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Porcello bounced early as Tigers can't finish sweep

Kinsler homers, but Detroit's division lead shrinks to 1 1/2 games

Porcello bounced early as Tigers can't finish sweep play video for Porcello bounced early as Tigers can't finish sweep

KANSAS CITY -- For a game the Tigers seemingly had no business being in, Sunday could yet end up being a game they wish they had.

In the end, they headed home with two wins in the series before the Royals pounded Rick Porcello's pitches to salvage the finale in a 5-2 Detroit loss at Kauffman Stadium.

"Happy that we won two out of three," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Would've loved to sweep."

The Tigers missed the chance to all but put the American League Central away. They ended up doing what they needed.

They return home for their final seven games up a game and a half on the Royals, who could fall two games back before Detroit's next pitch unless they overcome a two-run deficit in one inning in the resumption of their suspended game against the Indians on Monday in Cleveland.

"We came in and we did what we needed to do," J.D. Martinez said. "Yeah, it would've been nice to get a little extra game cushion, but we're in the driver's seat going forward right now.

"We control our own fate. We don't have to be looking at the scoreboard hoping somebody loses or something happens. We control our own destiny right now, so you've got to like our chances going home."

That's been the case before, of course, with disappointing results. What happened this week, however, was generally better baseball, from a healthier-looking Miguel Cabrera -- despite going hitless in his final 11 at-bats of the series -- to an offensive resuscitation to overall smarter play. A rotation that has struggled off and on at times rallied behind Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. A bullpen that still looks out of sorts provided some big outs in spots, including 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball Sunday.

"This is a really, really good team, and we came in and we won the series," said catcher Bryan Holaday. "We did what we had to do."

As for what they wanted, Sunday was a reminder of the oft-mentioned Jim Leyland phrase that Verlander cited Friday when asked about a statement game.

"Momentum," Verlander said, "is the next day's starting pitcher."

Verlander and Max Scherzer had it this series. Rick Porcello, from the outset, did not.

"I was up in the zone the whole day," said Porcello, tagged for four runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. "I really just didn't make a whole lot of good pitches, to be honest. It was one of those things where I kept battling to get the ball down and just really struggled to do so, and that resulted in a lot of hits."

Some came from hitters Porcello had previously owned. Alcides Escobar was just 2-for-29 against Porcello, but he needed just two at-bats over the first two innings to match that -- a leadoff single among four Royals first-inning hits, and a second-inning RBI double.

Porcello kept the damage at a run each inning. He gave up hits to seven of his first 13 batters, yet he was pitching in a 2-2 game when he took the mound for the fourth. He had new life, but he had neither the inside corner in home-plate umpire Paul Nauert's strike zone nor the command on his secondary pitches. Without those, Porcello didn't have long.

With Omar Infante and Moustakas on base and nobody out, Escobar's sacrifice bunt attempt brought a sellout crowd to raucous boos. All it did for Porcello, however, was delay the damage for Nori Aoki -- 0-for-8 previously against him -- whose two early-inning bunts Saturday were roundly criticized.

"The Aoki at-bat, I think it was one of the better at-bats that I had pitched," Porcello said. "I was throwing some pretty good fastballs on the inner half of the plate and he kept fouling them off, fouling them off. He finally turned on one and hit it down the line."

Aoki tripled to right, delivering two runs and a 4-2 Kansas City lead.

Porcello (15-12) is 0-4 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts since his last win, allowing 43 hits over 27 2/3 innings. His third inning pushed him across the 200-inning mark for the first time in his career, but Ausmus doesn't believe fatigue is a factor.

"I know what I'm capable of doing out there and struggled to execute that today," Porcello said. "It was just a tough day. It was one of those days. It didn't happen at a very good time, obviously.

"This would've been a really nice game to have. I don't feel too good about that, but at the same time, I can sit here and think about what I could've done differently all I want. It just didn't happen."

That's where the Tigers are in general right now. As much as they wanted the sweep, they had to settle for what they needed.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Avila set to return to Tigers with doctors' approval

Detroit following procedure for players with concussion symptoms

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KANSAS CITY -- Alex Avila, a week removed from his last game while dealing with concussion symptoms, could be back in the Tigers' lineup as soon as Monday night if he receives clearance from doctors.

Two days after struggling to hit in a batting cage without feeling lightheaded, Avila took batting practice on the field, caught Anibal Sanchez while warming up in the bullpen, then hit against Sanchez in his simulated game -- all without the dizziness or disorientation that had bothered him for most of the week.

"He felt good," manager Brad Ausmus said after Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Royals, "so I'm optimistic that there'll be a decision on him tomorrow."

That decision, Ausmus said, will first go through team doctors and a medical panel, which will examine test results on Avila and decide whether he's fit to play. The clearance is standard for concussion-related injuries across Major League Baseball.

Avila said he felt steady improvement over the past few days, even though he was still limited in his activity until Saturday.

"Basically for the last three days, everything was just kind of like a guessing game, kind of just hoping I felt better," Avila said. "Definitely happy that yesterday was a good day and I was able to follow that up today feeling very well. As soon as they give me the thumbs-up, I'm playing as soon as possible."

The Tigers open a three-game series against the White Sox on Monday. If Avila plays, it would mark his first game action since a pickoff tag at first base knocked him in the head.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Anibal throws sim game to prepare for potential 'pen role

Tigers could give recovering righty a start or relief opportunity this week

Anibal throws sim game to prepare for potential 'pen role play video for Anibal throws sim game to prepare for potential 'pen role

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers' series finale against the Royals was still a couple hours away when Anibal Sanchez took the mound Sunday morning at Kauffman Stadium and started facing hitters. The postseason implications, however, were already rich.

It was a 45-pitch simulated game for Sanchez -- three innings of 15 pitches each -- but a real scenario Tigers officials were judging as Sanchez got up and sat down. As long he feels fine Monday, he'll be activated midweek for what looks increasingly possible to be a bullpen role for the stretch run and postseason if they make it.

"That's to be determined," manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning, "but he's open to anything. I've talked to him. He's open to pitching out of the 'pen. He's open to starting if the possibility's there. There's just a question of whether we could build him up and make him an effective starter with so little time left."

If Sanchez -- on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain -- were to start, he'd have one outing before the regular season ends. It could be a meaningful game for him to start if the Tigers are still struggling to hold off the Royals by then.

If Detroit sits on the doorstep of a division title by midweek, though, then Ausmus and coaches could look ahead to the postseason and plan out their four-man rotation, with one starter moved to relief. If Sanchez can't go 100 pitches, he'd be a likely candidate for the relief role.

And if Tigers officials have the luxury of deciding that early, they could decide they're better off giving Sanchez a relief appearance or two in the regular season to get him acclimated to the process of warming up midgame and concentrating on one or two innings.

"The bigger concern is he takes a long time to get ready [warming up]," Ausmus said. "But in talking to him about it, he said he wasn't worried about it at all. He said he takes that time to get ready because he's preparing for six or seven innings. And if he's down there, it wouldn't be an issue to get ready quickly for an inning or two."

How Sanchez's mid-90s fastball and breaking stuff would play in relief is far less of a question.

"If you put him down in the 'pen, he'd probably have the best stuff down there," Ausmus said. "That's a simple fact."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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'Proven' Soria's work based on other relievers

Manager Ausmus says initial plan is to go with Joba, Nathan

'Proven' Soria's work based on other relievers play video for 'Proven' Soria's work based on other relievers

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers won Saturday with help from two September callups. Their win ended with 39-year-old closer Joe Nathan facing 42-year-old pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez with the game on the line.

It also ended with the argument that the Tigers' best relief pitcher did not pitch. At this point, however, Joakim Soria remains a reliever whose work is contingent on the rest of Detroit's bullpen.

"Generally speaking, I would go for Joba [Chamberlain] and then Joe, assuming everyone is rested," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But if I don't like the way somebody's throwing or pitching, I certainly wouldn't hesitate to go to Soria. All three of those guys are proven back-end-of-the-bullpen pitchers."

That's a little bit of a shift from his previous situation, but not a full-time role. The question, as this American League Central race heads into its final week, is whether the hesitation will lessen further.

In Saturday's case, Ausmus said, "Soria was almost in the game a number of times."

