DETROIT (AP) — Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire has noticed a subtle difference in the Detroit Tigers this season.
“I know this team is running a lot more,” Gardenhire said of the AL Central leaders. “That’s probably the manager, comes in here and kind of opens it up a little bit. You have to have your style.”
Under new manager Brad Ausmus, the Tigers have already stolen 30 bases in 40 attempts. They went 35 for 55 through all of last season. Although Detroit lost Sunday to Gardenhire’s Twins, the Tigers (21-12) have baseball’s best record thanks to a recent eight-game winning streak.
Ausmus replaced Jim Leyland, who stepped down after Detroit’s third straight division title last year. The transition to Ausmus has been almost completely devoid of drama. The Tigers added Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler in the offseason, and Davis has already stolen 12 bases.
But the aggressiveness on the basepaths is a fairly minor change in the grand scheme of things. Detroit is averaging 4.9 runs per game — the same amount as last season. As in 2013, the Tigers are winning with a terrific starting rotation, with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer still the headliners.
Of the five teams with new managers this year, Detroit is experiencing the most success early. The Seattle Mariners (Lloyd McClendon) and Washington Nationals (Matt Williams) are each a game above .500 under their new skippers. Meanwhile, Bryan Price and the Cincinnati Reds (17-19) have struggled to get untracked, while Rick Renteria and the Chicago Cubs (12-24) may be headed for a rough season.
Here are five things to watch around the majors this week:
REMATCH: When Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole faced the Brewers last month, he and Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez exchanged words and the situation quickly escalated into a brawl. Cole is scheduled to pitch at Milwaukee on Tuesday night — although Gomez could end up being suspended for that game. He has appealed a three-game suspension for his role in the bench-clearing fracas, and the Brewers are expected to hear from the league soon about whether the punishment might be reduced.
TOUGH STRETCH: We may know more by the end of the week about how seriously to take the Miami Marlins. They’re only two games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East, but their next seven games are on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
RETURN: Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman was back on the mound Sunday in his first major league appearance since being hit above the eye by a line drive during spring training. He struck out the side in the ninth to close out a victory over Colorado. The Reds host a three-game series against San Diego starting Tuesday night.
SNAPPED: For the first time all season, Toronto’s Jose Bautista failed to reach base Sunday. The slugging outfielder has helped the Blue Jays stay in the thick of a muddled AL East race, but aside from Mark Buehrle, Toronto’s starting pitching has struggled. The Blue Jays have a three-game set at Texas starting Friday night.
BOUNCING BACK: The game’s longest winning streak now belongs to Oakland, which has won four straight. This comes after the Athletics dropped five of six at the start of May. Next up for Oakland is a three-game set against Jose Abreu and the Chicago White Sox.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, Charlie Blackmon and Justin Morneau are first, second and fourth in the National League in slugging percentage, with only Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton slipping between them in third. No team has ever swept the top three spots in either league in that statistic, according to STATS.
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