Behind still undefeated and now 13-0 Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2. But there were more fireworks to the night than Scherzer upping his record. Omar Infante was forced to leave the game with a leg injury in the fifth after Colby Rasmus upended him with a late takeout slide. In the sixth, Blue Jays reliever Todd Redmond hit Torii Hunter with a high fastball, emptying the benches.
The Tigers later announced Infante's X-rays were negative and is suffering from a left shin contusion.The Tigers' second baseman will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Media reports had Infante in "serious pain" and on crutches, his leg and shin bandaged. Also suffering from an injury is Miguel Cabrera, who was pulled late with a back issue and will not be in the Tigers' lineup Thursday.
Scherzer (13-0) pitched into the seventh, allowing just two runs and seven hits over 6 1/3 innings to extend his franchise-record start. Scherzer becomes the first pitcher since Rogers Clemens in 1986 to start a season 13-0.
The Tigers used a combination of Bruce Rondon, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit to shut the door on the Jays after the sixth inning. The three relievers combined for 2 2/3 shutout innings, allowing two hits.
Losing pitcher Josh Johnson (1-3) was rocked for all six Tigers runs and seven hits over five innings. Though only one of the runs was earned, Johnson helped save his ERA by committing two of the three Jays errors. The Jays bullpen was lights-out, allowing one hit over the final four innings.
The Tigers only had eight hits, but made them count. Alex Avila was the offensive star of the game with two hits, including a three-run home run. Victor Martinez added a home run of his own, ending the night with two hits, two runs, and two RBIs.
Despite the hijinks between the teams in the fifth and sixth, Max Scherzer was the story ... again. Scherzer is rapidly making his way up the record books.
One down in the bottom of the first, Jose Bautista (with help from R.A. Dickey's pants) nearly went yard off Scherzer, hitting a fly ball over a leaping Andy Dirks and off the left field wall for a two-base hit. Bautista had third base stolen with two down, but it became moot when Colby Rasmus went down swinging. The Jays stranded the high-socked Joey Bats as Scherzer struck out the side.
Prince Fielder's speed created a threat for the Tigers in the second. That's not a typo. Fielder led off the inning with a high chopper off the glove of Johnson, which he legged out for an infield single. Jim Leyland calling the hit-and-run with Victor Martinez at the plate. Emilio Bonifacio, likely shocked into paralysis from the tremors that are created from Fielder's mass whilst running, allowed a double-play ball to go through the five hole and into right field.
The E-4 put runners on the corners for Jhonny Peralta, who made the Jays pay for their lax defense with an RBI single to center. Fielder huffed and puffed his way across the plate to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Two down, runners still on first and second for .180-hitting Alex Avila, Johnson looked to be on the verge of getting out of the inning. But the Tigers' resurgent catcher crushed Johnson's full-count, belt-high fastball to the opposite field, the Rogers Centre crowd letting loose with an audible groan as the ball cleared the left center field wall at the 375-foot mark. Avila's three-run bomb was his sixth homer of the season, putting the Tigers up 4-0.
With two out in the bottom half of the inning, Mark DeRosa lifted a fly ball to deep right. Torii Hunter, the wall and the ball all met at the same time. Hunter took the worst of the collision, heavily hitting the wall as the ball rolled into short right field.
By the time Omar Infante tracked the ball down, De Rosa was standing on third.
That made two deep fly balls Tigers outfielders couldn't turn into a highlight reel catch. It wasn't going to happen a third time, because Austin Jackson was involved.
J.P. Arencibia launched a fly to dead center, extra base hit written all over it. But Jackson, racing to the wall and timing his leap perfectly, made a leaping grab before crashing into the wall to make a spectacular inning-ending catch.
Thanks to Jackson (who had also made a nice running catch in the right center gap to open the inning), the Tigers maintained their 4-0 lead.
Johnson's error in the third set the table for the Tigers to extend their lead. Johnson couldn't cleanly handle Hunter's weak comebacker, allowing the Tigers' right fielder to reach base without a throw. Miguel Cabrera moved Hunter over with a base on balls. Martinez made it 5-0 with a ground-ball RBI single past Johnson and into center.
Dirks at the plate with two down, Johnson couldn't handle another comebacker. Dirks was safe at first on Johnson's second E-1 of the inning, loading the bases. But Joey Bats bailed out the Jays, making a lunging, tumbling catch on Infante's gapper to end the inning. Bautista saved three runs with the all-or-nothing play.
Scherzer held the Jays at bay in the fourth, helped by an inning-ending double play started by Cabrera. Hard to believe a year and a half ago the baseball hive mind was absolutely sure Cabrera was a disaster waiting to happen at third base. I'm still waiting for the disaster.