Soria warmed up in the eighth and ninth innings once Chamberlain and Nathan allowed baserunners. Chamberlain gave up an Eric Hosmer single to whittle a 3-1 lead to 3-2 and put the potential tying run on base, but he retired Omar Infante from there.

At that point, Soria and Phil Coke -- who also began warming with left-handed-hitting Mike Moustakas on deck -- sat down, and Nathan got up.

Ausmus said that Soria was "not necessarily" going to be held unless the game was tied there.

Once Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar hit back-to-back one-out singles in the ninth, Soria began warming up again. He kept warming until Nathan closed out with back-to-back groundouts from Nori Aoki and Ibanez.

In similar situations this season, Ausmus has had relievers warming in the ninth in case Nathan gave up the lead. When asked after Saturday's game if the decision to warm up Soria was in case the game was tied, Ausmus said, "That was if I wanted him in the game."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lobstein aims to maintain Tigers' momentum

Rookies Lobstein, Bassitt duel in series opener at Comerica Park

Lobstein aims to maintain Tigers' momentum play video for Lobstein aims to maintain Tigers' momentum

The Tigers captured a critical series against the Royals over the weekend, taking two out of three at Kauffman Stadium, to grow their lead in the American League Central to 1 1/2 games with only seven contests to play.

But if Detroit has plans of keeping that lead in the season's final days, it will have to stop a surging White Sox club that has won eight of its past 13, including its first series victory on the road since late July in St. Petersburg.

White Sox right-hander Chris Bassitt will pitch opposite Tigers southpaw Kyle Lobstein on Monday night at Comerica Park. Although Chicago seems primed to put up a good fight, manager Robin Venture admitted the club is tired.

"There's some [mental fatigue] with everybody. You get to a point now, where we're not gonna make the playoffs, you start to see the end, I think everybody has a little bit -- it creeps in," Ventura said. "Everybody's tired, everybody's got something going on, you know, you get hit by pitches -- there's plenty of things that happen that will affect you."

That hasn't seemed to affect the White Sox in a solid September, and Ventura credited his club for not letting that mental fatigue affect its play too much.

"You can kind of see it some days when they come in, and you've played 15, 16 in a row -- it gets to you," Ventura said. "It jumps onto you, and you have to not let your mind go there and just continue to play."

Bassitt will try to keep his teammates going as he tries to get revenge on a Tigers club that roughed him up on Aug. 30. In his Major League debut, Bassitt gave up five earned runs on seven hits and four walks.

"Nervous a little bit, yeah," Bassitt said afterward. "It was a great lineup I was going up against, but I mean, I try to say the same thing: 'It's baseball. It's still the same game.' Just try to go out there and compete as much as I could."

Lobstein, meanwhile, has not yet faced the White Sox, but perhaps he can take advantage of Chicago's mental fatigue and pitch beyond the sixth inning for the first time this season.

White Sox: Konerko resting
After returning to the field in Friday's series opener against the Rays, Paul Konerko was out of the lineup Saturday and Sunday, although he did pinch-hit.

Ventura said it was general fatigue from Konerko's two weeks out of action -- not related to his injured left hand -- and expects Konerko to play multiple games against Detroit this week.

Tigers: Call Cabrera 'Mr. September' 
Miguel Cabrera's stellar September hit an unexpected snag on Sunday when he finished 0-for-4 against the Royals. However, Cabrera is still batting .413 (31-for-75) with seven doubles, six homers, 13 RBIs and 16 runs scored in 19 games.

Sunday's game marked only the fourth time this month Cabrera has gone hitless and saw him go hitless in back-to-back games for the first time since going two straight without a hit on Aug. 28-29.

Worth noting
• Torii Hunter went 1-for-4 on Sunday, snapping his career-long streak of six consecutive multi-hit games.

• Jose Abreu entered Sunday leading the Majors in batting average (.362), on-base percentage (.450) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.982) during the second half.

Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tigers put pinch on KC to stretch AL Central lead

Collins' go-ahead single in 7th helps push Royals 2 1/2 games back

Tigers put pinch on KC to stretch AL Central lead play video for Tigers put pinch on KC to stretch AL Central lead

KANSAS CITY -- Hernan Perez and Tyler Collins have been late-inning situational players since joining the Tigers as September callups. The rookies combined for one plate appearance and zero innings in the field on Saturday. But in a two-inning stretch, they might have sent Detroit on its way back to the postseason -- one from the bench, the other coming off the bench.

If a 3-2 win over the Royals sends the Tigers towards a fourth consecutive American League Central title -- they're up 2 1/2 games on Kansas City pending Sunday's series finale -- then Perez and Collins deserve some extra consideration when postseason shares are decided.

"Nobody said anything yet," Perez said when asked if anyone had offered to buy him dinner after he spotted Salvador Perez not tagging at third base on his way to what would've been the Royals' go-ahead run in the sixth after the umpires reversed a safe call without replay.

Max Scherzer is on it.

"Oh yeah, whatever he wants," Scherzer said. "In that situation, he can have dinner, lunch, breakfast, drinks, you name it."

Hopefully, someone took care of Collins' meal, too. After all, it was his pinch-hit RBI single in a two-run seventh inning -- and manager Brad Ausmus' decision to trust a rookie in a big situation -- that put the Tigers ahead for good. Yet it was the appeal at third base on a potentially devastating defensive miscue that kept the game tied.

The play in question began when Omar Infante lined out to second baseman Ian Kinsler with runners at second and third and one out in a 1-1 game. Kinsler, seeing Eric Hosmer scrambling to get back to second, immediately looked for a chance to double him off and end the threat.

Shortstop Eugenio Suarez, making his first start in a week, was late getting to the bag. Suarez dashed over as the throw went behind him and into short left field. Salvador Perez, who was headed back to third, took off for home.

Perez scored easily, but he never touched third base before doing so.

"I was at the end of the dugout, so I could see the third baseman and second base," Hernan Perez said. "I was looking at the play at second and when I saw that Suarez missed the ball, I saw Perez, he didn't go back to the base. When that happened, I ran to [first-base coach] Omar Vizquel and told him to appeal at third base."

Vizquel told Ausmus, who appealed to third-base umpire Larry Vanover. However, Vanover told Ausmus the play couldn't be challenged. Ausmus gave the umps enough doubt to confer with each other, and eventually check with replay officials in New York.

They were told they couldn't review replay, even though a replay showed twice on Kauffman Stadium's giant videoboard behind them in center field as the crowd of 37,074 groaned. But they could confer, which they did twice.

"We started talking about what happened. We walked through the play," Vanover said. "We took a consensus of the information, out of that crew consultation. We came up with the answer that he didn't tag up. He didn't touch the base."

Ausmus lost the merits of his argument, but he won the ruling. However, he credited Perez.

"He's got great instincts around the game, and he was paying attention, much to his credit," Ausmus said. "And I'll give him the credit."

The Tigers, held to a Torii Hunter solo homer over the first six innings against James Shields, took advantage in the seventh. To do so, they had to turn to Collins, who had never faced him.

Hunter's 331st career home run -- tying him with Tigers Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg on Major League Baseball's all-time list -- was the lone run in a 16-inning stretch for Shields against Detroit until the seventh. Shields recovered from J.D. Martinez's one-out single to strike out Nick Castellanos, but the right-hander walked Suarez on four pitches to bring up Bryan Holaday.

"I thought two, maybe three of those pitches were close to being strikes right there," Shields said, "but I can't walk him in that situation."

Ausmus, who had hesitated to pinch-hit in the seventh inning earlier in the week, took his shot. On came Collins, whose RBI chance became easier once a Shields wild pitch advanced the runners.

"I just think of all the left-handed hitters we have in terms of needing to produce a run, he's probably the best suited for it," Ausmus said.

Collins followed with a ground ball through the middle, scoring Martinez easily. Rajai Davis' ensuing line drive into right field scored Suarez as an insurance run that became the difference once Hosmer lined a two-out RBI single off Joba Chamberlain in the eighth.

