TIGERS (22-32) AT BRAVES (30-27)
4:10 p.m. ET; FSSO, FS-D, MLB.TV
The Detroit Tigers finally showed some pop while winning three straight games but a new issue has cropped up. They may have to go without their most accomplished hitter for a while.
First baseman Miguel Cabrera left Friday’s 8-2 win at Atlanta with a swollen right knee. He’s unlikely to play the remainder of the three-game series, including Saturday afternoon’s matchup.
“All of a sudden, (hitting coach) Lloyd (McClendon) came over to me and said, ‘Miggy needs to get out of the game. His knee’s bothering him. He can’t push off right now,'” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was fine before the game and now we’re going to get him checked out.”
Leadoff hitter and utility man Niko Goodrum carried Detroit’s offense on Friday with his first career five-hit game, including two solo homers.
The fact that his big night only raised his average to .230 shows how much the switch-hitter has struggled this season.
“It just gets down to plate discipline, not trying to do too much,” Gardenhire said. “We know he’s a swinger. He likes to swing. He’s got a nice swing from both sides and he hits the ball hard.”
Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris (2-3, 4.18 ERA) will start Saturday’s game. Detroit has lost six of his last seven starts, though Norris has given up two earned runs in three of his last four outings.
He lost to Baltimore on Monday during a 5 2/3-inning stint in which he gave four runs (two earned) on six hits.
Norris doesn’t often overpower hitters, so he must rely on a mixture of four-seam fastballs, two-seam sinkers, changeups, sliders and curveballs. He could throw harder early in his career before injuries forced him to alter his approach.
“I needed to stop focusing on the velocity and realize that I could get hitters out at this level with what I have,” Norris told the Detroit News. “It’s forced me to learn how to pitch.”
He has two career starts against the Braves, going 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA.
Rookie right-hander Mike Soroka (5-1, 1.07 ERA) will start for the Braves, and he has not given up more than one earned run in eight appearances this season. In his last outing (May 25), he held St. Louis to two runs (one earned) on five hits in six innings while recording five strikeouts.
Soroka’s 1.07 ERA is the third lowest through the first eight starts of a season for a player 21 years old or younger dating to 1913. Fernando Valenzuela (0.50 in 1981) and Vida Blue (1.02 in 1971) are the only pitchers that age who had lower ERAs through eight starts.
“Ultimately, you want to limit damage in big innings,” Soroka told MLB.com. “You just want to make good pitches when there’s guys on and hopefully, balls are put in play to the right guys.”
Off the mound, Soroka tries not to tinker too much or think about what he did right or wrong.
“A lot of it is getting away from baseball more than I would previously,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It helps you take the mound with a clear mind every fifth game, whereas you don’t want to get to June or August and you’re tired of baseball. So I’ve done a better job of shutting down away from the field, separating a little bit, and staying happy and intense on the mound.”
–Field Level Media