Tigers look to get Dirks going at the plate

Tigers look to get Dirks going at the plate

NEW YORK -- The Tigers began a string of four consecutive games against left-handed starting pitchers on Sunday, when they faced Andy Pettitte. That means Matt Tuiasosopo will have regular playing time for the coming days in left field.

Just as important for manager Jim Leyland, it means his other left fielder, Andy Dirks, will have some time for extra hitting work.

"We've got to get Dirks going a little bit," Leyland said.

Dirks' 0-for-5 afternoon Saturday left him at 7-for-35 with two doubles and two RBIs since July 23, and dropped his average to .245 for the season. His average has bobbed around that point for most of the year, well off his .322 average from a year ago.

One reason behind it might be reflected in the strikeout rate, up to 18.3 percent this year after sticking around 15 percent his first two seasons. His rate of swings and misses is up to 18 percent of pitches compared to 12 percent last year. His rate of called strikes has actually dropped, as has his rate of foul balls and pitches put in play.

"He's struggled most of the year," Leyland said. "I think he really hasn't stayed in the strike zone well enough, for one thing. But we know he's a good hitter. We know what he did last year. You might get expectations a little higher than they should be, but he's a better hitter than what's going on right now, we know that."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.