A game turned by two rookies ended with 39-year-old Tigers closer Joe Nathan facing 42-year-old Raul Ibanez with the winning run in scoring position. Nathan, with Joakim Soria warming up and his ninth-inning role potentially on the line with the division race, escaped with a groundout to first.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Pitched battle goes to man with most weapons

Scherzer masterfully puts full arsenal on display to confound Royals

Pitched battle goes to man with most weapons play video for Pitched battle goes to man with most weapons

This was Max Scherzer at his best. And at his best, there are very few better. That's still the bottom line for the Detroit Tigers.

When you list the reasons the Tigers could play deep into October, it begins with a core group of guys -- Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, etc. -- who are comfortable on baseball's biggest stage.

First, the Tigers have to get to October, and at times in this strange season, that hasn't seemed like a sure thing. Now as the season winds down, this team that has seemed so vulnerable at times has found another gear.

That's what teams like this do. These are the teams that have been down this road before, teams that understand September and October baseball is different from April and May baseball.

In the second game of a three-game series that will go a long way toward deciding the American League Central, the Tigers beat the Royals for a second straight day, this time by 3-2 on Saturday afternoon in front of a big, noisy crowd of 37,074 at Kauffman Stadium.

With the victory, the Tigers lead the AL Central by 2 1/2 games with eight to play, making Sunday afternoon's series finale almost a must-win game for the Royals.

The Royals will look back at Saturday's game and see it as contest of missed opportunities. They went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base, including eight in scoring position.

In other words, they were one lousy hit away from winning, and losses like this, losses filled with missed opportunities, can linger in the hearts and minds. The Royals will especially regret catcher Salvador Perez allowing himself to get doubled off third base in the bottom of the sixth inning of a 1-1 tie.

(Hats off to the Tigers for catching his mistake and hats off as well to the umpiring crew for reversing the original call to get it right.) The Tigers strung the winning rally together in the top of the very next inning, with manager Brad Ausmus calling on pinch-hitter Tyler Collins, who lined a James Shields changeup off his ankles and into center field to score the go-ahead run.

It was an afternoon of great theater, stretch-run baseball at its best. It finally ended when Tigers closer Joe Nathan got Raul Ibanez to ground out with both the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth.

When the Royals have some time to reflect on it, they will see that it was more than just a string of missed opportunities. In the end, it was about one of baseball's best pitchers giving his team just what it needed.

In these first two games, Verlander and Scherzer have allowed the Royals two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings. If this is an October preview, the Tigers have a great chance to win the championship that has eluded them the last three years.

Back to Scherzer. To see him now is to barely recognize the guy who threw over 70 percent fastballs when he first broke into the big leagues with the D-backs in 2008. That's not the Max Scherzer the Royals saw Saturday afternoon.

This one is the complete package. He was already throwing a very nice changeup and slider when he developed a first-rate curveball last season, and even though his fastball is still regularly in the 95-mph range, he only throws it a little over half the time.

He prides himself on his last pitch being his fastest of the day. In the early innings on Saturday, he mixed the off-speed stuff around the fastball. For instance, in the bottom of the first inning, he struck out Alex Gordon on a changeup/fastball combination.

An inning later, he finished off Eric Hosmer on fastball/curveball/changeup sequence. His best battle came in the bottom of the fifth when Mike Moustakas and Scherzer had a 12-pitch faceoff. Scherzer emptied the tank, throwing him everything in his arsenal, finally getting him to ground out on a 94-mph fastball.

But late in the game, having showed the Royals everything he had, he simply went to the hard stuff. He threw 13 pitches to his final three hitters in the seventh -- 12 of them fastballs, all clocked from 93 to 95 mph.

The Tigers again cautioned that these were not statement games, and that's probably how they see it. When a team is on the verge of its fourth straight postseason appearance and when the larger goal -- a World Series -- has been out of reach, it's about showing up and taking care of business every single day.

They're doing exactly that again and moving relentlessly toward the postseason again. In other words, taking care of business. Strip everything else away, and that's surely how the Tigers see this weekend.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["replay" ] }

Here's the takeaway: Royals lose go-ahead run on reversal

They deem Perez does not tag at third base before trying to score on Tigers' misplay

Here's the takeaway: Royals lose go-ahead run on reversal play video for Here's the takeaway: Royals lose go-ahead run on reversal

KANSAS CITY -- With a simple flick of the wrist, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler set off a whirlwind of controversy and a heap of misfortune for the Royals in their crushing 3-2 loss on Saturday.

Kansas City suffered the consequences of a wayward double-play attempt by Kinsler that initially looked like it would benefit the Royals.

In the sixth inning of a 1-1 ballgame, with runners on second and third and one out, Omar Infante hit a line drive to Kinsler. He made the easy catch, then wheeled and threw to second in an attempt to nab a wandering Eric Hosmer.

But his toss sailed past shortstop Eugenio Suarez, and Salvador Perez, occupying third base at the time, raced home to score.

It appeared Kansas City had taken a 2-1 advantage, and the crowd reacted accordingly, loudly celebrating the team's first lead in the pivotal three-game series.

While Kauffman Stadium rejoiced, the unlikeliest of Tigers was plotting his act of heroism. Hernan Perez, a September callup, tipped the team off to the fact that Salvador Perez never tagged from third base. He started to go back to third, but when the ball got away, he turned and headed home.

"I have to give credit where credit's due. Hernan Perez was the guy who initially noticed it, sitting on the bench and watching the game," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.

Detroit tried an appeal play at third, but third-base umpire and crew chief Larry Vanover made the safe call.

Ausmus went out to ask Vanover whether he could challenge the ruling. Vanover recounted how the conversation with Ausmus went.

"Ausmus comes out and wants to challenge the play, that he didn't tag up. And I said, 'OK, I'm like 90 percent that retagging on a line drive or a fly ball is not a reviewable play.' And he said, 'Well, what's the difference between missing a base and tagging up? It's the same thing.' I said, 'Well, I see your point, but my understanding, the rules state tagging up, you can't review that.' And he says, 'Well, can you check? Can you check and make sure? Because the guy didn't tag up."

Ausmus described the basis of his argument.

"This wasn't a case where you're challenging whether a guy left early or not. This is basically a missed base, and missed bases are challengeable."

Vanover acceded to Ausmus' request, but when Vanover donned the headset that gave him an ear to replay officials in New York, he heard what he was expecting.

"I said, 'I need to know whether tagging up on a line drive is reviewable or not reviewable' and they came back with the answer that it's not a reviewable play," Vanover said.

Still, at this point, Vanover and the other three umpires -- Angel Hernandez, Paul Nauert and Vic Carapazza -- conferred and "took a consensus of the information," which led them to the conclusion that Perez never retouched third.

"Perez started back, but he didn't touch the bag. So at that point we overturned the call, and that's when I went to the middle of the infield, signaled the guy out and waved off the runner," Vanover said.

Royals manager Ned Yost, who said he did not plan on protesting the game because it was a judgment call, trotted out of the dugout to discuss the reversal.

"I ran out and said, 'What's the basis for this?' And he just said it's the umpire's judgment that he did not tag. I said, 'Well, which umpire? I want to know which umpire's judgment it was that said he didn't tag because obviously you got it wrong, you didn't see it. You called him safe.' He said, 'That's our judgment.'"

And, according to the player at the center of the dispute, that judgment was correct.

"I think everything was too fast for me," Perez said. "When Kinsler caught the ball, I came back to the base and he threw the ball to Suarez, and he missed. ... I never thought about tagging, only if [the throw] came toward the base I'd put my foot on the base. But as soon as he dropped it, I just want to score for the team and that's what I did, go to home plate."

The run was taken off the board, and the inning ended promptly, with the score still deadlocked at 1. In the next half inning, Detroit took the lead with a pair of runs.

"I don't envy the umpires' position there, because if it's not challengeable, 45,000 people know what the right call is, including all the umpires and both teams," Ausmus said. "It's not an enviable position to be in, but ultimately, the goal is to get the call right. And they got the call right."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["replay" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Avila progressing from concussion symptoms

Tigers catcher to take part in batting practice prior to Sunday's game

Avila progressing from concussion symptoms play video for Avila progressing from concussion symptoms

DETROIT -- Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who is out this week while dealing with the aftereffects of a concussion, is expected to take batting practice on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium to see if he's nearing readiness for a return.

Avila, who had been feeling lightheaded and disoriented while hitting in the cage on Thursday and Friday, hit soft-toss pitches and ran on Saturday morning without issue, according to manager Brad Ausmus. It was Avila's first day without concussion symptoms since he left last Sunday's game against Cleveland with dizziness following an at-bat.

