DETROIT -- With the All-Star break passed, it wouldn't have seemed right without Ryan Raburn putting on his annual strong second-half performance.
Raburn has been a career .309 hitter in August, sandwiched around a .271 average in July and .296 in September and October -- compared to a .220 average from April to June. That common second-half surge is back again, as Raburn has hit .375 (9-for-24) since the break entering Thursday.
Raburn has been maligned with his average floating around the .200 mark for much of the year, but that has risen to .227 in the last month. He has no idea where his second-half surges seem to come from each year.
"I have no idea," Raburn said. "If I knew, I'd start in the beginning. It's just a battle every day. It's a long year. You can't really worry about what happened in the past, you just have to keep moving forward, and the way I look at it, it can't get any worse."
In nine games since Carlos Guillen returned to take over second base, Raburn went 8-for-20 with two home runs. No longer an everyday player, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Raburn is "probably better" when he's kept fresh and used the right way.
There is no better example of that than Wednesday night, when Raburn got his first three-hit game of the season and hit a solo home run in the eighth inning that proved to be the difference. He was back in the lineup on Thursday.
"I feel good up there," Raburn said. "I've felt good the last couple weeks, so things are starting to click a little bit and balls are finding holes."
Tigers making sure they keep Avila fresh
DETROIT -- Nothing Alex Avila could have done would have kept him from wearing down. The key was how quickly he got back up.
The last few days have been a pretty good time for it.
"At this point in the year, we're in first place now and we have a couple months left in the season," Avila said on Thursday. "You kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can see it, you can almost taste it, and you want to do everything you can to help the team win and get to the playoffs. It's the time of year you work out for and you play for."
As an everyday catcher for the first time in his career, playing in one of the hottest summers so far on modern record in Detroit, Avila anticipated wearing down. The offseason workout program he endured was intended to mitigate that, not prevent it altogether. Add in a spat of foul balls that left a mark, and Avila took a beating.
What manager Jim Leyland has tried to do lately is to time days off to give Avila a rest after admittedly overplaying him for a stretch leading into the All-Star break. He had that in mind Thursday when he gave Avila the game off in favor of Victor Martinez behind the plate for Brad Penny. Avila is expected to catch all three games in Kansas City this weekend, when temperatures are expected to hit the mid-90s.
Part of it, though, is a learning process.
"You do have to learn how to play a lot as a catcher," Leyland said, "but you're never not going to get tired. It doesn't matter what kind of shape you're in, who you are. You get tired. That's just the way it is."
At some point, with some adjustments and some conditioning, they push through it. That appears to be what Avila is going through now.
Plenty has been made about the statistical differences in Avila's hitting from July to August. But the best comparison might be in total bases. Avila had 17 total bases -- 11 singles, three doubles -- in 23 July games. With home runs in back-to-back games along with two singles, Avila has 10 total bases already in August.
"I love playing," Avila said. "For me, you get into a groove, you get into a routine where every day is the same thing, and it's really a nice routine. But I know why he gives me a day off. It's a grueling position."
Healthy Alburquerque gets back to work
DETROIT -- Al Alburquerque pitched in a game during Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Rangers for the first time since July 24. Now that his elbow inflammation is out of the way, he's hoping he can be a regular part of the Tigers' bullpen again.
"Right now, I want to be healthy. No more injuries," said Alburquerque, who had been shelved with inflammation around the ulnar nerve in his right elbow.
That would be fine with the Tigers, who had missed his strikeout presence in the seventh and eighth innings. His four outs in the series finale against the Rangers were encouragement.
Alburquerque had warmed up in the bullpen Tuesday, but didn't appear in the game. Once he entered Thursday's game with two outs in the eighth inning, he missed with four of his first five pitches for a walk to Ian Kinsler that had manager Jim Leyland admittedly nervous.
Alburquerque settled down to retire the next four batters, including a swinging strikeout of Josh Hamilton at one of his nastier sliders.
"When he went back out [for the ninth inning], I was excited," Leyland said. "The slider was 87 [mph] again, and the fastball was 97. He hadn't pitched in nine or 10 days, and he was probably a little tentative. After the first hitter, I was concerned, and then I saw it pick up, so I relaxed."
Benoit has bounce-back performance
DETROIT -- Tigers setup man Joaquin Benoit bounced back from his rough Tuesday night by stranding the potential tying run on base Wednesday with a double play from Michael Young and a groundout from Nelson Cruz.
But the former Rangers reliever, who spent the first eight years of his Major League career in Texas, wouldn't exactly call it revenge.
"Whoever gets lucky," Benoit said. "[Tuesday] was their day, [Wednesday] was my day."
The three runs off Benoit on Tuesday matched his scoring damage from his previous 16 outings combined, a six-week stretch in which he allowed 14 hits and two walks over 14 innings with 13 strikeouts. Benoit has blown five save/hold chances this season, but the Tigers have lost only one of them thanks to late-inning rallies.
More to the point, Benoit said he has sensed a chemistry building in the clubhouse.
"We're playing together," Benoit said. "We play as a team. When somebody falls, another guy picks them up. We play more like a team now. I think we got to know each other better."
Miggy, Guillen to host fundraiser for Tigers
DETROIT -- Tigers players Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen will host the Detroit Tigers Foundation's signature annual fundraising effort when they take part in Keeping Kids in the Game, a ballpark event under the lights on Thursday, Aug. 18.
The gathering includes a strolling dinner, dancing at the Tiger Club and field access that includes self-guided tours of the home clubhouse, a dugout photo station and a fireworks show. In addition, nearly 200 patients and family members from Children's Hospital of Michigan and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital will be treated to ballpark access, ferris-wheel rides and live entertainment.
Tickets are $250. Proceeds will help support children's health and youth baseball programs facilitated by the Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation, the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, the Detroit Tigers Foundation, Fundacion Chamos Venezolanos and Fundacion Miguel Cabrera.
For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Detroit Tigers Foundation at 313-471-2113 or log onto detroittigersfoundation.com.
Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones told MLB Network Radio Thursday morning that he still thinks Phil Coke has the stuff to make it as a starter in the right situation, but that the circumstances and expectations this year didn't work out.
Alexi Ogando became the first pitcher outside the American League Central to beat the Tigers three times in the same season since Ervin Santana of the Angels in 2008.
Victor Martinez's error Thursday thwarted what would've been the Tigers' first triple play in 10 years. Damion Easley, Deivi Cruz and Shane Halter teamed up for the Tigers' last one on Aug. 1, 2001, against the Mariners at Comerica Park.
Duane Below's appearance Thursday was his first for the Tigers in a relief role. He hadn't pitched since his last start July 25 against the White Sox.