DETROIT -- Tigers ace Justin Verlander's home run rate is actually lower than last year. So why does it seem like he has been hurt by the long ball more so far?
It's more a matter of the runners on when Verlander has given them up.
J.J. Hardy's two-run homer and Adam Jones' three-run shot for the Orioles on Tuesday pushed Verlander's total to seven homers over 92 innings this year, a rate of .68 home runs per nine innings. He had a .72 rate last season, according to Fangraphs, though he allowed just six homers over 108 2/3 innings through his first 15 starts of that campaign before hitters began powering out more pitches later in the year. Verlander had a .86 rate during his American League MVP Award campaign of 2011.
Verlander's seven home runs this season, though, have accounted for 14 runs. Just two have been solo shots, both hit by Hardy in a 10-3 Tigers win in Baltimore on June 1.
The five multirun homers this year already match the total Verlander gave up last season. Fourteen of his 19 homers allowed in 2012 were solo shots, and the other five were two-run homers. Fifteen of the 24 homers Verlander allowed in 2011 came with nobody on base.
Put it together, and the damage has come from the baserunners Verlander has given up ahead of the homers. His 1.34 WHIP is the second highest of his career, trailing only his disastrous 2008 season. The home runs and doubles, meanwhile, result in a .455 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, by far the highest of his career.
Tuiasosopo might get more chances vs. righties
DETROIT -- Tigers left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo is off to the best start of his career, and as a result, he might get a crack at becoming more than a platoon starter against left-handers.
With left fielder Andy Dirks stuck in a midseason slump, batting .194 in his past nine games, it may open more playing time for the right-handed-hitting Tuiasosopo. After Tuiasosopo hit his third home run of the season on Tuesday, manager Jim Leyland kept him in the lineup against a right-handed reliever, something he has been doing more.
Although it's a small sample size, the results for Tuiasosopo against righties have been impressive. In 26 at-bats entering Wednesday, he has nine hits, four doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs for a 1.145 OPS.
"If Dirks, who has been struggling, [continues to struggle], maybe you might consider it -- putting [Tuiasosopo] in there once in a while a little bit more," Leyland said. "I think that's a very fair question. … I'm not ready to do that just yet."
Tuiasosopo said his success this season is not only because of his platoon role, but also that he's simplified his approach at the plate.
"I do the thought-process stuff before the game, pre-batting practice stuff. But once the game starts, it's just go out there and play," Tuiasosopo said. "Play freely and trust your gut, your eyes and instincts. Whatever happens is going to happen. [It's helpful] being able to just trust it when I'm there and keep it simple."
Holaday makes first start behind plate this season
DETROIT -- Bryan Holaday got his first start behind the plate this season on Wednesday against the Orioles, after being called up from Triple-A Toledo on Monday when Alex Avila went on the 15-day disabled list. And Tigers manager Jim Leyland had no worries about how Holaday will do.
"I think he'll be fine," Leyland said. "I think Holaday's good at following a game plan, I think [starter] Ricky [Porcello] knows what he wants to do. I think [pitching coach Jeff Jones] will have him programmed. You hate to sound like a computer program, but he'll have him programmed just the way he wants to do. So that won't be an issue. I think the guys really liked throwing to [Holaday] in Spring Training. Like I said, he's got a lot of energy and I don't think it's any big deal."
Although Holaday has been better against left-handed pitchers at Toledo this year in a small sample size, Brayan Pena started against left-hander Zach Britton on Tuesday because of the success Pena had with Justin Verlander in his previous two outings.
"Verlander has been working pretty good lately with Pena, so I thought I'd do that," Leyland said. "That's something that I don't normally do, because I don't want to get into that ruffle where a guy is going to have a special catcher for a special pitcher -- not Verlander, but any combination. I don't do that, but I did it last night because they were real good in Kansas City together, so I thought I'd go ahead and catch him and then do something different."
Leyland didn't want Pena starting three games in a row, especially a day game after Tuesday's night game. Pena hasn't started three consecutive games since 2011 with the Royals.
Tigers option Garcia to make room for Alvarez
DETROIT -- Avisail Garcia's latest stint with the Tigers was a brief one. The Tigers made room for Thursday's scheduled starting pitcher, Jose Alvarez, by optioning Garcia back to Triple-A Toledo.
Alvarez will be recalled from Toledo prior to Thursday's game against the Red Sox.
Garcia was recalled from Toledo on Monday when Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez went on the 15-day disabled list, but it became clear early on that the outfielder's stay would likely be temporary. His lone appearance was a pinch-hit entrance Monday against the Orioles. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
Garcia became a regular in Detroit's outfield while center fielder Austin Jackson was on the disabled list, but Jackson's return last Friday closed that opportunity. If Garcia's not playing regularly in Detroit, the Tigers want the 22-year-old playing every day in Toledo.
• Third-base umpire Tim Timmons said Manny Machado missed his tag attempt on Pena in the seventh inning Tuesday night. Initially, second-base umpire Laz Diaz appeared to call Pena out, but Timmons said Diaz was pointing in his direction to say it was his call. The location of the play on Austin Jackson's ground ball made it a call either umpire could have made.
• Class A West Michigan second baseman Devon Travis earned Midwest League All-Star Game MVP honors Tuesday, going 2-for-2 with a triple and three RBIs in the Eastern Division victory at Dayton.
• The Tigers are promoting Drew VerHagen, their fourth-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, to the rotation at Double-A Erie, the SeaWolves announced Wednesday. The 22-year-old right-hander is 5-3 with a 2.81 ERA at Class A Lakeland.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @nightengalejr. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.