If Avila can take batting practice without issue, it could put him on track for a return early next week. He's expected to miss Sunday's series finale against the Royals regardless.

Avila's absence has meant five starts in six days for Bryan Holaday, who will likely start on Sunday as well. Top catching prospect and September callup James McCann started on Friday and had two hits.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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V-Mart makes history by notching 100 RBIs

V-Mart makes history by notching 100 RBIs play video for V-Mart makes history by notching 100 RBIs

KANSAS CITY -- Victor Martinez's career season continues to defy his age. In Friday night's 10-1 win over the Royals, the 35-year-old entered historic territory with it.

When Martinez drove in Miguel Cabrera with a single in Friday's first inning, he ensured his fifth 100-RBI season and his first since 2011, Martinez's first year as a Tiger. Never, however, had he posted 30 homers to go with it.

At age 35, Martinez became the third-oldest player in history to post his first 30-homer, 100-RBI season. Only Carlton Fisk and Edgar Martinez did so at a greater age, both at 37. Fisk hit 37 homers to go with 107 RBIs in 1985, while Edgar Martinez hit 37 homers with a league-high 145 RBIs in 2000.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Suarez starting trend at short against Royals

Suarez starting trend at short against Royals play video for Suarez starting trend at short against Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Eugenio Suarez started once in a 12-day stretch before returning to his spot at shortstop. His start on Saturday afternoon against the Royals was his second in 24 hours.

It wasn't a matter of resting a youngster who hasn't played in September before this year. After playing Andrew Romine and his reliable glove while he was on a decent hitting stretch, manager Brad Ausmus has turned back to Suarez, hoping the break has refocused him and his swing for the stretch run.

"I don't know that he needed a rest," Ausmus said. "He wasn't overworked by any stretch. Sometimes it's more beneficial for a young player to watch a few games in September and get the pangs to be on the field."

Suarez had a pair of RBI singles in Friday night's 10-1 win at Kauffman Stadium. He went 6-for-38 with 10 strikeouts in between, seemingly caught in between plate discipline and aggressiveness.

The first of Friday's RBI singles came after taking a fastball for a called second strike with two outs. Royals lefty Jason Vargas tried to change speeds on him, but Suarez pulled a line drive into left field for the third of Detroit's first-inning runs.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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McCann gets ribbing for around-the-horn throw

McCann gets ribbing for around-the-horn throw play video for McCann gets ribbing for around-the-horn throw

KANSAS CITY -- Tigers catcher James McCann received the ball from his first Major League hit and the praise from Justin Verlander for his efforts behind the plate Friday night in his second big league start. McCann, who had two hits and his first stolen base in a 10-1 win over the Royals, also had a few friendly reminders from teammates that a Major League inning consists of three outs.

That wasn't entirely clear when he started to throw the ball around the horn upon Raul Ibanez's swing and miss to end the seventh.

"What it was, I had a moment," McCann said. "[Third baseman] Nick [Castellanos] was running across the field to get in the shift defense. So I was sitting there thinking, 'Man, if we strike someone out in this situation, do I throw it around to short or I throw it to first?' So that was the last thought in my mind.

"I knew there were two outs, but that was the last thought. So as soon as [Verlander] struck him out, I said, 'OK, I'll throw it short.'"

Eugenio Suarez took the throw. Verlander, who had taken a step, paused for a second in confusion.

"I think everybody got him pretty good in the dugout," Verlander said. "Everybody was like, 'We play three outs in this league.' I told him that too."

The Tigers do not have a kangaroo court for such matters, so McCann eluded a fine for his throw.

"No fine," regular catcher Alex Avila said after a long laugh, "but a lot of ribbing."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tigers' bats blast Royals to stretch Central lead

Kinsler's homer in five-run fifth backs Verlander's strong outing

Tigers' bats blast Royals to stretch Central lead play video for Tigers' bats blast Royals to stretch Central lead

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers insist they weren't trying to make a statement with their 10-1 win over the Royals on Friday night.

"I don't want to say statement game," said starter Justin Verlander, who took a shutout into the eighth and seemed irked at the one run he gave up. "But I think it was about the best possible scenario for us to start the series."

Torii Hunter, who coined the term "Septober" and has latched onto it since, wasn't buying it either.

"There's no statements or anything that we're trying to prove," he said. "We just go out and play the same game we know how to play. Our intent is to just play the game and keep going. Statements are for you guys and the fans."

Yet there might be a statement to come out of the onslaught that goes beyond the gap between Detroit and Kansas City, now 1 1/2 games in American League Central standings but seemingly bigger in style of play.

It means nothing come Saturday afternoon, when the two teams go back at it in a 1 p.m. ET start with Max Scherzer opposing James Shields. However, it's a reminder just what the Royals are up against in trying to win this division.

With their season on the line, the Tigers turned in one of their most complete games of the season, from arguably Verlander's best outing since last October to double-digit runs by the fifth.

"I think it's been like that a few years here," Verlander said. "We seem to play our best baseball when we need to, and this is obviously a need-to moment. That's why I love these guys."

The Tigers also played with an intensity that hasn't been seen since last October. Miguel Cabrera made a safe sign in front of Salvador Perez after sliding home with the second run in a three-run opening inning off Royals starter Jason Vargas, then he bounded off the field after finishing a double play to end the fourth. Verlander pitched into the eighth inning with a 10-0 lead, then he looked irked at leaving a runner on third base as he exited with one out.

"Guys do recognize the moment. I think that's what makes this team so special," Verlander said. "I think this entire team, especially the veterans, recognize the moment. This is one of those moments when you need to step up, and obviously I wasn't the only one. We scored 10 runs."

They scored 10 and looked like they could've scored more if needed. Eight of Detroit's starting nine had a hit off Vargas (11-10), who gave up five runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. Seven of the nine had scored a run by the time Ian Kinsler's two-run homer -- his 15th of the year -- put Detroit into double digits in the fifth.

Six different Tigers starters had multi-hit games, including rookie catcher James McCann in just his second Major League start. Kinsler fell a triple shy of the cycle in a three-hit, three-RBI performance.

"They came out swinging the bats tonight," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We just flat-out got beat. They beat us in all aspects of the game and there's nothing we can do about this one tonight."

The Royals had their chances, too. But when Billy Butler, Verlander's Kryptonite for much of his career, swung at a 3-0 pitch and popped out to short right field with runners at second and third and one out in the second inning, it summed up the night.

Butler went hitless against Verlander for the second straight game; his 0-for-5 streak against Verlander ties the longest hitless stretch of his career. Salvador Perez hit a bloop single over Cabrera's head to continue his hot hitting off Verlander, but the catcher had little else.

Detroit has now won 12 of 17 games from Kansas City this season, including seven of eight at Kauffman Stadium. Five of the Tigers' wins here have been by five or more runs.

"If we knew why," Hosmer said, "we'd definitely do something about it."

None of those previous 16 had an atmosphere like this, though. Not only did the Royals fill the park, they passed out ThunderStix to make extra noise. By the time the Tigers went up by double digits, they were largely quiet, awakened only when Johnny Giavotella scored on a Jayson Nix sacrifice fly to end the shutout.

Verlander watched from the dugout, seemingly irritated at giving up a run. The result might not have made a statement, but the attitude does.

"That's what I love about this team," Verlander said. "We always seem to know the moment and know how to capture it."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Heart of a lion? No, heart of Tigers beats in KC

Verlander receives plenty of support in stellar start to open key series

Heart of a lion? No, heart of Tigers beats in KC play video for Heart of a lion? No, heart of Tigers beats in KC

Wait, you thought the Detroit Tigers were going to go quietly? Maybe you figured this weekend was about them passing the torch to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central. You had plenty of company in thinking exactly that.

After all, the Tigers have all those old guys and a rotation that isn't nearly what it used to be. Their bullpen has been a manager's nightmare. So these three Tigers-Royals games had a chance to symbolize something larger.

There's just one teensy flaw in this smart narrative. Shame on us for maybe overlooking it. When the calendar turns to September, it's one of those critically important factors. Any baseball man worth his salt will tell you the same thing.