Johnson was still having trouble with the Tigers' bats in the fourth, but was able to pitch out of trouble ... probably because he didn't have to field the ball. The suddenly hot Avila led off with a single, Hunter singling him to second with one out. But Johnson was able to strike out a slightly off-kilter looking Cabrera (you have to wonder just how much his back was bothering him), then retire Fielder on a bouncer to second.
Bottom of four, and one down, Rasmus took out Infante with a
borderline too late and spikes high slide to break up a double play.
Infante was hit hard, upended and was in a great deal of pain. He was forced to leave the game with a leg injury as a debate raged online over the slide being dirty or not. Ramon Santiago replaced Infante in the lineup.
Martinez got a measure of revenge in the fifth, leading off the inning with his seventh home run of the season. The solo shot increased the Tigers' lead to 6-0.
Right-handed reliever Todd Redmond took over for the stone-handed Johnson in the sixth. With Jackson on first with a single, Redmond hit Hunter with a high-and-tight fastball, catching him high on the left arm.
Hunter immediately lost his cool. Was it intentional? I honestly doubt it, but you sure couldn't tell Hunter otherwise.
After both benches emptied and much milling around and posturing was done, home plate umpire Mike Estabrook issued warnings to both teams. There would be no retaliation for Infante's injury by the Tigers tonight (if at all, considering MLB is watching closely after what happened against the Rays).
Cabrera followed the mess by drilling a line shot ... directly at Jose Reyes at short, who doubled off Jackson to end the Tigers' threat.
Bottom of six, the umpires took matters into their own hands.
Umpires Mike Estabrook and Jerry Layne spoke with Max Scherzer before he took the mound to begin 6th.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 4, 2013
You have to wonder if the talk affected how Scherzer approached the Blue Jays. Now that he couldn't throw inside without risk of being tossed, Scherzer immediately got himself into trouble.
Reyes led off with a single to center, Bautista advancing him to third with a single. One out, Rasmus continued to wage war on the Tigers with an RBI single to right. Two down, Maicer Izturis slapped a single through the left side. Dirks' throw beat Bautista but was off line, allowing the Jays to plate the second run of the inning.
Scherzer finally got out of the inning when Hunter made a nice running grab on DeRosa's liner to right center. But the Jays had scored twice, pulling to within four at 6-2.
While the Tigers were taking their hacks against Redmond in the seventh, Bruce Rondon and Drew Smyly were warming up. But his pitch count at just 103, Leyland sent Scherzer to the mound in the bottom half of the seventh in hope of one more inning from his soon-to-be All-Star. Instead of an inning, Leyland got two more batters out of his starter.
After Bonifacio singled with one out, Leyland leap out of the dugout (as much as a near 70-year-old heavy smoker can leap, anyway), signaling for the rookie fireballer, Rondon.
Rondon had an impressive 2/3 of an inning, Reyes popping up and Joey Bats bouncing to second, forcing Bonifacio. Rondon had ensured Scherzer remained the pitcher of record and in line for win number 13. It would be up to Smyly and Joaquin Benoit to nail down that victory.
Smyly started the eighth for the Tigers. He allowed a one-out single to (nascent Tiger Killer) Rasmus, but struck out Davis and Izturis to end the inning without incident.
Having shut down the Tigers for three innings, Redmond gave way to right-hander Dustin McGowan in the ninth. McGowan struck out the side, giving the Jays ten strikeouts on the night.
Holding a four-run advantage, the Tigers made two changes for the bottom of the ninth. Don Kelly replaced the sore-backed Cabrera at third and Benoit took over for Smyly, facing the tail end of the Jays' order.
Piece of cake.
Pitching in a non-save situation, Benoit allowed a two-out single to Bonifacio before Reyes popped up to short left for the final out.
GAME OVER! 13-0!
The Tigers win, but were unable to retaliate for the injury to Infante and Hunter being hit by a pitch. The umpires issuing a warning ended any chance of further trouble tonight. But will the Tigers forgive and forget?
If Scherzer is to be believed, the Tigers may not do either.
Scherzer on slide: "That was very dirty."— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) July 4, 2013
As for his being 13-0?
"The record's overblown, in a sense. I'm part of a great team here."
Jim Leyland on the 13-0 Scherzer:
"He might not have been vintage Max, but he was really good."
"It's hard to believe somebody is 13-0 in this day and age. But he is, and we'll take it."
When asked about Infante getting knocked out of the game, Leyland didn't vow any retaliation or give a pithy "it won't be tolerated, take that to the bank" style quote. He just said...
