Game 134: Thursday’s comeback, and Cabrera’s early departure

So to recap, the Tigers came within an out — within a strike, in Victor Martinez’s case — of being swept in a four-game series at home for the first time since 2004 and reviving memories of the Labor Day series in Kansas City in 2009 that started that late-season collapse. They not only pulled out the win with a four-run ninth inning, they added onto their AL Central lead when Cleveland was swept in Atlanta. As an amazing result, Detroit has a half-game bigger lead coming out of this four-game set than it did coming in. The Tigers are 10-11 since they swept a four-game series in Cleveland, yet they’ve lost just a half game off their lead in that stretch as they prepare to welcome the Indians to town for a three-game weekend set.

Their biggest comeback of the season until Thursday was a 4-0 deficit they faced after one inning in Toronto July 2, a deficit they erased with a six-run second inning that included a three-run homer from Miguel Cabrera. They had just three wins when trailing in the ninth inning (two of them via Alex Avila home runs on the road), and just four games in which they scored more than two runs in the ninth. Their other four-run ninth was the Chris Perez meltdown in Cleveland, fueled in large part by Avila’s three-run homer.

Thursday’s rally erased what was once a 6-1 deficit, and it came without any role from Miguel Cabrera. And yet as scary as the sight of him limping off the field looked, his banged-up left leg clearly a problem once again, he expects to play Friday.

“I’ll play tomorrow,” he said after the game. “Don’t worry.”

He made the reason plainly clear.

“Cleveland, bro,” he said.

So to recap, what looked like a worst-case scenario for the Tigers after five innings Thursday looks now like a charmed life. And if Detroit can get its pitching back in order against a Cleveland lineup that scored just three runs over 27 innings in Atlanta, the Tigers could head into the final four weeks of the season with an even bigger division lead than it had coming out of Cleveland a few weeks ago. And as much as the Indians’ September schedule has been touted as easy, they and the Tigers play the exact same number of games against teams over .500: nine of their final 25, six of them against a Royals that has been teetering wildly around the .500 mark for the past couple weeks.

Which raises a side question:

At what point, if ever, do the Tigers consider resting Cabrera in September?

If the Tigers’ division crown is set, but Cabrera’s Triple Crown is still up in the air, would Cabrera — or the Tigers, or Major League Baseball — want him to sit?

The medical information coming from the Tigers has been consistent: Cabrera can’t make his injuries worse by playing. Still, Cabrera was favoring his troublesome left leg as he limped off the field Thursday, having tried to stretch a single into a double and spark a rally that eventually happened without him.

The diagnosis is abdominal discomfort, in this case extending into a groin injury.

“You don’t feel very comfortable when you see any of your players that might be hurt or in pain,” Leyland said. “But at least I knew what this was right off the bat. We have a pretty good idea that’s an aggravation of it.”

It’s an aggravation of the injury that has bothered him for close to two months, but at this point, it’s the same day-to-day diagnosis he has had all along.

The combination of Don Kelly replacing Cabrera at third base, Matt Tuiasosopo entering the game in Cabrera’s spot, and later Torii Hunter pinch-hitting for Kelly, left the Tigers with an interesting setup at the end. Tuiasosopo was playing third base, something he did a lot in Spring Training (he actually didn’t play much left field until his hot start at the plate put him into the conversation for the Opening Day roster) but something Leyland said a few weeks ago he’d only do now in an emergency late-game situation. If Leyland can count on Don Kelly at third, and he can use Tuiasosopo at third, it gives him options to get by. It’s not something you’d want to do with a division race on the line, but we’ll see.

That’s the team side. Then there’s the individual side. Cabrera has a 28-point lead in the batting race and enough plate appearances that he can miss some games and still qualify for his third consecutive batting crown. He has a nine-RBI lead for Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who leads him in home runs by four. The Orioles are in a scrum for the AL East and Wild Card, which means Davis is going to play. Unless he has an absolutely horrendous September, it’s very difficult to envision Cabrera winning the Triple Crown without playing all the time down the stretch, even if the Tigers wrap up a division title early.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to envision the Tigers getting back to the World Series without Cabrera as his usual threat. His presence and his potential shape how opposing pitchers approach the entire Tigers lineup. This much is obvious. So what do you do?

How the Tigers handle September call-ups could say a lot before we get to that point. Every indication right now remains that they don’t want to call up guys who won’t play a role here. Nick Castellanos isn’t making the trip unless the Tigers have a plan to get him playing time. It won’t come at third base, no matter what Cabrera’s situation is. But could it come in the outfield if Kelly and Tuiasosopo become options at third?

Leyland said Thursday morning, before Cabrera aggravated his injury, that their plans on September call-ups are pretty well set.