The Tigers still have the heart of a champion. In a nutshell, that's it.

To accomplish all they've accomplished these last four seasons speaks volumes about, not just their talent -- and there's plenty of that -- but also their pride, toughness and work ethic.

If the Royals are going to win the division, they're going to earn it. So in the biggest series the Royals have played in a long, long time, it was the Tigers who stepped up and made a huge statement in a 10-1 win on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

At 85-68, the Tigers lead the 83-69 Royals by 1 1/2 games with nine to play. Detroit has won 12 of 17 against Kansas City this season.

The Tigers will tell you that it was just one game and that there's still a long way to go. They will tell you that Friday night decided nothing.

But it mattered.

First of all, it came in front of a loud, fired-up house. For a Royals team that hasn't made the playoffs in 29 years, this night had an October feel to it.

Yet it was the Tigers who took control at the start, scoring four first-inning runs off Royals starter Jason Vargas and running up a 10-0 lead in the first five innings. Perhaps the best news for the Royals had nothing to do with offense.

Offense hasn't been a problem. The Tigers are leading the Majors in runs since the All-Star break. Miguel Cabrera is hitting .463 this month. J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter have all gotten hot at the most important time of the season.

Detroit's offense has been so good that it made for an interesting contrast with the Royals. Kansas City has one of baseball's best defensive teams and one of its best bullpens, along with a starting rotation that has been tremendous.

Tremendous starting pitching has been Detroit's calling card in recent years. Justin Verlander won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012, Max Scherzer in 2013. Meanwhile Rick Porcello is having his best season, with a 3.19 ERA as he approaches the 200-inning threshold.

And then at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski acquired David Price from the Rays. For a lot of people, that deal wrapped up a franchise-record fourth straight postseason appearance Detroit.

Only it didn't. Scherzer and Price had a string of tough starts. Verlander continued a puzzling, disappointing season. Suddenly, the Tigers looked vulnerable.

On Friday night, though, they looked like a team very capable of winning a fourth straight division championship and maybe a little more. Best of all was how they did it.

They took control of the game early, took the big crowd right out of it. Ian Kinsler and J.D. Martinez had three hits apiece. Manager Brad Ausmus gave rookie catcher James McCann his second career start, and he responded with his first two Major League hits.

But the best news of all was that Verlander allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings, his best performance of the season. He took a shutout into the eighth, something he hadn't done the entire season.

For a guy who began the day with a 4.81 ERA, this was a huge step in the right direction. Verlander is doing it differently than he once did. Instead of calling upon a 100-mph fastball to get him through tough spots, he has to rely on movement, location and smarts. Verlander opened the bottom of the first inning by throwing Royals leadoff man Alcides Escobar four straight changeups.

Right there, Verlander sent a message that he was capable of challenging hitters in a different way. He was terrific at this, mixing curves and changeups with a fastball that was typically around 91 mph.

Verlander threw strikes, kept the Royals off-balance, and with all those runs on the scoreboard, he threw strikes and worked fast. He sailed through seven innings, allowing six hits and no walks.

When it was over, the Tigers had guaranteed themselves a 152nd day atop the AL Central. Now the pressure is squarely on the Royals for the final two games of the series.

It was Detroit's 361st victory since the beginning of the 2011 season. That's tied with the Cardinals for the most in the big leagues. Unlike the Cardinals, the Tigers have yet to win a World Series in this run.

Anything less than that would make this season disappointing. There have been a couple of stretches when it was easy to wonder if they'd even get back to the postseason. But it might also end up playing out exactly like the Tigers hoped they would. They should not be underestimated.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Avila says he's been sidelined by concussion

Avila says he's been sidelined by concussion play video for Avila says he's been sidelined by concussion

KANSAS CITY -- Tigers catcher Alex Avila is calling his injury a concussion. His manager is calling it the aftereffects of a concussion. That has become clear while Avila struggles with dizziness and disorientation during physical activity.

What isn't clear is when Avila might return.

"Alex will each day come in and do some type of activity," skipper Brad Ausmus said before Friday's series opener against the Royals. "And until he can go through that activity without any side effects, we probably won't be able to play him."

The way things are going, the Tigers are now preparing for the possibility that Avila might not be able to return this season. It was with that mind that Ausmus gave September callup James McCann his second Major League start on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.

Ausmus has hesitated to use McCann in big situations of a division race, including pinch-hitting opportunities against a left-hander. That was before the extent of Avila's concussion symptoms became clear.

"The truth is, we don't know when Alex is coming back," Ausmus said, "so we better be prepared for the fact that if he doesn't come back, we're going to need two catchers."

Avila believes the concussion happened when he was picked off first base on Sunday against Cleveland. First baseman Carlos Santana's arm hit Avila's head while Santana swiped to apply the tag. He does not know whether the foul tip off his mask on Sept. 2 in Cleveland, which also forced him to miss a few days, had a cumulative effect, something he has been told by doctors is a possibility in cases of repeated blows.

While Avila was trying to stay upbeat in those minutes, he was also honest about his situation. He's further along now than he was at the same point dealing with past concussions.

"This concussion wasn't any worse than last year's," Avila said.

That said, Avila is now dealing with concussions for three straight seasons. Last year, it was a foul tip. The year before, it was a collision with Prince Fielder while chasing a popup.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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McCann catches on quick with first MLB hits

McCann catches on quick with first MLB hits play video for McCann catches on quick with first MLB hits

KANSAS CITY -- James McCann is viewed as a very realistic candidate to take over the Tigers' front-line catching duties one day. The audition period, however, has arrived sooner than anyone thought.

With Alex Avila sidelined with after-effects stemming from a concussion, the Tigers need a contingency plan as the playoffs near. McCann, who just a couple of weeks ago was a mere September callup, can expect to see significantly more playing time moving forward, starting with his two-hit performance in Friday night's 10-1 win over the Royals.

In his sixth Major League game and second start, McCann experienced a series of firsts -- his first hit, first stolen base, and, perhaps most significantly, his first time being paired with veteran Justin Verlander. Oh, and this was, by all accounts, a very big game, considering the first-place Tigers were visiting the second-place Royals with the division title within reach for both teams.

Nope, no pressure there.

The game wasn't close as the Tigers were already ahead 10-0 by the fifth inning, but it's likely McCann, the club's second-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, won't forget the experience. He also admitted that he can relax a little bit now that the first hit, a single to center in the fourth inning, is in the books.

"I think I had five [at-bats] coming in tonight," McCann said. "It definitely feels like a monkey off your back. The more at-bats you go without that first knock, the heavier it seems. Thankfully, it's over. The biggest thing is we're in a pennant race and we got a win tonight."

McCann drew praise from both manager Brad Ausmus and Verlander, who lauded McCann's defensive skills and expressed confidence in the 24-year-old rookie moving forward. It helped, of course, that Verlander yielded one earned run over 7 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out four.

Prior to this pairing, the only time Verlander and McCann had worked together was when Verlander threw a bullpen a few weeks ago.

"He did a great job," Verlander said. "I can't say enough about how he did back there. We were on the same page a lot tonight. What an incredible job he did for the first time he's caught me in a game situation. He just did all the little things right."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Anibal nearing return, set to throw sim game

Anibal nearing return, set to throw sim game play video for Anibal nearing return, set to throw sim game

KANSAS CITY -- Anibal Sanchez is now potentially one step away from rejoining the Tigers' pitching staff for the final week of the regular season. The right-hander, out since early August with a right pectoral muscle strain, is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Sunday morning at Kauffman Stadium.

"If that goes well," manager Brad Ausmus said, "then we have to make a decision on when he comes back."

Ausmus wasn't giving an idea when, or in what role -- starting or relieving. That, too, might be part of the decision process. Getting this far, though, has Sanchez upbeat.

While most of the Tigers enjoyed their final off-day of the regular season on Thursday, Sanchez spent the day at Kauffman Stadium, where he threw 40 pitches in the bullpen, watched by Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones.

It was his third session off a mound, but Sanchez's first extended session. He threw all of his pitches and felt fine afterwards.

If Sanchez returns in the rotation, it might be a one-time deal. He'd have one start before the end of the regular season, leaving the Tigers to decide a potential postseason rotation having seen Sanchez pitch in only one game over the last seven weeks.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ausmus stacks the deck for Royals series

Ausmus stacks the deck for Royals series play video for Ausmus stacks the deck for Royals series

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello will get their last chances at the Royals this weekend. Kyle Lobstein will not.

