July 4th, 2013

Fourth of July lineups: Tigers at Blue Jays

Canada Day 044

Happy Fourth of July — or, as they know it here in Toronto, Thursday (the photo above is actually from Toronto’s Canada Day fireworks Sunday night). It’s actually Country Music Night at Rogers Centre tonight, which is neither an American nor a Canadian thing.

As expected, neither Miguel Cabrera nor Omar Infante are in the lineup. Torii Hunter moves down to the third spot, with Andy Dirks filling the second hole. Alex Avila moves up to seventh in the order ahead of Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly.

Cabrera is available to pinch-hit. I got the sense that Jim Leyland doesn’t want him running a whole lot, but with Infante out and both Kelly and Santiago starting, the only pinch-running option is Avisail Garcia. Given his struggles at the plate, it might actually make more sense to do that with him than to send him up to hit.

The bullpen is thin, too, with both Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly on rest tonight. Don’t be surprised if Phil Coke ends up covering an inning along with Al Alburquerque. A deep outing from Justin Verlander migth take care of that, though.

“The way I look at this game is this: If our bullpen is a factor early, we probably lost,” Leyland said.

My Beat the Streak legend ended with Cabrera last night, so it’s back to square one tonight. I played the matchups against Esmil Rogers and doubled down with Hunter and Fielder tonight.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TVRadio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers off Esmil Rogers)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (0-for-4, K)
  2. Andy Dirks, LF (1-for-2, 2 walks)
  3. Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-4)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (4-for-10, HR, walk)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-1)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (1-for-4, K)
  7. Alex Avila, C (2-for-3, K)
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Don Kelly, 3B (0-for-1)

P: Justin Verlander

BLUE JAYS (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Jose Reyes, SS (3-for-4, walk)
  2. Jose Bautista, RF (3-for-10, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Edwin Encarnacion, DH (2-for-16, 2 HR, 3 K’s)
  4. Adam Lind, 1B (4-for-14, 2 HR, walk, K)
  5. Colby Rasmus, CF (2-for-5, 2 walks, K’s)
  6. Maicer Izturis, 3B (11-for-27, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  7. Rajai Davis, LF (2-for-11, 3 K’s)
  8. J.P. Arencibia, C (0-for-2, walk)
  9. Munenori, Kawasaki, 2B

P: Esmil Rogers

Cabrera won’t play tonight

In all the hubbub over Max Scherzer’s 13-0 start and Colby Rasmus’ slide on Omar Infante, this kind of got overlooked. Now that everyone has calmed down, I’m giving you a heads-up now: Miguel Cabrera won’t start tonight.

Jim Leyland made the announcement after the game Wednesday night, after he subbed him out in the ninth inning for the second consecutive game with tightness in his back.

“I think it probably tightened up on him,” Leyland said. “Like I said, I don’t know how it happens like it does, but it does seem to happen. We’ve been on turf now for six straight days. Guys aren’t used to that. I think there’s probably something to that. You’re on the dirt, and then on the turf, and you’re running the bases on the dirt and then you hit the turf. I don’t really have an answer for it other than the back’s bothering him and I’m not going to play him tomorrow.”

Cabrera didn’t say a whole lot after the game. He suggested his back felt OK, but that’s not really a surprise from him.

Cabrera has missed one game in each of the last two seasons. He last sat out a game last Aug. 26 against the Angels, a game the Tigers actually won, 5-2, when Max Scherzer outpitched Ervin Santana. Jeff Baker started at third that day.

The Tigers won the one game Cabrera missed in 2011, too. That day, he was on paternity leave to be with his wife for the birth of their child, and the Tigers called up Omir Santos to give Alex Avila a much-needed day off. Doug Fister pitched well and the Tigers won a getaway game at Tampa Bay.

Cabrera was also out of the starting lineup in two other games in 2011, but ended up making a pinch-hit appearance.

Don Kelly will start at third base tonight. The only other guy on the Tigers bench who can play third is Ramon Santiago, and he’ll be starting for the injured Infante.

