LOS ANGELES (DETROIT FREE PRESS) Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter left Tuesday night's game in the fifth inning, three innings after he slammed into the short fence down the right-field line as he unsuccessfully tried to make a sliding catch on a foul ball hit by catcher Tim Federowicz.
Hunter said he had to exit because his left knee swelled up. He spoke of hoping to play tonight. Manager Brad Ausmus said he was inclined to hold out Hunter for tonight's finale of this two-game Dodgers series. That way, with Thursday's open date, Hunter would have two days off in a row to get well before Friday night's series opener in San Diego.
The Hunter injury doesn't sound ominous, at least yet.
Something else does.
The Tigers, in this first season since Prince Fielder's exit, have a lineup that is top-heavy with right-handed hitters. Theoretically, they are particularly vulnerable to tough right-handed pitching.
So far this season, theory is becoming fact, and it's a big reason that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are both winless despite being a combined 4-for-4 in quality starts.
In Tuesday night's 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Dodgers, Dan Haren became the third established right-hander to face the Tigers this season. All three have contained them. Kansas City's James Shields left in the seventh with a 3-1 lead on Opening Day (two inherited runners scored), and Baltimore's Chris Tillman allowed one run and pitched into the ninth inning in his 3-1 win Sunday.
In all three games, the Tigers starter has been Verlander (twice) or Scherzer. And in Scherzer's other start, the Tigers scored one run — off KC left-hander Jason Vargas — while Scherzer was in the game.
The Tigers got Scherzer off the hook in this game when Victor Martinez's two-out single in the ninth tied the score. But Martinez was caught stealing on a delayed steal to end the inning, and the Tigers went quietly in the 10th. Bottom line: The Tigers got five hits for the second straight game, and in this one, they had hits in only three innings.
As researched through Baseball-Reference.com, in the last two games — Sunday against Baltimore, and then Tuesday night — the Tigers did something they did only once all of last season before clinching the division: They have lost back-to-back games in which they allowed three runs or fewer.
All this revives a thought that surfaced when it was learned a few weeks ago that shortstop Stephen Drew was willing to come to the Tigers on a one-year contract. The Tigers might need Drew as much for his established left-handed bat as for his glove. On Tuesday night, defense at short wasn't a problem: Andrew Romine played a splendid game there, culminating when he made a fine play to deny Dee Gordon an infield RBI single with two out in the seventh.
Gordon already had made an impact.
Gordon stepped to the plate to begin the Dodgers' first. During his time at the plate, something typical came out of the right-field bleachers and something most untypical went into the right-field bleachers.
Before Scherzer threw a pitch to Gordon, a beach ball came out of the bleachers and on to the track. Hunter had to retrieve and carry it away. Beach balls are a staple at games in southern California, and sometimes they get on the field.
On Scherzer's 1-2 pitch, Gordon launched the ball into the same area of the bleachers from which the beach ball had come. Gordon is a speedy 5-foot-11 middle infielder. This was his third homer in 645 career at-bats.
In the Tigers' most recent game at Dodger Stadium before Tuesday, Austin Jackson made a game-saving catch for the final out. This night, Jackson quickly showed the other side of the game. With one out in the second, he reached down for what looked like a breaking ball and muscled it just over the leftfield fence for the homer that tied the score, 1-1.
That remained the score until the Dodgers seventh, when Matt Kemp led off with a walk, went to third on Juan Uribe's double into the right-field corner and scored on a one-out sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Justin Turner.
It was the run that would have made Scherzer the loser if Ian Kinsler hadn't led off the ninth with a double and scored as Martinez's two-out liner fell in front of center fielder Kemp.