After waiting until Wednesday to announce his rotation for this weekend's American League Central showdown in Kansas City, manager Brad Ausmus ended up laying it out as expected, lining up his veteran starters for a three-game set that is likely to swing the division in one team's direction, with a chance to close it out next week.

Verlander, Scherzer and Porcello will start in order, all on their regular four days' rest. The extra rest that Thursday's off-day would have afforded them vanished when Ausmus decided to push back Lobstein, the rookie left-hander who was thrust into the division race as an injury replacement for Anibal Sanchez.

It was the potential value of that extra rest down the stretch, Ausmus said, that kept him from announcing his rotation. He wanted to make sure all three starters felt fine before slotting them in.

"We're late in the season, there are aches and pains, and sometimes that extra rest is good," Ausmus said. "But ultimately, this is extremely important."

Verlander did not have his usual velocity, even by this season's standards, in his most recent start, on Sunday against Cleveland. He was also battling a nasty blister on his thumb, but he has said over the last couple of days that he doesn't expect the blister to be an issue.

Lobstein will not pitch out of the bullpen for the series. Instead he'll prepare to start Monday's opener against the White Sox at Comerica Park to begin the Tigers' final homestand of the season. That will give David Price an extra day of rest before his next start.

By pushing Price back a day, the Tigers also put him on track to pitch the regular-season finale next Sunday if need be. Verlander, meanwhile, would be in line to pitch a tiebreaker game, with Scherzer on turn for a potential Wild Card game.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tigers' lead down to half-game after loss to Twins

Tigers' lead down to half-game after loss to Twins play video for Tigers' lead down to half-game after loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- David Price has an All-Star resume and Cy Young stuff, but on Wednesday he couldn't get through the sixth inning in an 8-4 loss to the last-place Twins at Target Field.

After allowing five earned runs and 11 baserunners in just 5 2/3 innings, Price was frustrated at his inability to consistently show the form that made him the top prize on the trading block earlier this summer.

"I'm a better pitcher than this," Price said. "I had good stuff today. Those are the days you want to go out there and pitch well, and I didn't do that. But I'll keep working."

Handed a two-run lead before he set foot on the mound, Price gave it up immediately, as Minnesota scored three runs in the bottom of the first. He shut down the Twins for the next four innings, but his pitch count soared as batters consistently worked deep into counts.

That patience finally paid off for the Twins in the sixth, when they broke through against Price and two relievers for three runs to take the lead for good.

"Giving up two leads is not the way you want to go out there and pitch," said Price, who was lifted after 112 pitches. "I definitely didn't command the ball the way I can. They spoiled some good pitches. They put some good swings on what I thought were some pretty good pitches in the first inning. But that's just baseball. Sometimes you've got to tip your cap."

The loss, coupled with the Royals' win over the White Sox, leaves the Tigers just a half-game ahead of the Royals in the American League Central heading into the weekend series at Kauffman Stadium.

Price's record with the Tigers fell to 3-4 and his Detroit ERA rose to 4.09. But even more concerning, his innings count ran to a career-high 232 1/3 between Tampa Bay and Detroit this season. He downplayed the effects of his workload, but manager Brad Ausmus is keeping an eye on his ace left-hander.

"His innings are climbing as we get later in the season," Ausmus said. "We're hoping that with the importance of the next couple of starts that he has, the adrenaline helps and he's like he was earlier."

Miguel Cabrera had a four-hit night, but he was part of a blunder on the basepaths that short-circuited a potential rally in the seventh. With Cabrera on second and Torii Hunter on third, Victor Martinez hit a ground ball to the right side. Ausmus later said that he thought Twins first baseman Joe Mauer had been playing up to cut off the run, then backed off after a couple of pitches.

Mauer fielded the ball near the outfield grass, seemingly conceding the run. But Hunter didn't break for home; Cabrera, caught by surprise, was trapped between second and third for the third out.

"I might have [taken] a jump, took a couple quick steps and got Miggy off a little too far and got him in no-man's land, and he's not moving too well, so it's hard for him to get back," Hunter said. "You have to make sure you're safe at home -- I didn't want him to throw the ball and I'm out at home. That would have looked worse. But I accept that, full responsibility. I misled [Cabrera], and that's my fault."

Another rally fizzled in the eighth, when pinch-hitter Eugenio Suarez struck out looking and Rajai Davis grounded out to strand runners at the corners. And the Twins put away the game with two runs off the Tigers' bullpen in the eighth.

Now the focus turns to Kansas City and a massive three-game series with the Royals. The Tigers have won six of seven games at Kauffman Stadium this season, but no one in the clubhouse was taking anything for granted on Wednesday night.

"This is probably one of the most important series in the season," Hunter said. "When they said that in June, it wasn't. Now it is. What we've got to do is keep playing the game the way we know how to play, control what we can control, go out there and prepare [ourselves] and have good at-bats and play good defense and make good pitches. [If] we do that, I think we'll be fine."

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Verlander honored with Clemente nomination

Verlander honored with Clemente nomination play video for Verlander honored with Clemente nomination

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the second time in three years, Justin Verlander has been selected as the Tigers' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the Major League player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

For Verlander the nomination is a continuation of his efforts to raise awareness for veterans and their battle with medical issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I don't do what I do for veterans because I want the notoriety, but it's pretty cool that people take notice," Verlander said on Tuesday. "And any time that you're able to bring awareness to a situation that needs some help in an area like what I'm doing with PTSD, it's always great. So I'm honored. I put a lot of heart and soul into this, and it means a lot to me."

Verlander partnered with the Detroit Tigers Foundation three years ago to create the Victory for Veterans program, inviting selected veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to watch a Verlander start from his suite at Comerica Park.

Last summer, Verlander committed $1 million to Wins for Warriors, a program designed to provide mental health support for veterans and their families with a focus on the Detroit and Richmond/Norfolk communities. During its first grant cycle, Wins for Warriors awarded $267,000 in funding to two best-in-class organizations: Give an Hour and The Mission Continues.

"I truly and honestly believe that this is an area that needs to have awareness," Verlander said. "It's starting to gain steam, but people don't realize how much it affects the veterans and their families, which is a big part of what I do. And I don't believe that any of us would be here playing this great game if it weren't for those great men and women. That's just my way to try to give back and help as much as I can."

Fans can vote at ChevyBaseball.com for one of the 30 club nominees beginning on Wednesday. Voting ends on Oct. 6, and the winner of the fan vote will receive a vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, which includes Commissioner Bud Selig; MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred; MLB goodwill ambassador and wife of Roberto Clemente, Vera Clemente; and representatives from Chevrolet, MLB Network, MLB.com, ESPN, FOX Sports and TBS, among others. The winner will be announced during the World Series.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Martinez making history with heroics

Martinez making history with heroics play video for Martinez making history with heroics

MINNEAPOLIS -- J.D. Martinez came to the Tigers late, signing a Minor League deal in the final days of Spring Training and joining the team in late April, but he has had enough late heroics to top the full season of almost any member of the team.

When Martinez pointed skyward and watched his opposite-field homer carry over the right-field overhang on Tuesday night for a go-ahead three-run homer off Twins closer Glen Perkins, he had his eighth home run in the ninth inning or later. That ties Alex Rodriguez's 2007 American League MVP heroics for the second-most ninth-inning homers in a season since 1914.

Former third baseman Tony Batista has the top mark, hitting 10 ninth-inning homers as part of his 41-homer season for the 2000 Blue Jays.

Another split further exemplifies the dramatics. Seven of Martinez's 23 home runs have in come in "Late and Close" situations, defined by baseball-reference.com as the seventh inning or later with the score tied, the hitting team ahead by one run, or trailing with the tying run at least on deck.

That ties Martinez for the second-highest total by a Tiger since 2000, trailing only Miguel Cabrera's eight "Late and Close" home runs in 2010. Cabrera also hit seven in 2008 and 2012.

