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Gardenhire on Tigers offense: 'On-base percentage isn't one of our fortes'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Kansas City Royals first baseman Salvador Perez stretches to catch the throw from shortstop Alcides Escobar for a ground out on Detroit Tigers' Nicholas Castellanos in the seventh inning during Monday's game.

Kansas City, Mo. — As Ron Gardenhire strolled through the clubhouse after the Tigers’ dramatic, 5-4 win on over the Kansas City Royals on Monday, Nick Castellanos apologized to him.

“What for,” Gardenhire said.

“Because I didn’t do anything tonight,” Castellanos said.

“You got the last out,” Gardenhire said. “You caught the last out, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Keeping things upbeat. Emphasizing the positive. This is part of the Gardenhire way. What he’d like to give Castellanos more than the occasional verbal affirmation, though, is more opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position.

“We talk about the lineup all the time,” Gardenhire said. “Where to put him and all of that. We’re trying to get people in front of him to walk more or get on base. But I don’t know how to make this lineup roll over with this group.

“We’re trying to figure out ways to score runs and that’s not based on one guy. But we do need that one guy to come up with guys on base.”

Castellanos’ 56 RBIs leads the Tigers by a lot, as does his .301 batting average and 15 home runs. But he hadn’t had an RBI in the last eight games coming into Tuesday. In his last 31 plate appearances, only four were with men on base — he was 1 for 3 with a walk in those.

He’s only had three RBIs in the last 16 games and only one wasn’t generated by a home run.

“Sometimes it gets tough,” Castellanos said. “But it’s all just making me more of a complete hitter. I rarely get frustrated at situations anymore. Now I just choose to learn from them, instead of dwelling on them. This is what we’re going through right now, doesn’t mean it’s going to last.”

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Gardenhire has kept Jose Iglesias and JaCoby Jones at the bottom of the batting order — neither takes many walks nor has a high on-base percentage. He’s settled on Leonys Martin at the leadoff spot almost by default — “It’s because he has the highest-pitched voice,” Gardenhire joked.

Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum have hit second and both have had their ups and downs.

So, the lineup hasn’t turned over nearly enough and Castellanos has often found himself either leading off an inning or batting with nobody on.

“This lineup is just not conducive to walks,” Gardenhire said. “On-base percentage isn’t one of our fortes. We swing and we strike out. We’ve got guys trying to get better at it. But listen, if you can figure out a lineup that will fix this, let me know and I’ll try it.”

Close, no cigar

Funny that both Castellanos and Gardenhire had nearly the same reaction to this stat: The Tigers are 15-15 in one-run games.

“It means we could’ve won 15 more games,” Castellanos said. “We’re in a lot of games.”

Gardenhire put it this way:

“You look at those 15 one-run losses and think about where you could be if you just scored a couple more runs in half of them,” he said. “It would make a big difference in our record.”

But Gardenhire also took some encouragement from it.

“It says we’re staying in the game and a lot of managers firmly believe if you win half of your one-run games, you will have a chance at the end of the season,” he said. “I don’t think that’s always true. But I remember my first manager, George Bamberger, used to make that statement every year.”

Around the horn

John Hicks was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday. Gardenhire said Hicks will catch the finale Wednesday. Hicks has been bothered by a sore groin, so Gardenhire wanted to give him a couple of days to heal.

…The 5-4 win Monday was the Tigers’ 17th come-from-behind victory. But it was only their second when trailing after eight innings. They are now 2-48 when they trail entering the ninth inning.

Twitter @cmccosky