OAKLAND -- It wasn't long ago that left-handed starters were an opportunity for the Tigers to bust out their offense, back in the years when they were heavy on right-handed power hitters.
That hasn't held this season, though they'll get a chance to try to improve against A's southpaw Tommy Milone on Friday night.
The Tigers haven't won a game started by a left-hander since they swept the Royals in Kansas City in mid-April, helped by victories against Jonathan Sanchez and Danny Duffy. The only lefty starters to take losses against Detroit have been Duffy on April 16 and Chris Sale the day before.
Detroit's 6-5 record in games against left-handed starters is just slightly better than its 9-10 record against right-handers. The more meaningful difference comes when comparing the Tigers' stats against lefties to the rest of the league.
Against all pitchers, the Tigers entered Thursday around the middle of the pack offensively. Their .249 average ranks sixth among the 14 American League clubs, while their .702 OPS ranks ninth. Their 124 runs through 30 games, while not particularly a good total, still ranks 10th.
Split up the stats against left-handers, and the Tigers are batting just .223, 11th in the league. Their .638 OPS ranks 10th.
If you're looking for a spot where Detroit truly misses Victor Martinez, this might be it. He batted .311 with an .823 OPS against southpaws last year in his first season in Detroit, and .400 the year before that in Boston.
Miggy, Young, Boesch show up for early BP
OAKLAND -- When four members of a starting lineup are at the ballpark on the road in the early afternoon for extra batting practice on the field, it's usually not a sign of a healthy offense.
When those four include the previous night's second, third, fifth and sixth hitters, it's really not a good sign. When they all show signs of progress in their next game, it's encouraging.
But manager Jim Leyland had been giving those signs for most of the week after the Tigers scored three runs or less in four of their previous five games, including Wednesday's 2-1 loss at Seattle.
"We'll be fine," Leyland said Thursday afternoon after the early hitting, "but we won't be fine just talking about it."
Thus, Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn were all out early to take their swings. All of them had base hits in Thursday's 10-6 win over the Athletics, including a season high of four hits from Cabrera.
"It's only one game," Cabrera cautioned. "It's all about results. It doesn't matter [about the mechanics]. If you get a hit, you're good, you know?"
Cabrera is no stranger to early work, having spent much of Spring Training at the ballpark soon after the crack of dawn to get in extra defensive work at third base and prepare for his transition. This was different, as are his recent numbers.
Cabrera went through an 0-for-22 stretch -- the second-longest hitless streak in his career -- last month before finding something that clicked while taking extra swings in the batting cage with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. Cabrera entered Thursday in an 0-for-14 funk.
The two skids weighed down his average to .263, his lowest average through 30 games since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 2003. Thursday's four-hit performance bumped his average to .285.
Leyland believes Cabrera found his flaw this time through his early hitting. Supposedly, he was carrying his hands too high as he readied to swing. As Leyland describes it, Cabrera compares it to a boxer trying to land a body blow.
"That's what you do all this for," Leyland said, "but sometimes slumps, that's an element of the game. That's the human element. We get spoiled. Cabrera's supposed to get two hits and knock in three runs every night. Every time he doesn't, well, that's a red flag.
"Miguel Cabrera is going to hit. Mark it down. Look at the book. Take it to the bank."
Leyland impressed with Putkonen's arsenal
OAKLAND -- Manager Jim Leyland likes what he sees from rookie reliever Luke Putkonen, but he just hasn't had much of an opportunity to see it.
When former Tigers starter David Pauley went nine days between outings last August after his trade from Seattle, it became an mini-saga when he would pitch again. For Putkonen, his first big league stint saw him sit for that same duration before finally getting an opportunity Wednesday at Seattle. He gave up a run in his second inning and took the 2-1 loss, but it wasn't a sign of a rough outing.
Michael Saunders' pinch-hit double in the eighth was the only hit allowed by Putkonen, who struck out two batters in a perfect seventh inning beforehand while powering fastballs at 96 mph.
"I thought the kid threw the ball extremely well," Leyland said. "I was very impressed."