly hot Angels and their starry cast look like mortals as the Tigers took three of four from their California friends.
"We're just playing," said Ron Gardenhire, the Tigers manager who of late has had to overturn hospital beds to shake loose enough bodies to fill his lineup card. "Fans are coming out to support us. We get to sleep in our own beds (during a long homestand). Right now we're doing a nice job."
Even nicer given that their Olde English D logo should have woven into its design a pair of crutches.
Reyes started in left field after JaCoby Jones moved to center, replacing Leonys Martin, whose bad hamstring got a Thursday injection. Meanwhile, John Hicks started again at first base for Miguel Cabrera, who has missed the past month with his own hamstring ills.
Carpenter was an emergency fill-in for Francisco Liriano after he joined Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris on the Tigers' list of disabled starters.
Kozma was helping out at shortstop after Jose Iglesias was lost Wednesday to a bruised hip.
And, of course, true to the Tigers' trendy medical miseries, they lost two more players during Thursday's game: Jeimer Candelario when he got mashed on the left hand with a pitch in the fourth (no fracture, day to day) and had to leave. It was Carpenter's turn to depart in the fifth when he strained a right oblique (disabled list, replacement undecided).
Gardenhire sighed after Wednesday's game and said the Tigers would figure out which players, or at least which guys with beating pulses, he and general manager Al Avila might summon as the latest episode of General Hospital was filmed at Comerica Park.
Not that the stand-ins haven't shined.
Reyes came into the game with a .139 batting average but was batting .200 after he hit a bases-loaded triple to left-center in the first inning, doubled to right in the sixth, and singled in the eighth.
"We saw it in spring training," Gardenhire said of Reyes, whom the Tigers grabbed from the Diamondbacks in last Decemer's Rule 5 bazaar and who must be carried on the big-league team if Detroit prefers to hang onto him, which the Tigers do.
"He can swing the bat pretty good. With a few more at-bats, he gets a little more confidence. Now I think he's feeling a bit more like part of the team."
Castellanos is at .332 after another triple-hit day, which was only one more hit than was racked up by Rodriguez, who was called in Thursday to help out an infield thinned when Iglesias bruised his hip during a slide Wednesday.
Rodriguez launched a long, foul drive deep into the left-field seats with his first swing as a big-leaguer in the Tigers' five-run first. He followed the foul with a fair ball -- a swinging-bunt single, then added a second, scalded single in the third.
He also made a couple of dandy plays at third base after shifting from second, where he was spelling Dixon Machado, to third after Candelario was plunked.
"Great day out there," Gardenhire said, speaking of Rodriguez, who had impressed him during spring camp. "He was so excited to be here."
An amen there from Rodriguez, who had the usual battery of family and friends on hand, along with his girlfriend, all of whom had flown in from Boston for his Thursday christening.
His big thrill? Arriving at first base, following his first-inning single, and running into Angels first baseman Albert Pujols.
"I was always watching him on TV," said Rodriguez, who is 26, and who can play any position on the field this side of pitcher or catcher. "Now, I'm with him!"
Pujols appreciated the moment. Knew what it meant to a kid who a day earlier had hit for the cycle, plus a second home run, in a Toledo victory at Syracuse.
"Welcome to the show," Rodriguez quoted Pujols as saying, which was all a Hall of Fame-ticketed superstar needed to say.
The aches and pains also claimed Carpenter, an emergency starter summoned from the Tigers' warehouse at Toledo. Carpenter pitched four shutout innings, twice striking out Mike Trout on breaking balls, and wasn't in trouble until Jose Briceno hit a 402-foot homer into the left-field seats leading off the fifth.
The ugly slider Briceno hit into the heavens might have been a byproduct of a sore right side Carpenter was holding as he moments later left the mound with what was diagnosed as the strained oblique.
The Tigers by then were ahead, 5-1, which was appreciated by a crowd of 24,696, all before Detroit added a final run in the sixth on doubles by Reyes and Niko Goodrum.
Warwick Saupold, Joe Jimenez, and Shane Greene mopped up for the Tigers, with Jimenez allowing his first run in 10 games. The Tigers are now 26-30 ahead of the Blue Jays arriving for a weekend series at Comerica.
It is expected Cabrera will rejoin the team Friday after a nearly month-exile with biceps and leg issues. The Tigers have been surviving minus his bat. They'll welcome his help and hope the disabled list has had its fill of guys from Detroit.