Heat advisory: Tigers break out in Texas climes
ARLINGTON -- Based on the available evidence, the Tigers just might be a hot-weather team.
Whether this can do them much long-term good remains to be seen. But the recent numbers present a clear picture. Over the previous five games -- two played in Detroit and three played in Pittsburgh -- the Tigers scored a total of eight runs, going 2-3.
Now the scene shifts, along with the climate. The Tigers travel to Texas to face the Rangers, who have the best record in baseball entering this three-game series. But that is not the whole story. The game-time temperature at Rangers Ballpark on Monday night is 100 degrees, which is actually down two degrees from the daytime high.
In commonly held theory, the Rangers would have an advantage in these circumstances, being more used to the heat than the team from Michigan. But the Tigers defied the conventional meteorological wisdom. They beat the Rangers, 8-2, scoring as many runs in one very hot Texas night as they had scored in the past five games. In fact, they scored five runs in the first inning and chased Rangers starter Justin Grimm before he had retired a batter in the second. This was only Grimm's second Major League start, but he won his first one, beating Houston.
In any case, the Tigers' offense, far from being hindered by the heat, appeared to be healed by the heat. The weather was hot enough that the Rangers -- the team that is allegedly accustomed to the heat -- did not take batting practice outside. The Tigers took BP outside, but did not linger to do the customary infield work.
The Tigers' work was also stellar in the other half of the game. Starter Rick Porcello kept the Rangers off the board for the first six innings, and the one run he did allow in the seventh scored after he had left the game. Holding the Texas offense to one run over six-plus innings is a big deal, whether the temperature is in three figures or not. This was an especially large turnaround for Porcello, who had given up eight earned runs in one inning of work against Texas in an April start. This time, all of his pitches were working, particularly his signature sinker.
"I think the hot weather helped it," Porcello said of the sinker. "It seems weird to say it, but with the humidity, I had a really good grip on the ball.
"We haven't been in this type of heat very often, but once I got out there, I got acclimated to it. And obviously, our offense felt pretty good, too."
Porcello acknowledged that he felt drained by the time he came out of the game in the seventh, but with the night's work he had accomplished, it must have been a good kind of drained. First baseman Prince Fielder endorsed the heat also, saying:
"If anything, it helps you play a little harder, because you're looser. You might be tired after the game, but during the game, you feel a lot better, I think. I don't like the cold. My muscles get tight when it's cold. When it's hot you can get loose faster. Your body is open. I like it hot. You just feel better, in my opinion."
One way or the other, the Tigers made a nice adjustment to the heat. Arlington is roughly 1,015 miles from Detroit as the crow flies, although you won't see any crows making the flight from Detroit to Arlington at this time of the year. It can get very warm in southeastern Michigan, too, but the Texas heat has a higher upside, as the scouts would say, and it is more relentless.
For instance, the local weather prediction is for a high of 106 degrees on Tuesday, followed by a high of 103 degrees on Wednesday. What happens between Tuesday and Wednesday is often referred to locally as "a cooling trend."
For the pregame Tuesday, the Tigers will have optional hitting outside.
"Here's what I'm doing," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "If guys want to hit outside, the coaches are going to be available for them. But they don't have to, they can hit inside if they want. But if there's anybody who wants to go out, get on the field, just to make sure, that's fine. But if they don't want to come out, and they just want to hit in the cage, that's fine, too.
"Texas did not hit on the field today. But we'll probably have a few guys who want to hit on the field, and if they do, we'll be available for them."
The players at least get to go inside every half inning. When the game was starting Monday and the sun was still beating down, the people in the three seating levels beyond left field were in direct and unabated sunlight. These were obviously hardcore fans. You have to give them credit. You also can give them a big "H." which in this case stands for "Hotter than ..." and, of course, "Hydrate."
In any case, the Tigers, for one night at least, made themselves at home in the heat. They played in three figures worth of temperature and beat both the Texas Rangers and the home-heat advantage.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.