Razor’s edge: Clean-shaven Rogers (3-for-4) belts pair of homers

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — After manager A.J. Hinch joked that he’d waited for Jake Rogers to shave his facial hair for two years, it was only fair that Hinch was one of the first at Comerica Park on Friday to see his catcher sans iconic ’stache.

Hinch also could guess what it meant. Baseball players have long been superstitious types, and Rogers was ready to sacrifice a bit of style to shake things up.

“I guess,” Hinch quipped, “that was part of the plan.”

Rogers’ smooth move didn’t quite win the game — Detroit lost to the D-backs, 11-6 — but it did produce a 3-for-4 night for Rogers, the first multihomer game of his career and maybe even a spark that the lineup will continue to nurture over the remaining five games of the homestand.

Rogers said the idea came to him Thursday night on the team flight home from Philadelphia.

“I was like, ‘Man, we’re kind of on a little skid, and we’re not hitting very well, so might as well try something else,’” he said.

The Tigers entered Friday mired in a six-game losing streak and hitting just .124 as a team during that stretch. They were held hitless through the first three innings of their last four games, and five of their last six.

Losses are inevitable, but the lack of offense across the board was alarming.

“Obviously, adding one bat is going to be important, but collectively, we could use some better days,” Hinch said pregame Friday. “And hopefully, that’s to come.”

First came Rogers with the big shave. Then, the “one bat,” with Kerry Carpenter activated prior to the game. Slowly but surely, things began to fall together.

There were signs early, probably the most telling of which was that the Tigers collected two hits in the first inning. While a fairly insignificant stat in the grand scheme of things, Detroit had just one hit in the first three innings of its last six games combined.

It got better from there.

“We had a good May,” Carpenter said. “[Zach] McKinstry had a great May, Riley [Greene] … all these guys. When we’re at our best, we’re a good team. So, it’s just getting back to that.”

In his first at-bat off the IL, Carpenter dropped a line drive single into shallow center field to open the second inning. On the next play, he scored from first on a double from Zack Short that clanged off the fence in left-center field.

That marked one more run than Detroit had scored during two of its last six games coming in, and it equaled the output of a third.

Rogers singled to left to open the fifth. McKinstry hustled down the first-base line to break up what would have been an inning-ending double play. Carpenter collected a second hit in the sixth to put runners at the corners for Short, who plated what was at that point the game-tying run with a 395-foot sacrifice fly.

The newly baby-faced Rogers smoked a solo homer to open the seventh. Spencer Torkelson doubled to the warning track in right-center to open the eighth, then scored on Nick Maton’s single to center field.

Rogers homered again. Javier Báez joined in with a solo shot in the ninth. Detroit walked off the field with six runs scored — just two fewer than it had compiled during its previous six games combined — and 11 hits, nearly half of the 23 hits the Tigers had in that six-game stretch.

“I am encouraged by the at-bats tonight,” Hinch said afterward. “I think that they were better at-bats. Jake [hit] a couple homers, Javy getting a late homer … Carpenter coming back in the middle of our order, Maton had better at-bats. That’s the encouraging part.

“It’s hard to take positive things out of losses, especially when they’re piling up, but spending time wasting energy on kind of the ‘woe is me’ part of this isn’t going to work.”

Was all of that enough to lift Detroit to a win? No. Was Friday enough to get the club over the hump and snap its current offensive funk? Time will tell.

At least one Tiger could feel the tide turning.

“We’ve just got to string a few more hits together,” Rogers said. “Like with tonight, we did pretty good tonight, got a few hits here and there. … The last couple [of] games, it’s ups and downs, so we’re trying to flip it up here, and hopefully win tomorrow.”

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