8/3/2014 7:05 P.M. ET
Tigers want to get Avila going vs. southpaws
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus does not want to reduce Alex Avila to a platoon catcher. More games like Saturday would go a long way to making sure he doesn't have to.
While the Rockies started a left-handed pitcher for the 19th consecutive game on Sunday, the Tigers started the lefty-swinging Avila against a southpaw for the second day in a row. His Saturday start against rookie southpaw Tyler Matzek -- when he went 3-for-4 with two RBIs -- fit into Ausmus' larger goal of getting Avila going against lefties.
The way Avila calls a game and handles the pitching staff, Ausmus wants to be able to start him regularly. His struggles against lefties this season has made it difficult to do that. In most series, a spot matchup with a lefty makes it easy to give Avila a day off. Three consecutive lefties, however, is a challenge.
"I didn't want Alex to not play three games," Ausmus said. "I was toying with the idea of [backup catcher Bryan] Holaday playing the first and third game of the series, and it crossed my mind I could play him all three, but I just decided I didn't want to keep Alex out that long. And then he made me look good by getting three hits."
It was one game, but it was a pair of RBI hits off a lefty. The first went through the shift, a ground ball that carried under the glove of Wilin Rosario, playing first base Saturday to get out from behind home plate.
The second hit was more the style the Tigers were seeking, an opposite-field line drive that carried to the fence in the left-center-field gap. It's the kind of hit Avila got with regularity early in his career.
Avila added a late-inning double off ageless Rockies right-hander LaTroy Hawkins.
"He's been working hard with [hitting coach] Wally [Joyner], so it was nice to see some results after the hard work," Ausmus said.
The work, Ausmus said, is a combination of mechanics and approach.
"We've been working our tails off to try to get me back to the form I used to be," Avila said. "One of the luxuries so far this year is that I've been healthy, but haven't been able to kind of translate that health into production. But we've been working hard."
Those struggles had worsened in recent weeks. His three hits and two RBIs nearly doubled his production since the All-Star break, which was at 7-for-39 (.179) entering Sunday with four doubles, five RBIs, three walks and 16 strikeouts.
This was right around the time last season that Avila began his late-season surge, batting .290 (29-for-100) over the final two months with 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs and an .828 OPS
"I've been able to finish strong the last few years," Avila said, "so I'm hoping I can do that again."
V-Mart rediscovers his power stroke in Detroit
DETROIT -- Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez smiled Sunday when asked about his just-ended power slump.
"You know how many homers I would hit if I keep that pace," he asked rhetorically. "It would be over a hundred."
He was kidding. Compared to his previous seasons, though, a 40-homer season would've seemed like that.
Martinez entered July 4 with 21 home runs, four off his career high for a full season. He then went into a power outage that lasted nearly a month before his three-run homer Saturday night. It's not like he hit horribly in July, but his .298 (17-for-57) performance included just three extra-base hits.
Some of it might have been wear and tear. His week off with a side injury surely took a toll.
"I'm sure the time off affected him," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But hitters go through power streaks and slumps, so to speak. It's nice to have it back."
On Sunday, Martinez hit another three-run homer, this one pulled much the same as his Saturday night drive off another lefty. It provided the bulk of the offense in the Tiger's 4-0 shutout win, and gave him his fourth stretch of back-to-back games with home runs this season.
With four games coming up at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, three of them against right-handed starters, the switch-hitting Martinez will have a chance to extend his power streak by taking his shots at the short porch in right field. If he hits two home runs, he'll tie his career high set in Cleveland in 2007.
Martinez doesn't plan to approach it any differently, just as he didn't change his approach during his power outage.
"I've been in the game for a long time. You just need to stay focused, just keep working and keep swinging," he said. "Just concentrate on good at-bats and good things will happen. Today I was able to find the barrel and get something done to help the team."
Next step in Dirks' rehab could be Triple-A Toledo
DETROIT -- Andy Dirks could be in line to have his rehab assignment transferred to Triple-A Toledo later this week. The Tigers outfielder, who had surgery on his back, went 2-for-7 in his first two games for low Class A West Michigan before entering what is expected to be his final home start for the Whitecaps on Sunday.
The Whitecaps hit the road Monday for Lake County, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. They'll play three games there before returning to Michigan for four games against Lansing next weekend. However, Toledo -- a relatively short drive from Lake County -- returns home Thursday for a 10-game, 11-day homestand.
Dirks began his rehab assignment on Friday, going 1-for-3 as the Whitecaps' left fielder before going 1-for-4 as their DH on Saturday. He can rehab for up to 18 more days before the Tigers have to make a move with him. If he needs longer than that, they could use a Minor League option on him.