31 Comments

Luck has a big part of sports in almost every sport you play. In this case we are so fortunate the Tribe got swept and our rotten series can mean nothing. I want Miggy sat, but if they feel he can play I say play him for this weekend series, let us win the series and then give him a few days off in a row to mend a bit. He never should have ran to 2nd yesterday, he can barely run, it was a silly mood but in his mind he was thinking if I can just stretch this out it can help the team. Thanks boys for picking up the slack yesterday. Very mad at myself that I forgot to watch the replay last night.

I say sit him for 1 week after this CLE series. Without Miggy the record is pretty good. I would, however, use him to pinch hit for us late in games while sitting him.

Reed,Downs, Perez and Worth on sunday?
Coke, Alvarez, Holaday , Dotel on monday?
Mercedes would be a good addition, never too many arms and he is on the 40 roster. Of course , JL is not Ventura
Reed and Downs would be better options in the postseason than Bonderman and other team would call one of them before Sunday. Especially the LH

Mercedes is an interesting pitcher to consider, but I’m not sure the Tigers want to pull key guys off of Erie going into the playoffs in the Eastern League. That team doesn’t make it very often and doesn’t get much help from Tigers with rehab assignments. Also lost Hernan Perez when he was optioned to Toledo instead of Erie a few weeks ago.

Worried about Greg….it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a post from him?

true that

Hope he’s OK. Sounds like he’s been quite ill.

I have no stats to back this up (numbers, man), but doesn’t it seem that the other hitters do better when Cabrera is NOT in the lineup?

After coming back from 6-1, I have to consider that rainout Tuesday when it was 6-3. You know?

Don’t forget the A’s had the bases loaded and no outs when it was stopped!

That rainout saved our bullpen.

I didn’t forget that.

touche

Nice article and great comments here today. I agree with Tiger Girl and Evan. Completely.
I know they are saying he won’t hurt himself by playing. That is a very convenient rationalization. I disagree with it. He will hurt himself by playing. It will mean he plays hobbled and at 50 -70% of what he can do on the ball field. That is hurting himself.
He is a super competitor and an obvious cornerstone of the team. He will want to perform and inspire his team against their competitor. And he probably will. If we can take a couple of games this weekend (and the pitching needs to do its job) the pressure will be a bit less. Forget the Triple Crown. He won’t do it hobbled anyway.
Get him ready for the post season where Tiger teams have floundered offensively in the Series. Without a healthy Miguel in the Series this team will be hard pressed to break that losing streak. That’s if we get past the playoffs mind you.
Keeping him in further aggravates his injuries. Going for a home run crown will possibly cause him to tweak himself further. It’s unfortunate what has happened to him and what this might mean to history but I will quote Jim Leyland here, “It is what it is” and the Tigers have to face this with foresight, logic and acceptance.

add “not sitting miggy so he can compete for the triple crown” to the likes of “can’t sit Prince because of the streak”. I’m just glad we crossed off the “Victor can’t catch” rule.

Tiger nemesis Jason Kubel back in AL central with the Injuns.

Smart move for the Tribe. They are bringing him in as a Tiger Killer.

.220/.288/.324 this year for Jason. They are hoping and dreaming, my friends! Lets make it a nightmare~

No doubt about it. Mr. Hunter turned millions of frowns upside down. Good job. Go Tigers!!!!

For an idea of the impact of this weekend’s series, a Detroit sweep would drop their magic number from 23 to 17.

From Willie to Denny

Kugel? He’s batting 220 with 5 homers this year. Not exactly scared. Sorry Jason but your having a down year.

……mmmmmmm, Kugels……..

Kubel.

which positional players are likely to be called up upon roster expansions? Castenellos – probably, but anyone else?

If Kubel replaces Giambi at DH, that’s an upgrade.

They may as well call up Castellanos. He is a guy who can benefit from the experience even if it means a lot of sitting and watching. Forget about what kuble has done and be concerned about what he could do. This guy has hurt the Tigers in the past. He adds yet another LHB that can wear down a RHP staff. The Indians are chasing us, I still think it is smart move on their part. If he gets hot for them great (for them) if not, they haven’t lost anything.
Tigers will like ,oad up the bullpen. It has been inconsistent and they don’t want to get stuck in a precarious position where they don’t know who to throw in there because they have all been getting thumped. I hope they call up Ortega.

Positional players? Holaday, Perez (for his speed). Castellanos (for his bat). Likely they would place him on the 40 man and drop Marte if need be but I think they have room to add him anyway.

I don’t see Worth being added.

Another off the wal comment: The fact that there is no way the Tigers can DH Miggy has hurt. VMart is too important to sit on the bench and Fielder has the potential to be dangerous. (As well as that stupid iron man streak!).
Kudos to Brayan Pena for having a very productive season.
Sure would be nice if we could thwart a running game though. Avila and pena are not getting it done. And all those steals is NOT because every pitcher on this team does not do there job with men on base EVERY pitch. Some of the blame is on the catchers. If not, then Jeff Jones has proven he is not infallible as a pitching coach.

Sorry for the typos!

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