Notes, quotes and reactions to Infante injury

First, the basics: Omar Infante returned to the Tigers clubhouse after Wednesday’s win, the clubhouse largely empty as he used crutches to get to his locker. He’s in pain, his said, but x-rays showed nothing broken. He has a left shin contusion, and he said he also took part of the impact around his ankle, but that’s it.

Infante won’t play in Thursday’s series finale, Jim Leyland said. Infante hopes to have a better idea how much time he might miss when he wakes up Thursday and sees how his shin feels.

As for how he feels about the Colby Rasmus slide that led to the injury, he made that clear.

“That play, I don’t think he needs to slide into me like that,” he said. “I think that’s dirty. That’s a dirty play. I know you come in to break up a double play, but not like that. That’s too much. I know some players play hard and some players don’t think about another player, but that slide, that’s dirty. I mean, that’s too much.”

Infante said he saw the replay. He also he was surprised when Rasmus slid in.

Rasmus, meanwhile, said he had no intention to injure Infante. He also said his slide wasn’t any different than what he normally does.

“There’s nothing different than I ever do, I feel like,” Rasmus told reporters. “I go in hard every time and my intention is never to hurt anybody or anything like that. I was taught that early in this game and that’s how I play. I didn’t mean for anything bad to happen but it’s no different than any time I come in.”

“I just treated it like any other time when I’m on first base. Rajai hit a ground ball so I was coming in hard trying to break up the doubleplay. Nothing was different.”

Reactions from other Tigers players varied in degrees, but several felt the same as Infante:

  • Max Scherzer: “That was very dirty. I didn’t like that at all. He didn’t need to slide into second base like that. That’s something where, if we were to retaliate on him, we’d get suspended, but really he should get suspended for making a slide like that. He slid way too late, when you look at it on replay. I understand playing the game hard, but that’s not a clean play.”
  • More from Scherzer: “We’re really mad about that slide. That’s a very dirty play in my book. You watch it on replay, he’s spikes-up, he’s sliding late. Rajai Davis is running [to first] there. He’s going to be safe at first. You’re most likely not going to turn two there. There’s no reason to slide in like that. That’s why I said I feel like he should be suspended. Obviously our nature is we want to retaliate, but when we retaliate, we get suspended. It really should be his suspension. If MLB can look at me and judge whether I hit [a player] and I should get a suspended, well, can’t MLB look at him and judge he should get a suspension?”
  • Torii Hunter said the slide on Infante was the main reason he was frustrated enough to react to a hit-by-pitch off his shoulder two innings later: “They’re not going to try to hit me right there, not with Miggy behind me and 6-0. That’s not why I was upset, trust me. I’m not upset with anyone there.”
  • More from Hunter: “I’m here to win. You take away somebody like that that’s very important to our ballclub, I’m upset. I’m a veteran guy. I want to win. It ain’t about stats. It ain’t about selfishness. I want to win. And when you take out a guy dirty like that, I’m upset.”
  • Hunter on the slide: “The lateness of the slide, the spikes were high, it was all wrong. 5-0. Rajai Davis is running. It made no sense to do that at all. I’ve been around the game. Trust me, I’ve broken up a lot of double plays. You’re not going to do it that way. With Rajai running, 5-0? Come on. He knows he messed up. Look in the mirror.”
  • Jhonny Peralta on the slide: “I don’t know. I don’t look at it really good, but I know it was really close.”
  • Alex Avila on the slide: “It was a pretty hard slide. I was behind the play. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell from back there. That’s why I was asking Jerry [Layne] and the umpires what they saw, because in that situation I’m kind of looking towards first already, starting to head that way to back up. I couldn’t really tell, but I saw the replay, and it was a hard slide.”
  • Rasmus on any concern about retaliation: “I’m going up there ready to hit. If they hit me, that’s part of the game, too. Take it, put some ice on it, and go on about my business.”