ARLINGTON -- Of all the unusual situations the Tigers have encountered during this injury-plagued summer, the sense of urgency to get another runner on for James McCann had to be on the list. And yet, as the baserunners assembled in the late innings of Friday's 8-5 loss to Texas, there was the unmistakable feeling that McCann had the chance to complete the comeback he helped build.
McCann's RBI double off the left-field wall against Yu Darvish in the second inning opened Detroit's scoring after four straight early runs for Texas. Two at-bats later, with Darvish looking to get through the seventh, McCann helped change his plans with a two-run homer. Once J.D. Martinez walked to lead off the eighth, the Tigers' best hope was to get one more runner on and bring McCann back to the plate as the potential tying run.
That didn't happen, thanks to a couple of fielder's-choice grounders and a line drive that would have gone for extra bases if not for the quick reactions of Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland. But building the anticipation alone is a note of progress for the bottom of the Tigers' order and an acknowledgement of what McCann has done to re-establish himself as an offensive threat.
"You wish it was in a winning effort," manager Brad Ausmus said, "but it was good to see."
Each of the three pitches McCann put in play on Friday was crushed. The double carried so well on a line that rookie left fielder Nomar Mazara was caught too far in and too late to make up ground, eventually having to chase it to the wall. McCann's ninth home run of the season traveled an estimated 407 feet to left-center, according to Statcast™. His line drive was headed toward the right-field corner, stopped only by Moreland's diving grab.
In one night, McCann's double and home run matched the extra-base output he had posted off right-handed pitching all season.
"It's hard to describe it to people who don't go through it on a daily basis, but ... you've got to battle," McCann said. "Just grinding. Ultimately, getting W's is the most important thing right now, finding ways to win ballgames."
For his part, McCann doesn't make much of the statistical splits that showed him batting .262 with seven home runs off lefties, compared with .174 off righties. His approach hasn't changed that much, even if his results are starting to show.
"Honestly, I feel like I've swung the bat well, haven't had the best of luck at times," he said. "It's a funny game. It's hard to describe the ups and downs. I have confidence in myself, and I'm not worried about what the naysayers say. I'm not worried about what other people think, because I know who I am as a player."
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.