Tigers’ scorching Matt Vierling developing cult following in the Bay area

Detroit News

Minneapolis — Matt Vierling deleted his Twitter account when he got to the big leagues a couple of years ago.

Smart man.

“I’d hit four balls hard and take crap from people on Twitter and then I’d start thinking about my swing,” he said, smiling. “All of a sudden somebody on the internet is getting in your head.”

His buddies are on Twitter, though. So he is well aware there’s a group of Oakland A’s fans on Twitter who have started a campaign to vote the most random guy into the All-Star game. The account, @AthleticsRants, has latched on to Vierling as their guy.

“It’s kind of funny,” Vierling said. “I don’t have a Twitter account, so I’m not paying attention to it. But, whatever — let’s keep it going.”

What if, in the name of holy irony, Vierling earns some votes on his own merits.

“If he keeps homering twice a game, he’s going to get voted in on his own right,” manager AJ Hinch said.

Put a #VierlingASG on this: Entering play Saturday, he’d gone 9 for 17 with a double and three home runs since he came off the injured list. And he was raking before his back stiffened up. Going back 16 games, he’s slashing .375/.436/.661 with a 1.096 OPS and five home runs.

“I was kind of feeling pretty good before the back thing,” Vierling said. “I’ve been really consistent in my routine. Everything has been feeling good.”

Vierling’s return has been a major part of the Tigers’ offensive resurgence. After scoring 14 runs in the first eight games of June, they’ve scored five or more runs (38 total) in six straight games before Saturday. That’s the longest streak of five runs or more since 2016.

“It’s great to have him back,” Hinch said of Vierling. “It balances out our lineup a ton.”

More: Tigers reliever Tyler Holton proving so far to be waiver-wire gem

This is what he means by balancing out the lineup:

The Tigers, prior to Vierling coming back, were struggling mightily against right-handed pitching. Vierling, a right-handed hitter, has hit well against righties — .292/.338/.477 with an .815 OPS and five of his seven homers.

“That was the biggest question about him, even as a prospect and his first couple of years in Philly,” Hinch said. “Is he going to be a platoon player or are we seeing an everyday player emerging? One of the reasons we acquired him was the upside that he could play everyday and face all different styles of pitchers and play a couple of different positions.

“One of the reasons our guys liked him so much was that all the underlying things he could do was so impressive.”

Vierling, aside from his elite sprint speed and his plus-4 defensive runs saved in right field, also fits the Tigers’ preferred offensive profile in two ways: He hits fastballs (.305 with a .463 slug) and he puts the ball in play. His 17% swing-and-miss rate is in the top 10 percentile in baseball.

“All he’s really lacked in the big leagues is opportunity,” Hinch said. “We have it here and he’s grabbing it.”

#VierlingASG.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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