Kerry Carpenter: The one Detroit Tiger locked in and raking all season

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers outfielder Kerry Carpenter swung at an up-and-in fastball from Texas Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning in the second inning Wednesday at Comerica Park. He demolished the ball with a 108.3 mph exit velocity for a 426-foot home run.

Bally Sports Detroit captured his live reaction.

Carpenter, a left-handed hitter who crushed 20 homers in 118 games last season, was mic'd up during Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Rangers, including in the dugout after his solo home run to the pull side.

"That might be the best swing I've ever had," Carpenter said.

Carpenter has been raking all season long.

The 26-year-old, primarily a designated hitter, is the most consistent batter for the Tigers through 20 games, hitting .328 with four doubles, two triples, three home runs, three walks and 15 strikeouts across 63 plate appearances.

Carpenter had a four-hit game, featuring three singles and one double, while driving in two runs — for his ninth and 10th RBIs of the season — to guide the Tigers' offense in Friday's 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in the chilly opener of a three-game series at Target Field in Minneapolis.

"It kind of clicked probably a week before the end of spring training," Carpenter said, "or a week and a half before the end of spring training. I've kept that going. I kind of expected it after the amount of at-bats that I get, and it felt good to do it at that point, that way I wasn't going into the season searching for anything."

It started with finding his timing on fastballs.

"The timing comes first," Carpenter said, "and then I got to rein in the approach."

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Tigers left fielder Kerry Carpenter celebrates from second base after hitting a double against the Twins in the first inning on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Minneapolis.
Tigers left fielder Kerry Carpenter celebrates from second base after hitting a double against the Twins in the first inning on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Minneapolis.

Carpenter already found his timing and solidified his approach, which is something other players are still working through into the fourth week of the regular season. The Tigers, despite team success on offense in the past few games, ranked 26th among 30 teams with a .639 on-base-plus-slugging performance.

But Carpenter has a .992 OPS.

Everything is locked in.

"He just has to be one of nine," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We've got to get the majority of these guys swinging the bat as confidently as Carp does, and as consistently as he does. He rarely has a dry spell because he puts himself in really good position to hit. The more guys we can do that, Carp will be one of many."

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Hinch uses strategy to put Carpenter in the best positions to be successful, which means Carpenter typically doesn't step to the plate with a left-handed pitcher on the mound. He has 59 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this season, compared to just four plate appearances against lefties.

Historically, Carpenter has struggled against left-handers.

In Tuesday's 4-2 win, Hinch pulled Carpenter — his best hitter — with a runner on first base and two outs against Rangers left-handed reliever Jacob Latz in the eighth inning. Matt Vierling, the right-handed hitter who pinch-hit for Carpenter, delivered a single to keep the inning alive, and Gio Urshela drove in the go-ahead run with his single.

"It's just a matter of the situation developing and having our guys ready," Hinch said. "I know how well he's swinging the bat. He's going to get his chance against lefties. I know nobody believes it because I keep hitting for him. But it's hard to leave Vierling on the bench when he can create some havoc."

In Wednesday's 5-4 loss, Hinch kept Carpenter — still his best hitter — in the game with a runner on second base and no outs against Latz in the sixth inning. Carpenter swung at a fastball above the strike zone in a 3-0 count and flew out to left field for the first out in the inning, then Vierling pinch-hit for left-handed hitter Zach McKinstry.

"We were down by a few runs at that point," Hinch said, "and I had the run of three (left-handed hitters), so I knew I was going to hit for somebody. I hit in between for McKinstry, knowing it's the only lefty (in their bullpen). ... I knew Carp had at least another at-bat. It turned out to be two at-bats rolling around. We'll see what I do next time."

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Carpenter has handled Hinch's managerial chess match with class, always trusting his manager and trusting his teammates.

"I think we all are accepting our roles well," Carpenter said, "and that's the way it should be probably. If we tag-team a game, then that's good."

He also continues to crush right-handed pitchers, hitting .352 with a 1.063 OPS this season after hitting .286 with an .841 OPS last season. He seems to be well on his way to another 20-homer season, as long as he stays healthy.

After 20 games, Carpenter is on pace for 24 home runs.

"He's taking care of his part," Hinch said. "We don't go into a game ever thinking that Carp's the only way that we're going to do something positive. He's been doing his part, and he can't do much if we don't get somebody on in front of him. The guys in front have a responsibility to help that, too."

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him @EvanPetzold.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Kerry Carpenter is the one Detroit Tiger locked in and raking in 2024