DETROIT -- Three weeks ago, Alex Avila was enjoying his best tear of the season, an 11-game hitting streak in which he was batting .457 (16-for-35) with eight RBIs.
In 15 games since, he's 5-for-45 with 17 strikeouts, including a current 0-for-11 streak. Such are the ups and downs of baseball.
Avila has caught Justin Verlander for 20 of his 27 starts this season, including nine out of his previous 10. With left-hander Chris Sale on the mound and a day game on Monday, however, Avila was off Sunday night in favor of Gerald Laird.
Avila spent some of the time getting some extra hitting work, trying to get his timing back. His knees, he said, are fine despite some awkward swings Saturday night against White Sox lefty Francisco Liriano.
Scherzer, Fielder earn Tigers' monthly awards
DETROIT -- Max Scherzer and Prince Fielder were named Tigers Pitcher and Player of the Month, respectively, on Sunday.
Scherzer won four of the five games he pitched in August, and finished the month rattling off four straight as the Tigers jockey for position in the American League Central. Overall, the right-hander went 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA while striking out 44.
And his best performance, eight scoreless innings of four-hit ball against the White Sox on Saturday, didn't even count toward the voting. Scherzer matched a career high by notching his 15th win Saturday night and hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since Aug. 5. He finished Saturday's start as the Major League leader in strikeouts with 204
For Fielder, the first baseman finished the month batting .370 with six doubles, seven home runs and 21 RBIs. It was by far his best batting average in any month this season -- the next closest a .330 average in May.
Fielder is seven RBIs away from his fifth 100-RBI season and if he continues his success into September, it could mark the first time in the 28-year-old's eight-year career that he hits .300.
Garcia shows glimpse of potential, nickname
DETROIT -- For Avisail Garcia, it's not necessarily about just living up to being a highly-regarded five-tool prospect. Try just living up to the nickname his teammates have given him.
"Miggy Jr." is what Garcia goes by in the clubhouse, basically because his teammates believe he looks and apparently walks just like the reigning American League batting champion.
"We make fun of him a little bit, he looks just like Miguel. Even the way he walks around and everything," said catcher Alex Avila after the Tigers' 5-1 victory over the White Sox on Saturday night, a game in which Garcia recorded his first Major League hit and RBI.
Obviously, Garcia has a long way to go before resembling Cabrera at the plate, but the 21-year-old certainly put together a couple of "Cabrera-esque" at-bats.
He began his career -- in a tight pennant race, nonetheless -- working a 10-pitch walk against veteran lefty Francisco Liriano, fouling off four straight two-strike pitches before earning the free pass. He later hit a 99-mph fastball the opposite way for his first hit and RBI.
"Very impressive," manager Jim Leyland said Sunday. "[The walk] was probably more impressive than the hit. ... He's a nice looking young kid and he's got a chance to be a good looking player."
With it being one game, the skipper wasn't getting ahead of himself. He said, as with any rookie, there were a few expected mistakes. With the bases loaded in the third, Garcia struck out on three pitches to end the inning. And Leyland also noted he might've taken a bad route on Paul Konerko's double to right-center in the ninth.
But even Leyland couldn't deny that Garcia has the potential to impact a lot of pennant races similar to this one in the future.
"There's some really crude, raw talent there that's really impressive," he said. "He's got a bright future. At some point, he'll play in Detroit for a long time."
Leyland trying to minimize risks with Valverde
DETROIT -- Since Jose Valverde's been with the Tigers, manager Jim Leyland has frequently fielded questions on using his closer in the ninth inning in non-save situations.
Despite Valverde's 4.38 ERA in non-save situations this season, and his 5.79 ERA in the same situations last year, his stance remains the same: Things happen too fast in the Majors to risk not putting in your closer because the team is up by five rather than three runs or fewer.
"My No. 1 thing when I got a four-run lead or something like that and I have to win the game, I don't like to take chances," Leyland said prior to Sunday's game.
For Leyland, that means starting an inning with his closer instead of putting another pitcher in the game, waiting until a couple of guys get on base to make it a save opportunity, then turning to his ninth-inning man.
"All of a sudden you start somebody else and it's four, five to nothing and all of a sudden the first two guys get on [then] you go to your closer," Leyland said. "All of a sudden you're bringing him into a totally different situation. So I think you've got to be careful with that."
It was 5-0 when Valverde entered Saturday night's game against the White Sox. He allowed a double and an RBI triple to make it 5-1, before retiring the final batter.
Had another run scored, the skipper said he would've turned to Brayan Villarreal, who was warming in the bullpen. He preferred not to use the two the other way around and compared it to subbing out Miguel Cabrera defensively late in a game.
"It's liking taking a guy out for defense. I don't like taking Cabrera out in a four-, five-run game," he said. "Things happen too fast. You'd like to save him a little bit on his ankle, but things happen too fast up here."
Jackson among exclusive group with triples
DETROIT -- The Tigers were already well ahead Saturday night by the time Austin Jackson tripled and scored in the eighth inning, making his tally an insurance run in the 5-1 victory. As he beat the throw into third base, though, Jackson ran his way into history.
According to research on baseball-reference.com, Jackson's 10th triple made him just the fifth Tigers player with at least 20 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in multiple seasons. He's just the fourth Tiger to do it in back-to-back years.
Curtis Granderson did it in 2007-08, Charlie Gehringer in 1929-30, and Bobby Veach in 1920-21. Ty Cobb hit the marks in 1921 and 1925.
Just three players besides Jackson and Granderson have done it even once over the past 30 years. Carlos Guillen got there in his first season with the Tigers in 2004. Kirk Gibson made it in 1984, two years after Larry Herndon did.
Jackson's triple also extended his American League lead by two over Oakland's Jemile Weeks, who's currently finishing up the season at Triple-A Sacramento, and three over Chicago's Alex Rios. If Jackson holds on, he'll join Granderson (2007-08) as the two Tigers to lead the league in triples in back-to-back seasons since Cobb in 1917-18. Jackson shared last year's crown with Angels speedster Peter Bourjos.
Granderson's big boost in triples came in 2007, after Tigers baserunning coach Andy Van Slyke tried to get him to be more aggressive and think extra bases on contact rather than rounding second base. Jackson doesn't take quite the same approach.
"Sometimes I'm running hard enough where I'm looking up close to second base and they're still running after the ball," Jackson said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.