07/28/12 7:30 PM ET
Supporting cast needs to pick up offense
By Chris Toman / MLB.com
But since then, Detroit has lost four of its past five games -- including Saturday's 5-1 loss to Toronto -- and skipper Jim Leyland has put the onus on his offense.
After averaging 5.4 runs per game over the 10-game stretch, the Tigers have scored 2.8 over their past five. While the sample seems quite small, Leyland is not impressed.
"Guys have to produce runs, that's what it's all about. It's that simple," Leyland said before Saturday's game. "You don't win games when guys get on, you win games when guys knock them in.
"We have to get production. I'm just telling you the facts. That's who wins games, that's why the game is made of runs. That's what counts -- runs."
While the Tigers boast two of the best run producers in the game in All-Stars Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Leyland expects more out of the supporting cast, who are likely needed to play a big role if Detroit has aspirations of playing October baseball.
Cabrera entered Saturday's contest against the Blue Jays tied for the Major League lead in RBIs with 83, while Fielder was tied for fourth with 72.
"The guys who knock [in runs] get paid. It will never change," Leyland said. "That's why Cabrera and Fielder are stars -- they knock in runs."
The powerful 3-4 tandem has gotten support from center fielder Austin Jackson, who is enjoying a breakout season, sporting the second highest OPS on the team at .900. But much of the rest of the lineup has provided sporadic production, a recipe that Leyland doesn't believe will be successful in the long run.
As a team, the Tigers are among the American League leaders in batting average and on-base percentage, but are in the middle of the pack in runs scored.
Leyland is counting on more of his players, outside of Fielder and Cabrera, to take advantage of the amount the club has been able to get runners on base and cut down on the number of those that have been stranded.
"There is no secret whatsoever. It's plain and simple -- you have to knock in runs if you want to win games, said Leyland. "Nobody has ever won a game scoring no runs."
Young making strides at the plate
TORONTO -- Delmon Young provided big production for the Tigers during last year's postseason, belting five homers with a .954 OPS. It helped earn him a one-year deal with Detroit as the team's primary designated hitter.
Young, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, has been sporadic offensively this season. But skipper Jim Leyland has seen some positive signs out of the 26-year-old lately.
Entering play on Saturday, Young was batting .270 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs. His on-base percentage, however, is just .298. But for a player who is known as a free-swinger who doesn't draw walks, the fact that he has walked in three consecutive games for the first time since last April is somewhat encouraging to Leyland.
"It's a sign that he's not swinging at as many bad pitches," Leyland said.
Leyland's also hoping that Young can help out Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the order a little bit more.
With Austin Jackson, Quintin Berry, Cabrera and Fielder hitting in front of him, there should be plenty of opportunities for Young to cash them in.
"He has done better. We need Delmon to knock in runs, it's that simple," Leyland said. "He's in that five-hole, that's a good RBI spot. That's a pretty good RBI spot, particularly with what's in front [of him in the lineup]."
Berry, meanwhile, in his rookie season at the age of 27, has made the most of his opportunity and has certainly caught Leyland's eye.
The outfielder, who is hitting .291 with two homers, 22 RBIs and a .371 OBP, had to put in many years in the Minors before getting his opportunity. But Leyland is not surprised he has stepped up and delivered.
"He has done fantastic. I'm a big believer that's it's probably easier, the talent is better, but it is probably easier to hit in the big leagues -- in some ways. Travel is better, ballparks are better, the lighting is better, pitchers have better control.
"He has stayed within himself for the most part. When he has had the good games, he just lays the bat on the ball and hits it all over the place."
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.