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Sunday Juice: Facing extinction, Tigers pin hopes on Verlander

Big League Stew

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On this, the final (scheduled) a.m. of baseball's regular season, let's rise and shine together to recap the most recent diamond doings. Roll Call starts in the Motor City, which wants to know one thing: Is Justin Verlander(notes) going to let Detroit down, too?

Game of the Day: White Sox 5, Tigers 1

'Motor' fraud: After being mystified by Chicago's Freddy Garcia(notes), the Tigers are one more false move from becoming the first team ever to be in first place May 10 and lose the division in the regular season's last week. A season-high seven-game lead on Sept. 7 — which was still a three-game lead as recently as Thursday morning — is now gone.

"If we don't win, shame on us," manager Jim Leyland said.

Just about everyone on the team, even the manager, has let them down during this slide. If Verlander can't hold it together today, and the Twins win, all is lost. No pressure.

Verlander's got the right stuff, of course. He's started an All-Star Game, thrown a no-hitter, pitched in the World Series and he leads the league in strikeouts this season. He's tossed two complete games, allowing one earned run against the White Sox this season, but overall he's 4-9 with a 4.97 ERA against them.

Dog lover, fighter: There's no reason to put all of the pressure on Verlander. Some of it can go to Miguel Cabrera(notes), who is having another great season but has been AWOL the past two games against the White Sox — including a key, rally killing double play in the eighth inning.

Not only that, but something happened to his face.

As Detroit4Lyfe and Fox Sports' Pope Jon Paul Morosi astutely pointed out, someone or something took a chunk from the left side of Cabrera's face recently. Are tensions rising in the Tigers clubhouse?

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The shot on the left was taken the last week of September, the one on the right is from last night. Here's Cabrera's explanation, from Morosi's report on FoxSports.com:

Before the game, I approached Cabrera and inquired as to what happened. He looked puzzled. He asked why I would want to know.

I repeated the question, making it clear that his face, well, had some stuff on it that wasn't there before.

And this, folks, is what he said next: "It was my dog."

He emphasized that he was talking about a fairly big dog.

He ended the interview soon afterward with help from Magglio Ordoñez, who made it clear that Cabrera wanted to be left alone.

Cabrera might have plenty of alone time really soon for reconciling with his pooch.

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Feelin' Rundown (no animals or power hitters were harmed during the compilation of these games):

Dodgers 5, Rockies 0: Four NL West titles, under three difference managers, since 2004. Joe Torre, obviously. Jim Tracy, yes. Can you name the third manager? Without looking it up. And we can tell.

If you want pics from the clincher, oh, we got pics.

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Twins 5, Royals 4: Two incredible defensive plays in this game. One was Spantastic, the other was by Nick Punto. Mercy!

If you want Joe Mauer(notes) vs. Zack Greinke(notes), go here. If you want a great hot dog, go here.

Carl Pavano(notes) goes today for the Twinkies. His previous start wasn't good and his numbers against the Royals are worse. Luke Hochevar(notes) goes for the Royals. His last name still sounds like a Norelco product.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 4: I'm not sure what's wrong with the Cardinals, and even though this slump has cost them home-field advantage, I'm just going to ignore it and pretend like they're OK — which they might be. ... Happy 200th hit, Ryan Braun!

Marlins 4, Phillies 3: Same goes for the other red team in the NL playoffs. The Phillies probably will regain focus once the second season starts. Right? Anyway, Rockies at Phillies starting Wednesday and Thursday in the NLDS.

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Cubs 5, D-backs 0: North Side is 7 1/2 back with one to play. The nicest Cubs story of the season was the emergence of Randy Wells(notes), who capped a great rookie season with 10 strikeouts and his 12th victory. He was a catcher in the low minor leagues and experienced only brief calls to the majors until the Cubs shrewdly gave him a chance this spring.

"Having the kind of career I've had, spent a lot of times in the minor leagues and changed positions and all kinds of stuff, [you're] just wondering if you will ever get called up," Wells said.

"It's like a light switch around here," Wells said of being in the majors. "It can flip any way, any time. While I'm here, while I'm going out there every five days, I have to personally treat it like it could be my last start or last outing in the big leagues."

Padres 2, Giants 0: San Diego improves to 1-0 without a general manager.

Rays 5, Yankees 3: Let's pretend this is a playoff series. Yay, Rays up 2-0, yay! Oh, that was fun.

Mets 5, Astros 1: Jerry Manuel pulled David Wright(notes) out of the lineup because he wanted to give him a break. A day off. With two days left in the season. "Whaaaa?"

Orioles 6, Blue Jays 3: When the call came to fire J.P. Ricciardi, he thought it was Fake Adam Dunn(notes) again.

Nationals 6, Braves 4 (11. inn): Justin Maxwell's(notes) second game-winning homer this week and the Nats actually have six straight victories. In a row. Together. No losses in there. Wow.

This quote from Jim Riggleman can't be right:

"He's making some strikes. It's like he's kind of found something," Riggleman said of Maxwell, who is hitting over .300 since his recall on Aug. 30 from Syracuse.

Strikes? Maxwell must be making strides. If he's making strikes, I'm sure the Nats bowling team appreciates it. Also, "It's like he kind of found something"? Very direct, Riggs.

Angels 4, Athletics 2: Kazmir, like cashmere.

Reds 8, Pirates 4: Like ol' Sheriff Roscoe back in Hazzard County, the Reds really took it to the Duke Boy.

Red Sox 11, Indians 6: Josh Beckett(notes) is not himself. He's much more like someone Dan Duquette would have signed. Frank Castillo. He looks like Frank Castillo right now.

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Mariners 2, Rangers 1: If Griffey's going, he's going out hacking. And hugging.

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