4/19/2014 12:02 A.M. ET
Ausmus recalls Pujols' 2005 NLCS home run
By Jason Beck and Matt Slovin / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Only one hitter has caused Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to lose sleep the night of a game during his playing career.
That slugger, the Angels' Albert Pujols, batted third Friday night against Detroit.
In Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series, with Ausmus' Astros on the cusp of their first World Series berth in franchise history, Pujols came to the plate in the top of the ninth with two men on for St. Louis.
Then-closer Brad Lidge, Ausmus' batterymate, had struck out the first two batters of the inning. After a single and a walk, Pujols came to the plate, and then-manager Phil Garner came out to the mound to discuss how to approach the at-bat.
"He said, 'We don't have to give him anything to hit,'" Ausmus recalled Friday. "'If we walk him, we walk him. We'll go after the next guy.'"
The first pitch went according to plan. Lidge got Pujols to swing and miss on a low slider. Ausmus called for another slider and set up in the same spot, but Lidge missed the location and hung it. Pujols crushed a towering shot to left.
"I went from having to yell over the umpire to being able to hear the people in the center-field restaurant talking," Ausmus said of the atmosphere in Houston after the turning point, which allowed the Cardinals to cut the series lead to 3-2.
On the flight to St. Louis, Ausmus sensed the team was in desperate need of a lift. With a little coaxing, he convinced the pilot to deliver a message intended to boost spirits once the plane reached 30,000 feet.
"If you look to the left," the pilot said, "you can see Albert Pujols' home run ball."
After a moment of shock and confusion, Ausmus revealed himself as the culprit, and the tension was lifted. The joke served its purpose -- Houston won the pennant in Game 6 in St. Louis and advanced to the World Series.
Chamberlain regaining form on mound
DETROIT -- Two weeks ago, Joba Chamberlain looked like a pitcher struggling to find his old form, booed off the mound after a rough ninth inning against the Orioles. But, as one American League scout who watched his four outs Thursday said, Chamberlain looks like he could be the Tigers' next setup man.
To Chamberlain, it was just a matter of getting regular innings and getting into a groove with his mechanics.
"It's just getting into a rhythm," Chamberlain said. "Obviously being able to be in the games and be in situations where you know you're able to pitch and execute pitches [helps]. I just feel comfortable with all my pitches right now, being able to locate with fastballs and throw my slider, my curveball whenever I want.
"It's a game where you just have to adjust. That was the big thing for me to be able to come in and make some adjustments and obviously help this team win."
The velocity has stayed in the same range. He averaged 94.53 mph on his fastball when the Orioles roughed him up, according to data from MLB.com's Gameday application and brooksbaseball.net. He averaged just under 94.94 mph on Thursday.
The bigger difference is that he's spotting what he's throwing, especially his heavy, biting slider. He threw five of them on Thursday, four for strikes, only one of them a swing and miss. By contrast, all three curveballs he threw ended up with swings and misses.
Chamberlain is also two years separated from Tommy John surgery, but downplays the health factor.
"My elbow's never, ever been an issue," he said. "It's just being in a rhythm and being in games. I'm an adrenaline junkie, so for me to be in the game when it's close and give us a chance to win is what I live for."
Miggy's numbers at 31 mirror Aaron's
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera celebrated his 31st birthday on Friday by playing against Albert Pujols, one of the players he followed during his younger days coming up. Baseball celebrated Cabrera's birthday by noting his historic statistical pace.
As ESPN Stats and Information tweeted, Cabrera's .320 career average, 366 home runs and 796 extra-base hits are the same numbers Hank Aaron had at the time he turned 31. Cabrera posted his numbers having played 16 more games, but Aaron actually had more playing time, posting his numbers in 39 more plate appearances.
Whether this puts Cabera on a historic pace depends on how he ages. Aaron had as many 40-homer seasons after his 31st birthday as he had before. His slugging percentage only dropped slightly after turning 31, from .967 before to .940.
• Brennan Boesch's callup to the Angels brought him back to Comerica Park, the place where his Major League career began. The former Tigers outfielder was on the bench for the Angels on Friday night as a left-handed-hitting option. He went 0-for-1 as a late-game substitution in the Tigers' 11-6 loss.
"It's just funny how life works, where you're back where you started initially to start the season," said Boesch, who was called up when Kole Calhoun went on the disabled list. Boesch was a rookie sensation in Detroit in 2010 before injuries and inconsistencies slowed his career rise. He was released in the middle of Spring Training in 2013.
• Injured Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks is doing aquatic rehab in Lakeland, Fla., as he tries to recover from back surgery. He's scheduled for a visit at the end of the month with a back specialist, who will likely clear Dirks to begin more activity.
"He's doing very well," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, "He's progressing right along schedule."
• The Tigers' upcoming run of left-handed opposing starting pitchers will likely bring more starts behind the plate for Bryan Holaday than Victor Martinez. Ausmus said Holaday will probably start twice during the set of five games in six days against lefty starters.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.