Left-handers causing Tigers trouble this year

Detroit led Majors in batting average vs. southpaws last season

Left-handers causing Tigers trouble this year

DETROIT -- The list of active Major League pitchers Brad Ausmus has faced as a hitter is dwindling. Rich Hill is on the list, having first faced Ausmus in an 18-inning marathon between the Cubs and Astros in Houston on Aug. 15, 2006.

Hill was the 25th and final Cubs player used. He pitched the final two innings, earning the win. His only hit allowed was a line drive back up the middle from Ausmus.

"I remember I hit a line drive right back at him," Ausmus said, "right back at his face. He got out of the way, fortunately, and he didn't get hit, and I remember thinking right after it happened that if it hits him in the face, they forfeit the game. They have no one left. You've got to have nine players.

"That's my one Rich Hill story. He has no idea, but I remember."

Ausmus finished his career 2-for-3 against Hill. On Tuesday, the 36-year-old University of Michigan product held the Tigers to four hits in seven scoreless innings in a 5-1 A's win, leaving Ausmus something else to remember.

"He's kind of resurrected his career," Ausmus said. "We're not the only team he's pitched well against. Right now we seem to be scuffling against lefties, which is ironic. But it's early. Those numbers will turn around."

Hill's dominant start

Detroit's .281 batting average off lefties led the Majors last year, and its .806 OPS against southpaws trailed only the mighty Blue Jays offense. Hill's mastery dropped the Tigers' average this year to .257 against lefties with a .713 OPS, both middle of the pack.

Detroit has lost four of five games against left-handed starters. That list includes 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, CC Sabathia, Wei-Yin Chen and Jonathon Niese. The one win came in the game Chen started.

"You know what, it's the big leagues," Victor Martinez said. "It doesn't matter if you face right-handed against lefty or lefty against right-handed. It's not that he's not supposed to throw the game that he threw. I mean, give some credit to the guy."

Martinez did credit Hill, noting his early adjustment to the curveball when he was struggling to locate his fastball. Yet his frustration over the offense as a whole, regardless of matchups, was also noted.

"The guy threw the ball good," he said. "We're the ones that are [terrible]. We couldn't put anything together."

The belief remains strong that they will. Martinez continues to show a rejuvenated swing after last year's downturn. Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos are both off to hot starts. Justin Upton's at-bats have improved, even if his results have not.

"Oh, I'm going to hit. It's just a matter of time," Upton said. "It's just when things aren't flowing. I hit a couple balls hard tonight that didn't go my way. But at the same time, I've got to have better at-bats. Some of my at-bats haven't been very good. At the end of the day, if I can put together four good at-bats each day, then it's going to come."

Said Martinez: "We haven't been putting a whole lot together, but we keep fighting. That's something that you're going to have for sure. We're going to show up every day fighting, fighting. And someday, rather sooner than later, we're going to turn this thing around. Just keep coming to the ballpark and be ready to play a game."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.