You call this a lull? Tigers’ Carpenter still producing despite run of rough at-bats

Detroit News

Anaheim, Calif. – You want to feel good about something regarding these Tigers?

Kerry Carpenter feels like he’s in a lull right now. That’s how good his season has gone. He’s been one of the most productive hitters in the American League for more than a month and he truly believes he’s not performing at his highest level.

“I haven’t felt extremely comfortable at the plate,” Carpenter said before the game Sunday. “I’ve been getting some hits here and there and driving in some runs, but it hasn’t been myself like it was earlier where everything feels perfect and locked in.

“I’ve been battling things for a couple of weeks, just kind of inconsistent.”

Wow. Since Aug. 4, Carpenter is slashing .340/.392/.562. He’s second on the team behind Spencer Torkelson in homers (20) and RBI (62). He’s slashing .323/.400/.542, .942 OPS with runners in scoring position. He’s even better with runners in scoring position and two outs — .333/.418/.583, 1.002 OPS.

“I know I want him up to bat a lot,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Against any pitcher at any point in the game. It’s a great feeling.”

But Carpenter isn’t looking at it from a macro point of view. He’s coming off an 0-for-4 night Saturday with three strikeouts. He’s not hit a home run since Aug. 23, 89 plate appearances. In that span, his slash-line is only slightly diminished — .289/.337/.325 with a .655 OPS. He still knocked in 27 runs in that span.

But he’s grinding.

“It’s what I’m learning now, just endurance and getting through these little lulls,” he said. “It’s not physical. It’s not fatigue. It’s just a little timing and maybe some trust. I’ve been losing trust in my swing for no reason. I have to get back to that.”

He used his last at-bat against Angels reliever Carlos Estevez Saturday night as an example. His plan at the plate continues to be as sound as ever. The execution of it, less so.

“Estevez throws a ton of fastballs and I got one,” Carpenter said. “It was all changeups and sliders. Still staying on the fastball helps me hit those pitches. I just missed last night. I didn’t have my best night in general.”

Carpenter’s ability to devise a plan and stay disciplined to it is part of his secret sauce.

“One of the attributes I really like is his confidence,” Hinch said. “He doesn’t sway from that regardless of the pitcher. He will go out with an idea. Look at his at-bat against Chris Sale (home run off a slider in Boston) where he went up looking for the slider. On Friday, he waited out Griffin Canning for the fastball and when he gets it, he doesn’t miss it.

“He’s relentless in his plan each at-bat and that will put him in a really good place to have a chance.”

The thing about Carpenter’s plan is, with his balance and hands and mechanics at the plate, he has the ability to stay stubborn on the fastball and still react and do damage to secondary pitches. It’s not like he doesn’t make adjustments at-bat to at-bat or within the at-bat.

“That is something I do pride myself in and work on a lot,” he said.

The difference, now that he’s established himself as a threat in the middle of the order, is that pitchers are not giving in to him.

“It’s actually a good learning experience,” Carpenter said. “It’s not fun. I’m not going to act like it’s fun to go 0-for-4 with a hat-trick. But if I take the long-term perspective on it and I actually get better and learn from it, these experiences are really valuable — whether I do poorly or I whether I do well.

“Hitting in the middle of the lineup, you get everybody’s best stuff. Tork and Riley (Greene) have already gone through this. It just makes you even better. That’s something they do so well and I try to do so well — take the process over everything. It’s going to set us up better for the future.”

Roster moves?

Lefty Andrew Vasquez is just about at the end of his rehab stint in Toledo. Righty Brendan White has been pitching well since he was optioned before this road trip. Hinch left open the possibility of a few late season roster moves.

“The season and decision-making is not over,” Hinch said. “We may or may not have transactions the rest of the way. With the last couple of weeks, there’s an assumption that it stays the same. That’s not necessarily the case. There is still plenty of time for some action.”

Vasquez, who has incorporated a side-arm delivery to his mix, has allowed a run with five strikeouts and no walks in four outings at Toledo. White has only pitched once since being sent back, 1.1 scoreless.

“Just because we’re winding down doesn’t mean the evaluations aren’t continuing or the possibility of a player getting an opportunity or having an opportunity taken away isn’t possible,” Hinch said.

Around the horn

… Tigers’ top pitching prospect right-hander Jackson Jobe made a sparkling Double-A debut Sunday. He pitched six scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks in Erie’s season finale. He hasn’t walked a batter in 30 innings. He threw 76 pitches, 56 strikes. It was his 16th start of the season and he logged 64 total innings. He had a 3.26 ERA at Lakeland and West Michigan this year, with a 1.017 WHIP and an impressive 78-6 strikeout to walk rate.

Miguel Cabrera before the game Sunday was joking about wanting to take his new surfboard out for a test run. The Angels presented him with a beautiful board Saturday night. “He was joking with me,” Hinch said. “He wanted to cancel batting practice one day in Los Angeles to go test out his surfboard. And I am just crazy enough to do it (laughing). If he wants to call me out on that, we can see if he can surf.” Yes, he was kidding. We think.

… Hinch was in the dugout for Casey Mize’s bullpen session Saturday and the two had some time to talk. “It was a good talk,” Hinch said. “And it was good watching him pitch. He’s trying to compete with himself, which is a good thing at this time of year when it’s really all he has. He will do something at Dodger Stadium, whether it’s another aggressive pen or we might put some hitters in there. That’s the debate we’re having right now.”


On deck …

Tigers at Dodgers

Series: Three games at Dodger Stadium

First pitch: Monday-Wednesday – 10:10 p.m.

TV/radio: Monday-Wednesday — Bally Sports Detroit, 97.1.

Probables: Monday – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (11-8, 3.32) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (11-11, 5.94); Tuesday – TBA vs. TBA; Wednesday – RHP Reese Olson (4-7, 4.30) vs. RHP Bobby Miller (10-3, 4.02).

Rodriguez, Tigers: Well, this should be fun. This will be the first chance for Dodger Nation to show their feelings about Rodriguez’s decision to nix a trade deadline deal that would have put him in their rotation for the playoff stretch. Rodriguez is coming off back-to-back atypical starts where he struggled with his command.  

Lynn, Dodgers: This will be his ninth start since being traded to the Dodgers. He’s 5-2 in those starts, but he’s gotten a lot of run support. His ERA is 4.60 (with a seemingly unsustainable 6.43 FIP). He’s allowed 13 homers in 47 innings with the Dodgers, opponents hitting .247 against him.

— Chris McCosky

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