ATLANTA -- A day after the hotly debated third strike that cost the Tigers a tie game, manager Jim Leyland was ejected for arguing a different call during the Tigers' 10-4 win on Sunday against the Braves, this one a double-play call at first base.
The fourth-inning call came after Justin Verlander hit a ground ball to short with the bases loaded and nobody out. Atlanta shortstop Yunel Escobar got the forceout on the lead runner when he fired home to catcher Brian McCann, who threw to first to retire Verlander.
Verlander expressed his disagreement with first-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth but didn't continue the argument. Leyland, likely hoping to keep his ace from getting tossed, jogged out to pick up the case with Culbreth, who listened for a short while before giving the ejection.
Leyland continued the argument until Gary Cederstrom, the crew chief, came over from third base. Leyland then turned his attention to Cederstrom, following him back across the infield in a heated debate the entire way before heading into the dugout.
Earlier in the day, Leyland clearly had some lingering frustration toward Cederstrom stemming from Saturday's game, when a called third strike on Johnny Damon with two outs in the ninth inning turned what would have otherwise been a game-tying walk into a game-ending strikeout. Replays showed the pitch to be outside, and Cederstrom admitted to a pool reporter later that the replay "didn't look good."
Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon took over as manager in the finale against the Braves.
Tigers can take first place from Twins
ATLANTA -- Brennan Boesch wasn't in the big leagues when the Tigers were battling the Twins down the stretch last year. But he learned his lesson about it from afar.
He knows that one three-game series at Minnesota in June isn't going to decide the American League Central. But he also knows that one game decided last year's division, a difference that could have swung in their favor at any other point in the year, not just in September when the Twins were charging.
"If we learned anything from last year, every game matters," Boesch said, "especially when you're competing against the Twins, who battle every game and are a good club. So as we go into Minnesota, we know we've got to bring our 'A' game and play our best baseball. I think we're ready to do that, too."
They've at least put themselves in a position where their best baseball gives them a chance to take the division lead. Sunday's 10-4 win in Atlanta, combined with losses from the Twins and White Sox, moved Detroit to within a half-game of Minnesota. It also put the Tigers alone in second place, one game up on the White Sox.
Win two out of three at Target Field during the coming week, and the Tigers will be atop the division for the first time since last October. With the Twins struggling, especially their starting pitching, it's a realistic possibility.
"Any game we can make up is big," Justin Verlander said, "especially going into their park, where they play very well. Hopefully we can continue this little streak that we got going today with some guys swinging it really well -- everybody swinging it really well, honestly -- and just kind of ride that, go in there with some hot bats and see what happens."
Problem is, the Tigers haven't won two games in a series anywhere other than Detroit since mid-May, when they swept a two-game series at Oakland. They haven't taken two out of three on the road since April, and they lost all three games in Minnesota during their inaugural visit to Target Field in early May.
"I figured this year it's going to be tight all the way through," said Jeremy Bonderman, who will start Monday's series opener. "I don't think anybody's going to run away with it. We just have to find a way to play better on the road. At least maybe we'll be able to put a gap between us. If not, we should be able to stick right with everybody else. We just have to find a way to play better, to be honest with you."
Leyland still steamed over called strike
ATLANTA -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland heard the answer from home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom on the third strike he called on Johnny Damon to turn a potential game-tying walk into a game-ending strikeout Saturday. It didn't make Leyland feel any better about it.
"I called him after the game," Leyland said. "I just said, 'I hope you take a look at the pitch.' He said, 'Well, I kicked it.' I knew that right away, but it was brutal on TV.'"
Cederstrom told reporters after the game Saturday that he watched the replay and "it didn't look good."
"He's right," Leyland said. "It wasn't good."
Cederstrom worked Sunday's game as the umpire at third base, right in front of the Tigers' dugout. Leyland didn't expect any lingering issues.
"I think it's one of those things where you have to turn the page," Leyland said.
Turning the page, though, does not include forgiveness, at least not from Leyland.
"That's just not acceptable in those situations," Leyland said. "It's just not acceptable. That's just the way it is."
Zumaya shelves curveball for slider
ATLANTA -- It takes quite a bit for Tigers manager Jim Leyland to regret handing the ball to Joel Zumaya. When he does, it's usually a sign of Zumaya's struggles that go back a lot longer than a game.
After Chipper Jones hit Zumaya's 100-mph fastball for a three-run homer during Saturday's 4-3 Detroit loss, Leyland was second-guessing himself a bit for pulling starter Max Scherzer and going to Zumaya for four outs. It marked Zumaya's third outing in four days, and none of them were his usual strong performance.
Leyland had his reasoning for bringing in Zumaya with two outs in the sixth and Yunel Escobar up. With late-afternoon shadows creeping over the field, Leyland liked the idea of making the Braves try to see Zumaya's fastball. The execution, however, didn't work out.
"Yesterday we walked two guys [who] you just can't walk, and it cost us a ballgame," he said. "That wasn't the only thing. I'm not singling that out. But you've got a guy throwing 98 mph with shadows [on the field], and you've got two hitters you just can't walk. If they hit you, they hit you. Chipper hit him. Tip your hat to him."
That said, Zumaya's long-running search for an effective secondary arsenal is taking another step. The Tigers are now shelving his curveball in favor of a slider as a movement pitch.
"He just hasn't had a feel for his curve at all," Leyland said. "You can see it coming. It's tipped and it hasn't been good. So we're trying to compensate for that by giving him something he can throw from the same arm slot, giving him something else.
"Zumaya definitely has to have a little better control than he's had recently, and he's got to be able to do something else besides the fastball on occasion, because they're just charging him."
Perry begins rehab stint for Toledo
ATLANTA -- Ryan Perry's Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo began Saturday with a scoreless inning against Indianapolis.
It was not an entirely smooth inning for Perry, who walked two of the first three batters he faced after replacing Josh Rainwater to start the eighth inning for the Mud Hens. Perry struck out Jeff Clement on a swing and a miss before stranding runners at second and third by forcing Brian Myrow to ground out.
That went according to plan for Perry, who was scheduled to throw just one inning. He'll rest Sunday before going back out Monday for what is expected to be a two-inning stint against Indy. After that, the Tigers will re-evaluate Perry to see how they should proceed, meaning he could get called as soon as this coming week.
Perry went on the 15-day disabled list a couple weeks ago, retroactive to June 7, with right shoulder bicipital tendinitis. His absence has been tough on the Tigers' bullpen, which has had Joel Zumaya pitching heavy duty as Detroit's setup man.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.