Craig Monroe, now a Tigers TV analyst, hit seven in 2006.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tigers' postseason push hits a snag vs. Twins

Tigers' postseason push hits a snag vs. Twins play video for Tigers' postseason push hits a snag vs. Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Down to their last out on Tuesday, the Tigers got another dramatic home run and were poised to pull out one of their most improbable victories of the season, but a split-second decision that worked against Ezequiel Carrera sent them home with a loss.

J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning, but the Twins rallied with two runs in the bottom of the frame for a wild 4-3 victory over the Tigers at Target Field. The loss was frustrating but it could have been costlier, as the Royals were defeated by the White Sox later in the evening, keeping the Tigers 1 1/2 games up in the American League Central.

Trying to protect a one-run lead, closer Joe Nathan issued a one-out walk to Trevor Plouffe, and Kurt Suzuki followed with a soft liner into short center field. Carrera, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the top half of the inning, made a dive and came within inches of making the catch. But the ball skipped under his glove and rolled to the wall, allowing pinch-runner Doug Bernier to run home all the way from first base to tie the score at 3.

"We've already talked to Zeke about it," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He was trying his tail off, which is good, but the smart play there is, if you're not sure you're going to catch it, you contain it and keep it at first and second. … I'm sure for a split second he thought he could catch the ball. It just didn't work out."

After an infield out advanced pinch-runner Chris Herrmann to third base, Aaron Hicks ran the count full, then hit a chopper up the middle and beat shortstop Andrew Romine's throw by a step.

"You can't do much more than locate a fastball when [Hicks] was probably looking slider on the 3-2 pitch and get him to reach out and hit a ground ball, which is what we were looking for to get out of the inning," Nathan said. "Unfortunately, he puts it in the perfect spot, so hats off to them -- team speed and a couple balls that were inches from going our way."

Nathan, who felt healthy after getting a day off on Monday, said the only at-bat he regrets is the walk to Plouffe. But Ausmus defended his closer, not only giving him a vote of confidence but saying that the walk wasn't the game-changer.

"When you're closing a game, you do have to be somewhat careful," Ausmus said. "You can't just pump a 3-2 heater down the middle to a guy like Plouffe, who can hit the ball out of the park and tie the game. You never like walks, but pitching in a one-run save situation is a little different than a 3-2 count in the first inning and walking a guy."

Minnesota's dramatics overshadowed Detroit's own remarkable comeback. After Ricky Nolasco stymied the Tigers for eight innings, they put together a rally against Twins closer Glen Perkins.

Torii Hunter hit a one-out double and Miguel Cabrera added a single to put the tying run at first base. One out later, Martinez hit his 23rd homer of the season on a 2-1 fastball. The opposite-field blast settled into the right-field seats, touching off a wild celebration at home plate.

"Everyone was excited," Martinez said. "We know what's going on. We're all in it. To come through was huge, but [the loss] hurts at the same time. Right now it's pointless."

Martinez's blast made it four straight games in which the Tigers hit a home run in the seventh inning or later to tie the score or take the lead. That lead didn't hold up on Tuesday, but Ausmus knows it's still a good sign.

"It definitely has created an atmosphere in the dugout that the game isn't over, even if we're trailing late," Ausmus said.

The homer also helped Rick Porcello narrowly avoid another tough-luck loss. Porcello allowed only two runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out five in eight innings. It was the fifth time in his last six starts that he'd allowed two earned runs or fewer, yet he has just two victories to show for it in that stretch.

Now the Tigers will turn to David Price on Wednesday to try to win the series and keep distance between themselves and the second-place Royals. When asked why he seemed so calm after the game, Ausmus pointed to the opportunities ahead rather than focusing on the missed chances of the past.

"We've got another game tomorrow," he said. "Anyone who thought it was just going to be easy and we were going to go out there and win every game really doesn't understand the game of baseball."

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Anibal open to filling whatever role Tigers need

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Anibal Sanchez threw a second mound session on Tuesday and felt fine, continuing his track toward a return next week. The role to which he'd return, he said, isn't up to him, but he's open to whatever the Tigers need.

"I don't know what the situation is going to be," Sanchez said. "I just want to be ready to pitch for the team, but I don't know that answer."

Sanchez, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since early August with a strained right pectoral muscle, threw the same 25-pitch bullpen session he threw on Monday. Although manager Brad Ausmus said the team will wait and see how Sanchez feels on Wednesday before deciding the next step, Sanchez indicated that he'll likely throw off the mound once more before pitching batting practice or in a simulated game.

"Today was short," Sanchez said. "The next one is going to be a normal bullpen, and after that I'm probably going to face some hitters."

Under that scenario, his return to game action is likely at least a week away, giving him possibly as little as one start before the end of the regular season. He's trying to stretch out his arm so that he can throw as many pitches as possible if he gets a start.

"Building my arm is most important right now, because I know I probably won't be able to throw 100 pitches my first outing," he said. "I need to build my arm without any kind of soreness, any kind of problem, get ready to be on the mound."

The Tigers don't want to push Sanchez too aggressively, fearing a recurrence of the setback he experienced when he neared a return at the end of August.

"It's totally a big difference," Sanchez said. "It's a huge difference, because last time I felt it when I threw, but I thought it was normal for the injury. But right now I don't feel anything. Nothing is uncomfortable there. I get good treatment before I play catch or do any kind of conditioning. Right now I focus on building my arm and getting ready to pitch."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Scherzer a finalist for Marvin Miller Award

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Max Scherzer is one of six finalists for this year's Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, an annual honor to recognize players who inspire with both their on-field performance and their contributions to their communities.

Scherzer was selected to represent the American League Central via fan voting. He teamed up with St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and others this summer to start a fantasy football league with teammates and fans to raise money for various causes, including the Detroit Tigers Foundation, Detroit's Police Athletic League and the Detroit Zoo.

Final voting for the national winner will take place among Major League players this week.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Back-to-back jacks in ninth keep Tigers on pace

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MINNEAPOLIS -- With a six-run lead gone, the pennant race tightening and a loss on the horizon, the Tigers leaned on a kid pitcher and two veteran hitters to save the day.

Kyle Ryan escaped an eighth-inning jam by getting a huge double-play grounder, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera hit back-to-back homers leading off the top of the ninth inning, and the Tigers opened a three-game series with an 8-6 win over the Twins at Target Field on Monday.

The Twins rallied with three runs in the sixth off Max Scherzer, then scored twice off the bullpen in the eighth to tie the score. They threatened to take the lead, but Ryan -- making just his third Major League appearance -- got pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez to ground into a double play with two runners on to end the inning.

"Unbelievable," Ryan said. "I was shaking like a leaf on the mound in the bullpen, and then out on the mound on the field, I was still shaking, just knowing I'm coming into a situation where I need to get two outs. I needed a double play, so I went out there and did what it took."

Hunter then pounced on Casey Fien's first pitch of the ninth inning, blasting it 403 feet into the bullpen in left-center to put the Tigers back on top, 7-6. Cabrera followed suit two pitches later to give the Tigers their seventh win in their last eight games.

"Miggy didn't want me to have fun or celebrate too much," Hunter said. "Before I could even get my elbow guard and my toe guard off, he hit one."

Joakim Soria, filling in as closer with Joe Nathan getting a night off, earned his first save with the Tigers, pitching around Kurt Suzuki's leadoff double.

Scherzer pitched seven innings -- his longest outing since Aug. 19 -- and gave up four earned runs on seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He handed a two-run lead to the bullpen in the eighth inning, but Joba Chamberlain opened the inning by walking the first two batters.

"You could tell right away that Joba was tired," manager Brad Ausmus said. "His velocity wasn't there -- that's why the short leash with him, and I tried to find another way to get through that eighth inning."

A double steal put both runners in scoring position, and Joe Mauer tied the score with a two-run single off Phil Coke. One out later, Trevor Plouffe ripped Al Alburquerque's first pitch to left for a single, then Ryan came on for his star turn.

"Blaine [Hardy] has been scuffling a little bit throwing strikes lately," said Ausmus, who discussed the situation with pitching coach Jeff Jones. "We needed another lefty. … We thought Kyle could handle it."

After falling behind, 1-0, Ryan threw a sinker that got in on Nunez, who rolled it over to shortstop Andrew Romine for a routine double-play ball.

"That was the perfect pitch," Romine said. "He hit his spot, and we were playing to that area to hopefully get that ground ball. I mean, all the credit goes to him, because he made his pitch, and we ended up being in the right place."

