Inside Pitch: Facing Off Against Masterson

With the series finale against Cleveland today and ace Justin Verlander on the mound, Tigers' manager Jim Leyland has a plan of attack against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson.

Tigers lean to the left for series finale at Cleveland

Jim Leyland has a game plan for Cleveland's Justin Masterson.

When the Tigers face the Indians right-hander Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers manager will stuff his lineup with almost every left-handed hitter he can dredge up.

It's the same kind of percentage play teams make if they can when the Tigers right-handers Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.

Masterson allows left-handers a .276 batting average but holds right-handers to a .215 average.

A side benefit is Leyland will be able to give a couple of his regulars a two-day break from playing. Detroit has a day off Thursday.

Delmon Young will sit out his first game since coming to Detroit, and Jhonny Peralta will get an infrequent breaks.

Will Rhymes will start at second base, and recently hot Ramon Santiago will play short. Wilson Betemit will start at third base, and Don Kelly will be in the outfield with Andy Dirks. All hit left-handed or are switch hitters.

Alex Avila won't get a day off until Detroit hosts Minnesota this weekend. Giving Avila Friday off would allow him to go two consecutive days without playing, too.

"We might not score a run," Leyland said, "but we will have some energy. Whether we win or lose, we will have some energy. They'll be battling their fannies off."

Other regulars who will be playing include Austin Jackson and switch hitting Victor Martinez. Miguel Cabrera won't get a day off, though.

"I like my job too much for that," Leyland said with a laugh.

One who won't be playing: switch-hitting Carlos Guillen.

The Tigers' regular lineup did its job Tuesday, powering the team to a 10-1 win over the Indians. Detroit has taken the first two games of the series to increase its division lead to eight games over the White Sox, 8 1/2 games over the Indians.

Aside from the left-handed-leaning lineup, the Tigers will have something else going for them Wednesday: ace Justin Verlander will make the start.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Rick Porcello watched his teammates stake him to a 5-0 lead before he'd thrown his first pitch, then went out and tamed a lineup loaded with eight left-handed batters. (Lefties were hitting .337 against him entering the game). Porcello pitched one-hit ball through six innings and retired 13 straight until RF Kosuke Fukudome hit a solo home run leading off the seventh. Porcello held lefties to three hits in 20 at-bats. He was able to keep his sinker down and work it on both sides of the plate. His changeup and slider were good complementary pitches, too. "He kept the ball on the ground, got some quick outs, and his pitch count was really good throughout the game," manager Jim Leyland said.

--LF Delmon Young drew his first walk as a Tiger with two outs in the first inning, and it triggered a five-run rally that carried Detroit to a 10-1 victory over Cleveland. Young singled his last two times up and was removed from the game. He is scheduled to get a day off Wednesday as manager Jim Leyland loads his lineup with left-handed hitters and gives some key regulars a rest.

--CF Austin Jackson was named AL Player of the Week for his 18-hit performance last week, but he probably won't repeat. Jackson was 0-for-9 in the first two games against Cleveland before doubling to dead center field leading off the eighth inning Tuesday. Jackson gets in trouble most of the time when he's behind in the count with two strikes. He struck out twice, once on 0-2 and the second time at 1-2. He is vulnerable to breaking pitches and high fastballs in those counts.

--1B Miguel Cabrera bounced back from a hitless game with two singles and a double in his first three at-bats, reaching base in his 33rd straight game. It's the longest such streak for Detroit since 2B Damion Easley reached in 34 straight games in 1998.

--DH Victor Martinez had a three-RBI game on a pair of singles. Martinez raised his RBI count to 85, the most RBI in the league for a player with fewer than 10 home runs. Martinez has nine home runs. One encouraging sign for Detroit is that Martinez isn't gimping around the bases any more. He never was speedy, but only occasionally now does he show any sign of the left knee sprain he sustained early last month. There are no plans at this time to have him catch.

--RHP Al Alburquerque made his first appearance since Aug. 9 (he'd been out with a concussion since Aug. 12) and struck out the first two batters he faced. Alburquerque then struggled with his control, walking two, and was removed after his 25th pitch resulted in a topped single down the third base line to load the bases. "He was about what I expected," manager Jim Leyland said. "His control was a little shaky. He started out good, then probably got a little anxious to get the third out and lost the strike zone a little bit. I didn't want him to throw more than 25 pitches."

--INF Danny Worth was recalled by Detroit and joined the Tigers for the middle game of the series in Cleveland. Detroit could not recall Worth earlier because he had to either spend 10 days in the minors after being optioned or wait until the conclusion of the minor league season. Class AAA Toledo ended its season Monday. Worth is hitting .300 with three RBI in 19 games for the Tigers this season. He hit .256 with eight home runs and 37 RBI in 86 games for the Mud Hens.

--RF Brennan Boesch had a 90-minute surgery on his right thumb to repair a partially torn ligament. Trainer Kevin Rand said the surgery went very well and that Boesch would have his thumb immobilized in a split for two weeks, after which it will be re-examined by Dr. Thomas Graham at the Cleveland Clinic. If it were earlier in the season, Boesch would be out of action 10 to 12 weeks. Boesch intends to rejoin the Tigers just to be around following his surgery.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Consecutive victories by first-place Detroit over its two closest pursuers in the AL Central. The Tigers swept the Chicago White Sox during the weekend, and their 10-1 win over Cleveland on Tuesday was their second in a row over the Indians.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He had a real nice year, and I think it's just a start of things to come. This guy can be a real high-ceiling guy. He'll still have to work on the mental part of it, to keep himself on a more even keel. He's kind of an emotional player, which is good. But too much emotion is bad. He's pretty tough on himself. He wants to be good so bad, and sometimes that can work against you if you're not careful. But I thought he did very well." -- Manager Jim Leyland, on the future of RF Brennan Boesch, out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his right thumb.


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