Rajai Davis’ groin injury is a problem for Tigers

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Before Rajai Davis even came to bat Thursday, it seemed pretty obvious that he shouldn’t have started Game 1 of the ALDS against the Orioles. In the second inning, he was slow to charge Jonathan Schoop’s single to center, allowing Ryan Flaherty to take third base. The next batter, Nick Markakis, dropped a single into right-center that Davis made no effort to chase after. It was an uncatchable ball anyway, but Davis would have run toward it had he been anything close to 100 percent.

Of course, it’s not uncommon to see stars playing at less than 100 percent in October. It’s hard to forget a hobbled Miguel Cabrera gutting it out against the Red Sox last year. But Davis is no star. Davis was signed last winter to play left field against left-handers, which is the role he was born for. In the wake of the Austin Jackson trade this summer, Davis became an everyday center fielder, a huge stretch for him. Besides not being very good in center, Davis just doesn’t hit right-handers. He finished at .247/.290/.327 in 312 at-bats against righties this year. In 2013, he had a .594 OPS against righties. He hasn’t had a .300 OBP against them since 2010.

Even if Davis were 100 percent, he should have been on the bench tonight. Left-handed hitter Ezequiel Carrera doesn’t have a lot going for him offensively, but he’s still at least as good as Davis against righties and he’s the superior defensive player. That Davis was 50-60 percent and still started over Carrera is a black mark against manager Brad Ausmus.

Now the problem for the Tigers is that they do actually face a lefty, Wei-Yin Chen, in Friday’s Game 2. But Davis looked practically unplayable in center during Thursday’s loss. Fortunately, he didn’t have any tough chances. Outside from Flaherty going first to third in the second, only Nelson Cruz doing the same on a similar play in the eighth can be blamed on Davis’s leg. However, if the Tigers try to stick him out there again, the potential is there for it to cost them in a big way Friday. And if they don’t, then they’re practically giving away a spot in the order by playing Carrera or Don Kelly against a lefty.

 

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 11, Yankees 6: The Red Sox clinch the AL East and they do it as Mookie Betts, I presume, clinches the AL MVP Award. He has a strong case for it on the merits, but his three-run homer in the eighth in the division-clinching game, in a week in which he was hobbled by an injury, are the sprinkles the voters like to see on top of that MVP cake. (See Jones, Chipper, 1999). Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt each hit homers as well. Giancarlo Stanton hit a grand slam in a losing cause. The Yankees loss also drops them to a mere game and a half above the A’s for the top Wild Card slot because . . .

Athletics 21, Angels 3: . . . Oakland romped in a game that was . . . something less than competitive. Marcus Semien had three hits and drove in five while Stephen Piscotty homered and drove in four. Angels Catcher Francisco Arcia pitched the last two innings. He gave up three runs but he also hit a homer, which I’ll call a “net two” in my wholly invented plus/minus system for two-way players. That made him better than three of the other Angels pitchers yesterday, none of whom had the chance —  or the guts! — to bat. Look for the Calcaterra Plus/Minus System to be adopted widely in the coming years. It’ll come in handy literally tens of times. Maybe.

Blue Jays 9, Rays 8: The Rays led this one 9-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but Jaime Schultz and Sergio Romo could not hold that lead, giving up three home runs in the final frame, including Justin Smoak‘s walkoff blast. Danny Jansen hit a three-run shot in the ninth and Lourdes Gurriel hit a two-run shot. As I noted the other day, Tampa Bay has been surging in the past month or so. Surging so much that they had even entered the fringes of the Wild Card discussion, pulling to within five and a half games as of yesterday morning. This gut-punch loss, however, drops them back to six and a half back with ten games to play.

Braves 8, Phillies 3Kevin Gausman allowed three runs in six and a third innings and Lucas Duda hit a pinch-hit double to drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and give Atlanta the win. Coming into yesterday’s action, the Braves led the Phillies by five and a half. Daunting, but since the two teams had seven matchups against one another in the season’s final eleven days, Philly had a puncher’s chance. They needed to win most of these matchups and otherwise hold serve, but it could be done. Now, one day later, it’s that much harder. Indeed, If Atlanta takes two of three this weekend, it’s all over.

Mets 5, Nationals 4: The Mets blew an early three-run lead, built thanks to homers from Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. Max Scherzer settled down after that, however, and ended up striking out 13 Mets in seven innings of work. The Nationals still trailed but came back from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to force extras. That’s all the scoring they’d do, though, and their old friend Jose Lobaton hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the 12th to give New York the win. Between him, Dusty Baker and a bunch of relievers they case off, the Nationals have a whole army of departed Force Ghosts watching them from the sidelines like Yoda and Obi-Wan watched Luke. Except, of course, they’re watching the Nationals face plant as opposed to triumph.

White Sox 5, Indians 4Matt Davidson hit a run-scoring single with two out in the 11th to give the White Sox the win. Sox reliever Hector Sanchez pitched three scoreless innings to end the game. It was the White Sox’ first win in Cleveland this year in nine tries.

Tigers 11, Royals 8: Christin Stewart hit two homers — career homers number one and number two — drew a bases-loaded walk and drove in six in all. It was the most RBI a Tigers player has had in a game in 11 years. Given that those 11 years covered Miguel Cabrera‘s prime, that’s quite a trick. It was only Stewart’s 11th career game. He’ll remember it for the rest of his life.

Reds 4, Marlins 2: Cody Reed pitched six shutout innings — picking up his first win as a starter — and Scooter Gennett homered and doubled as the Reds take the first game of a four-game series in Miami. Question: will this be the least-attended four-game series in baseball this year? It’s gotta be in the top five.