DETROIT -- The Tigers spent most of May trying to find opportunities to get Phil Coke some situations to work. They've found plenty during this recent skid.
He entered this week having thrown just three innings over three appearances in a three-week stretch. His mop-up work Saturday gave him 6 2/3 innings in a six-day stretch.
They haven't all been productive innings, of course. He took the loss Wednesday in Cleveland, obviously, and he gave up a run on three hits over two innings two days before that. But they've been opportunities to try to get him going. He has had scoreless appearances his last two outings, showing what manager Brad Ausmus said might have been his best form of the year.
"He's definitely thrown better in his last couple outings for sure," Ausmus said. "Maybe there's something to be said for him being a little tired, because his velocity was still good. Maybe when he's tired, his command's a little better. He doesn't try to overthrow it. …
"He's really helped us out a lot. We all know how short the 'pen's been the past week. He's given us some big outs."
According to info from MLB.com's Gameday app and brooksbaseball.net, Coke averaged 96 mph on his fastball Saturday, to go with a sinker that came in at just over 94. Both were well above his season averages. His velocity was much the same on Wednesday in Cleveland with a different radar gun.
Romine's extra work rewarded with solid weekend
DETROIT -- Andrew Romine had just finished up his first two-hit game in three weeks, boasting three hits in a two-game stretch, when he hit the cage Saturday. Even after some of his best swings in a month, he had extra work to do.
"It's funny, because he was actually working with [hitting coach] Wally [Joyner] after the game yesterday," manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning. "Despite the fact that he had some good at-bats, there was something that he felt wasn't quite right, so he just took about 10 minutes to try to fine-tune something."
It wasn't that anything was wrong, Romine said. He just wanted to reinforce what he had going right.
"I was just trying to get it solidified," Romine said. "I felt good yesterday. I just wanted to go over, I guess, kind of recap it so I had something to go home with and think about."
He wanted to think about it Saturday night, outside the ballpark. He does not want to think about it when he's at the plate. Thinking at the plate has been part of the problem at times this year.
He has taken in plenty of advice the past few weeks. Now he wants to see the ball and hit it, and not waste time thinking about what he needs to do.
"The worst thing is my brain will get in the way," Romine said. "I wish I could shut it off."
It carried over into Sunday's game. Romine had his second straight two-hit performance, driving in a run with a second-inning line drive up the middle and sending a ground ball through the right side in the sixth.
Though Romine hit his first Major League home run Friday night, his weekend performances were more productive for his style of game. He had two solidly-struck ground-ball singles Saturday -- one that began a two-out rally ahead of Rajai Davis' double to send him home, the other a one-out single through the middle after an 0-2 count. The latter nearly led to a run in the fifth before Davis' fly ball to left died near the fence.
His RBI single Sunday was one of his better at-bats of the season, fighting out of a 1-2 count by fouling off back-to-back sliders before sending a full-count fastball up the middle.
"It seems like he's using the middle of the field a little bit more," Ausmus said after Sunday's game. "He's looked good. He's stayed mostly between second base and shortstop. I don't know if the home run was the turning point, but we're hoping to keep him going because he's very good defensively."
Romine has been working with Joyner for the past couple weeks to try to figure out what tweaks would work to get his swing in tune and get him started swinging sooner. They feel like they found some adjustments that work.
It's just a few games, but the swings have been better, hit or no hit.
Basestealing helping Tigers distract opposing pitchers
DETROIT -- Part of the reason for the Tigers' aggressiveness on the bases this season was to create more consistent scoring opportunities at different spots in the lineup. Part of it, too, was to potentially distract pitchers in run-production situations.
It's hard to find data to tell definitively whether that's happening, but manager Brad Ausmus believes having Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis on base has had an effect on how his RBI producers are pitched.
"I don't know if there are any hard numbers on it," Ausmus said. "It seems to me with Rajai and Kinsler on base, some of the pitchers' attention is being diverted from the hitter. But it's kind of a difficult thing to put a stat on.
"I'm not writing down every single pitch they throw with Rajai Davis on first. It just seems that some of the pitchers, not all of them, become more distracted with those guys on base, which theoretically should improve the odds of getting a pitch to hit."
Pitch selection stats from Fangraphs are mixed on that. For Miguel Cabrera, who has hit one or two spots behind Kinsler all season, the ratio of fastballs is nearly identical to the past three years, right around 58 percent. Separated by two- and four-seamers, Cabrera might be getting a slight uptick in four-seamers, about 40.7 percent compared to 37 percent the previous few seasons according to Pitch f/x.
Torii Hunter, who often bats directly behind Kinsler and Davis, has seen a more noticeable increase in fastballs, now comprising a career-high 64 percent of his pitches. By comparison, he's seeing fewer sliders and curveballs.