Romine had three of the Tigers' 16 hits, including a two-run single in the fourth that pushed Detroit's cushion to four runs. Cabrera had a single, a double and a homer, and Victor Martinez doubled twice in five at-bats as he chases the Astros' Jose Altuve for the American League batting title.

Scherzer was cruising until Oswaldo Arcia hit his 18th homer of the season to break up the shutout in the fifth inning. The Twins then scratched across three runs in the sixth, two of them scoring on a Mauer single after a nine-pitch battle between the three-time batting champ and the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.

"That's a typical Mauer at-bat -- he's going to do that," Scherzer said. "I made some good pitches, he fouled them off, then he hit it back up the middle, and that's when a lot of the damage was done."

Still, on a night when the Royals rallied for a comeback win to remain 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central, nobody in the clubhouse was complaining about how they won. At this point in the season, any win is a good win.

"It means something because it's 'Septober,'" said Hunter, using one of his unique coinages. "Septober is awesome. In Septober we're trying to win games and keep fighting. You just never give up."

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Relief work may be in Anibal's future

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Anibal Sanchez took a big step toward returning to the pitching staff on Monday, when he threw a bullpen session at Target Field. Whether he ends up in the bullpen of a potential postseason roster is an entirely different question.

Manager Brad Ausmus is acknowledging the possibility.

"He was the ERA leader in the American League. You certainly would rather have him, whether he's starting or in the bullpen," Ausmus said. "He's a very effective pitcher. Absolutely, we would much rather have a scenario in which we have to decide how to use Sanchez as opposed to whether we can use Sanchez."

Sanchez, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since early August with a strained right pectoral muscle, threw 25 pitches off the mound on Monday afternoon and felt fine, according to pitching coach Jeff Jones. If he still feels good on Tuesday, he could throw another mound session.

At some point after that, he'll have to face hitters in a simulated game. If that happens later this week, he could be on track to pitch in a game.

The timing will be crucial. The challenge with Sanchez could end up being his pitch count, and whether the Tigers can stretch him out enough before the end of the regular season to start him in the postseason.

Two starts might do it. For that to happen, though, Sanchez would have to be ready by next Tuesday.

"I don't know if we'll be able to get him two starts before the season's out," Ausmus said. "We're kind of short on time at this point, but there may be a situation where he makes a start but it's sort of a bullpen day; he [would go] two or three innings. That hasn't been decided yet, mainly because we're waiting for Sanchy to feel well enough where he can pitch in a game."

The speculation on a Tigers starter pitching in relief has been percolating since the David Price trade a month and a half ago. Much of that speculation, however, has centered on Justin Verlander, fueled by his struggles in the rotation.

Sanchez has made only one relief appearance in his Major League career, and it was his second big league appearance. He replaced then-Marlins teammate Brian Moehler with two outs in the first inning on July 1, 2006, and pitched 4 1/3 innings.

His first innings, however, have been strong. Opponents are batting just .176 off him in the opening inning, with more strikeouts (18) than hits (13).

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Two for three: another late homer gives Tigers sweep

Kinsler delivers Detroit's second go-ahead blast in as many days

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DETROIT -- Momentum in pennant races can change on a dime.

A few moments after Boston's Daniel Nava dealt a glancing blow to the Royals' American League Central title chances with a grand slam, Ian Kinsler ignited those of the Tigers. His first home run of September came at an ideal time, as, for the second straight day, his club was trailing the Indians by one run. The two-run blast gave Detroit a 6-4 win on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, bailing out Blaine Hardy, who struggled out of the bullpen.

The Tigers' division lead is now 1 1/2 games, which represents their largest margin since Aug. 9.

Kinsler had some help in sparking the Tigers' offense, a night after Alex Avila provided the boost with a game-winning homer. In the fourth inning, J.D. Martinez hit a towering shot off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer that sailed into the center-field shrubbery -- an area of the ballpark typically reserved for Miguel Cabrera roundtrippers.

"You don't see many guys reach those bushes out there," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "But we've known since we called him up there that, in terms of raw power, he's right up there with anyone in the Major Leagues."

But Cleveland responded immediately in the fifth. Tigers starter Justin Verlander walked Michael Bourn, who went to third on a single by Michael Brantley. The next batter, Carlos Santana, hit a deep sac fly to center that scored the game-tying run.

Verlander exited the game in the sixth inning after a mostly effective 5 2/3 innings, in which he struck out six.

"He didn't have his best stuff today," Ausmus said, "but he gutted it out. He made pitches when he had to. He mixed up his pitches as much as I've seen him."

Hardy replaced Verlander, who was bothered by a blister, and that's when it looked like the Tigers might collapse.

With runners on the corners following two hits off Verlander, Hardy walked the first batter he faced. Jose Ramirez hit a sharp grounder that was stopped by diving shortstop Andrew Romine, but he had no play -- the go-ahead run crossed the plate.

Hardy couldn't stop the bleeding there. He hit Brantley, the next batter, allowing another run to score that was also charged to Verlander.

The Tigers got one of the two runs back in the sixth inning. Cabrera singled to begin the frame, and Victor Martinez reached via an error. J.D. Martinez picked up his second RBI of the day, continuing his season-long assault on Indians pitching, with a single to center.

"Any time we're down like that early in the game and we're able to come back, it just speaks volumes about this team," J.D. Martinez said.

Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw entered to pitch the seventh after giving up Avila's massive home run Saturday night. This time, with Kinsler up, it wasn't a hanging curveball, but a cut fastball up in the zone that left the yard and eventually crippled the Indians' playoff hopes.

"He's had a great year," Kinsler said of Shaw. "That's not normal, and we'll take it. We're usually not able to get to that guy as easily. The last few days we were, and we pulled out a couple wins."

Cleveland tried to climb back into the game against Detroit closer Joe Nathan, and it almost succeeded. Consecutive base hits to begin the ninth plated one run, cutting the deficit to two. Nathan walked the next batter, but he managed to get a double play and a flyout of Jason Giambi before breathing a massive sigh of relief.

"I'm kind of glad we're done with the Indians for the season," Nathan said. "It's a team that has played us tough all season."

Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lobstein's spot in rotation uncertain for final stretch

Off-day gives Tigers opportunity to skip rookie for series vs. Royals

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DETROIT -- Kyle Lobstein's five innings with four runs allowed Saturday marked the worst of his five Major League appearances so far, but he kept the Tigers close enough to have a chance to win late. Whether Lobstein gets another chance remains to be seen for two reasons.

If the Tigers' rotation stays in order, Lobstein's next turn in the rotation would come next Friday in Kansas City to open Detroit's final American League Central showdown with the Royals. With the Tigers off Thursday, however, they have the option of skipping Lobstein and moving the rest of their starters up a day.

Skipping Lobstein would put Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello in line to face the Royals next weekend. Of course, it would also deny the veteran starters an extra day of rest as the Tigers prepare for what they hope is another extended postseason run.

Detroit manager Brad Ausmus wasn't giving any hints when asked about Lobstein's next start.

"I'm not going to commit either way on that right now," Ausmus said after Saturday's game.

The answer will most likely become clear in the next day or so at Minnesota. If Lobstein is skipped for a start, he'll likely become an option in the bullpen, where he worked as a long reliever during the Tigers' last visit to the Twins a few weeks ago.

Beyond that, Anibal Sanchez's rehab from a right pectoral muscle strain could also play into Lobstein's situation. Sanchez threw long-toss again on Sunday, and he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session off a mound Monday. While the Tigers aren't giving an official timetable, saying everything hinges on how Sanchez feels, Sanchez has been increasingly upbeat about how he feels.

If all goes well, Sanchez could face hitters later in the week and put himself in line to rejoin the rotation for the final week of the regular season. The Tigers don't need a fifth starter until next Tuesday against the White Sox at Comerica Park.

If Sanchez could fill that spot, he could make two starts before the end of the regular season, giving him a chance to not only pitch in meaningful games, but stretch out his arm and see if he could cover enough innings to warrant inclusion in the postseason rotation.

Thus, it's possible that Lobstein doesn't start again this season. If so, the fact that the Tigers won all four of his starts makes his contribution much bigger than simply filling a slot.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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