By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Tigers took what manager Brad Ausmus called a “baby step” in the right direction Thursday, defeating the Kansas City Royals and snapping a three-game losing streak.
Still, the Tigers have only won 10 of their last 30 games. They are no longer in first place in the American League Central Division. Closer Joe Nathan, the six-time All-Star who has struggled mightily this season, struck out the side in the ninth Thursday but cautioned he is not out of the woods yet.
The Tigers, for all the positive elements of Thursday’s win, still have problems to solve. Coaches and players alike have been racking their brains for answers, and Ausmus believes that trying too hard might be contributing to at least the offensive problems.
As dramatic an issue as starting pitching has been in recent weeks, there are definitely offensive problems as well.
In the 30 games between May 19 and June 19, the stretch over which the Tigers are 10-20, the Tigers have scored three runs or fewer in 15 of those games.
Out of those 15 games, the Tigers won just one.
The Tigers understand the correlation between scoring and winning, of course, and have been doing everything in their power to hit better. Ausmus said less extra work versus more of it, however, could be helpful.
“I’ve said it all along – the effort and concentration has been there with these guys,” Ausmus said. “These guys, almost to a fault, work. We were even talking about, [hitting coach] Wally Joyner and I were talking about maybe backing some of these guys off because they hit so much. They have early hitting, they want to hit early, cage work, tee work, almost to a fault. In trying to find an answer or something that could help us get through this, maybe they’re working too hard. Maybe they need to back off.
“It is [tricky] because if they want to hit, it’s hard to tell them they can’t hit,” Ausmus added, “but sometimes maybe just taking, ‘All right, let’s hit, but let’s only take 25 swings. Let’s not hit for 30 minutes.'”
As much as the Tigers want to get back to their winning ways, Ausmus said it is tough for a team to force its way out of a slump.
“It’s almost like you just have to work your way through it, and if you don’t work your way through it, then maybe you’re not as good as you thought you were,” Ausmus said. “Without question, you look at the players on the team, we’re way better than this. You can take the first month and a half or the last month, and you’ve got two completely different teams. We’ve got to at least be somewhere in between those two teams.”
Just as he believes it will not be good for his players to try too hard, Ausmus knows that grasping too desperately for solutions is also a no-no for him.
“If you get too drastic with your moves, the message to the players ends up coming across in the wrong manner,” Ausmus said. “Players see drastic change as panic, and they don’t respond well to panic. They just don’t. I know I’m new to the managerial job, but I’ve been in the clubhouse for decades, and a panicky manager does not go over well – at all.”