CHICAGO -- When Omar Infante returned to Detroit at the end of July, he became an underrated offensive catalyst, batting .293 with 13 RBIs and 13 runs scored. Batting second against most left-handed pitchers, he was a big part of the Tigers' effort to counteract southpaws.
With the Tigers desperately searching for an offensive spark, and Infante just 3-for-22 for September through the weekend, he moved down to eighth in the order against White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana for the opener for their four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. The move comes two days after Infante had two hits off Angels lefty C.J. Wilson, though neither was particularly well struck.
Manager Jim Leyland tried to give some indication it wasn't an indictment of Infante.
"He's doing OK," Leyland said. "I mean, he didn't start out too good, then he got real hot, and then he's cooled off a little bit. It's kind of a characteristic for a lot of our guys. But he's doing fine."
Infante went 1-for-3 against Quintana and committed a costly fielding error during the Tigers' 6-1 loss.The Tigers face another left-hander on Thursday in Chris Sale, whom they've beaten three times this season. Infante had a single in three at-bats off Sale on Sept. 2, eventually scoring on Delmon Young's go-ahead three-run home run.
Wild Card, ALDS tickets on sale Thursday
CHICAGO -- The Tigers announced that they'll put individual-game tickets for potential American League Wild Card and Division Series games on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. Like last year, they won't be on sale at the box office. They'll be available online at tigers.com and by phone at 866-66-TIGER. Individuals will be limited to buying four tickets per game.
At this point, the Tigers have a far better chance to win the AL Central than to capture a Wild Card spot.
Though there's still a slight chance they could overtake the AL East combatants (Yankees/Orioles) to earn the AL's second seed, it's looking much more likely that the Tigers would have the third seed if they win the Central. If that ends up being the case, the schedule would have them hosting Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6-7. This year's postseason schedule calls for the lower-seeded team to host the first two games before the higher-seeded team hosts the rest of the best-of-five series.
More details, including the refund/credit policy, are available at tigers.com/postseason.
Raburn gets a shot in opener against lefty
CHICAGO -- The number of times Tigers manager Jim Leyland has talked about trying to get Ryan Raburn going offensively is too high to count. But with 3 1/2 weeks left in the season and Leyland trying to find a way to ignite his lineup against left-handed pitchers, and Raburn returning to a place where he has hit in the past, he's giving it one more try.
With right-handed hitters batting slightly better off White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana, Leyland turned to Raburn on Monday night for the start in left, his second start in three days. He also moved him up to the second spot in the lineup for the first time since July 5.
Raburn went 0-for-3 batting sixth Saturday night, seeing eight total pitches from Angels lefty C.J. Wilson. However, Leyland cited Raburn's career numbers at U.S. Cellular Field as a big reason for giving him this shot.
"It's a common-sense matchup for me," Leyland said. "Raburn hits .308 in this park with eight home runs and 30 RBIs, so if he's ever going to get it going, this would be an opportunity."
The bulk of that production -- five home runs and 14 RBIs -- came in 2010 and 2011. Raburn entered the series opener 4-for-18 in Chicago this year with a home run, four RBIs, two walks and two strikeouts. Most of those at-bats came early in the season as the Tigers haven't been on the South Side since May.
The other reason Leyland cited specifically for batting Raburn second is that he wanted to keep the option open to pinch-hit for him with Andy Dirks if the White Sox throw a right-handed reliever at the top of the order.Raburn went 1-for-3 with a walk during the Tigers' 6-1 loss. He also dropped a Dewayne Wise fly ball in left-center field for an error.
"Raburn called the ball and then really didn't get aggressive with it," Leyland said. "[Center fielder Austin Jackson] backed off because Ryan called it, but he didn't get aggressive with it, didn't get underneath it."
Leyland respects Ventura's style, personality
CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura played against Jim Leyland's teams only once. That was 1999, when Ventura helped lead the Mets to the National League Championship Series and battered Leyland's Colorado Rockies, going 14-for-33 with eight RBIs in nine meetings.
As a manager, Ventura has his White Sox on top of Leyland's Tigers for the American League Central, despite losing 10 of their first 15 matchups. He also has Leyland's respect.
They come from drastically different backgrounds -- Ventura an All-Star and well-respected player who never managed professionally but spent time in player development, Leyland a career Minor Leaguer who spent more than a decade managing in the Tigers' farm system and then coaching before getting his shot. But they seem to have a mutual respect.
"So far, he's made it look easy. I mean, Robin's a former outstanding player. He knows what it's all about," Leyland said. "You knew he was going to have a calming influence after a personality like Ozzie [Guillen] -- which was great, they won a World Series, don't take this wrong. Ozzie did a great job, a fantastic job -- and this was probably the complete opposite from a personality standpoint.
"First of all, [Ventura] played the game for a long time and was a very good player, and he's also very aware of how hard it is to play the game. And I think he was smart enough to know that this place probably at the time he got in, just needed to get settled in without a lot of whatever you want to call it. He was smart enough to do that."
Experience aside, Leyland believes Ventura had the makeup for managing."Like they say in football, some guys have a nose for the football. Some guys have a nose for managing. I think he does," Leyland said. "I think he's done a great job. He really has done a terrific job. I don't know this, but he's kind of let them play, just play the game, go play the game."