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Young, Avila and Peralta need to keep it up

The Sports Xchange
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The keeper of Detroit's farm system will take a long, deep breath if Delmon Young, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta can continue their mild resurgence.

Ramon Santiago has settled in as Detroit's five-days-a-week second baseman, getting the odd key hit, laying down a bunt and playing solid defensive ball.

Right field remains a problem, but there's a possible solution on hand after the All-Star break if Andy Dirks' right Achilles comes around.

But recent improved production from Young, Avila and Peralta were a factor in a 5-5 Detroit road trip Detroit that began in Pittsburgh (1-2), continued to 100-degree games in Texas (1-2) and wound up in Tampa Bay (3-1).

"Wins are golden, hard to get," manager Jim Leyland said. "We found it out all year long so far. To close it out with three out of four here is pretty tough to do.

"In fairness to them, we caught them without a couple of their big run producers, (3B Evan) Longoria and (RF Matt) Joyce, which was obviously a break for us."

In the last five games of the trip, Detroit collected 58 hits -- spread throughout the order.

Young went 12-for-42 in the three series on the trip but with five RBI in the final two sets.

Avila went hitless in Pittsburgh but seemed a changed player after missing Monday's game and learning the source of his left knee pain was the same patella tendinitis that bothered him after the All-Star Game last year. Avila came back from his day off to go 7-for-20 with three RBI.

Just as important, he's gone from taking tentative swings to laying back and lashing at the ball like he did last season until his knee problem kicked in.

Peralta has gone from good at-bats to poor at-bats within the same game, yet his batting average went up steadily in June and now his RBI count is showing significant signs of life.

Peralta had a two-run single in the ninth Saturday night that padded a 4-2 Detroit lead. He got Sunday off but had a six-RBI week during which he was 7-for-25. His previous high for RBI in a week was four, done twice.

Lack of production from the fifth- through ninth-place hitters has been a big factor in Detroit stumbling along under .500.

Now two games from the statistical halfway point in the season, the Tigers are one game below break-even.

Continued strong hitting by the bottom part of the order would be a big help.

If they don't hit, replacements will have to be found. And those replacements will undoubtedly cost the Tigers some upper-tier minor league prospects. (But not 3B Nick Castellanos, the prize of the system).

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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