But Leyland did confirm Infante (leg) and Cabrera (back) will not play tomorrow.
Winning back-to-back games for the first time since June 23, the Tigers raise their record to 45-38. They are tied for first place in the Central with the Indians, who are currently mired in a rain delay in Kansas City.
Thursday may be Independence Day in the US, but it's just another day in Canuckistan. Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.77 ERA) takes on Jays' right-hander Esmil Rogers (3-3, 3.12 ERA) in the series finale. Verlander is coming off a two-earned-run, eight-inning no-decision against the Rays, his longest outing of 2013. Since moving to the Jays rotation in June, Rogers is 2-1, 2.43 in five starts. First pitch in the Rogers Centre is 7"07 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Entering tonight’s game, the Tigers lead the American League with a .280 batting average and 814 hits, standing second in OBP at .347, and third with 406 runs scored, 393 RBIs and a .430 SLG. Hard to believe this is same team which has trouble scoring runs after the seventh inning and is 2-8 in extra innings. But Scherzer has benefited from great run support all season long, and tonight was no exception.
Over at Mlive's live blog, our own Phil Coke's Brain has his mind in the gutter:
PhilCoke'sBrain for MLive.com - Dickey, Wang, Johnson...
Meanwhile, with a rehabbing Matt Tuiasosopo and the Mud Hens:
Tuiasosopo looks really good running bases ... scores from 1st on Lennerton double on close play. Good slide. @MudHens lead C-bus 2-1, B4.— JWagnerBlade (@jwagnerblade) July 4, 2013
Those wacky hockey bloggers:
No lie i havent witnessed a Tiger player get a hit with the bases loaded since august 38th 1746— TheTripleDeke (@TheTripleDeke) July 4, 2013
The AP's Dave Hogg (who's known to haunt these parts) with a 140-character scouting report of the Jays' Munenori Kawasaki:
@TonyPaul1984 Kawasaki is an answer to the age-old question "How would Ichiro hit if he didn't have any hitting ability?"— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) July 4, 2013
Austin Jackson hit a scorching foul liner which forced Tom Brookens to tumble out of danger. What would Gene Lamont have done?
Tom Brookens is alive. Gene Lamont might not have been as lucky.— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) July 4, 2013
Jim Price wanted revenge for Omar Infante:
"I'm anxious to see what happens later in this game," Jim says.— Alexandra Simon (@catswithbats) July 4, 2013
The debate raged as to the relative dirtiness of Rasmus taking out Infante :
RASMUS IS GONNA DIE— Fake Jim Leyland (@FakeLeyland) July 4, 2013
Infante rolling on the ground after Rasmus' take-out slide at second. It's his left shin. It was a clean slide, not dirty. Part of the game.— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) July 4, 2013
Rasmus' slide looked later than it was; play was gonna be bang-bang at second.— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) July 4, 2013
Sometimes you have to retaliate. Porcello only got suspended because Leyland shot his mouth off. It's not all unnecessary macho shit.— Alexandra Simon (@catswithbats) July 4, 2013
Look who was first out of the bullpen during the sixth-inning fracas!
Meanwhile, in the Tigers' radio booth:
After Jim talks about Max probably not coming back because he is starting to struggle....
Dan: "Max coming back out…"
I think Jim Price is drunk.— Alexandra Simon (@catswithbats) July 4, 2013
Max Scherzer: Was brilliant for five innings, but he may have been affected by the warning and umpires talking to him before the sixth. Regardless, Scherzer was excellent overall, allowing seven hits and two runs, whiffing eight over 6 1/3 innings to raise his record to a marvelous 13-0.
Victor Martinez: Gave the Tigers a semblance of revenge by homering immediately after Infante was knocked out of the game. Martinez was 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI.
Alex Avila: Hit a game-breaking Earl Weaver Special tonight. A resurgent Avila makes a huge difference in the Tigers' lineup. Since coming off the DL, Avila is 3-for-7 with a double, home run, two runs scored and five RBIs.
The bullpen:.Keep in mind small sample size, but the new-look bullpen has been very good. Rondon, Smyly and Benoit slammed the door.
Colby Rasmus: Was very lucky his late slide did not badly injure Infante. Losing Infante for any length of time is a massive blow to the Tigers.
Late inning offense: The Tigers did nothing against the Jays' pen, completely shut down on one hit after Johnson was yanked.
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In a tight battle with Miguel Cabrera (28%) and the bullpen as a combined entity (32%), Torii Hunter and his four hits took PotG honors with 35% of the vote.