A full season from Magglio Ordonez has helped the Detroit Tigers hold on to first place in the AL Central. Their response to the star outfielder’s first health setback may determine if they can maintain their slim lead.
The Tigers may be without Ordonez on Wednesday in the middle game of their series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park.
Placido Polanco drove in three runs as Detroit (95-62) beat Toronto 4-3 Tuesday, keeping its lead in the AL Central. The Tigers have a one-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the division and remain tied with the New York Yankees, who beat Baltimore 5-4, for the AL’s best record. Detroit has won eight of its last 11 after a prolonged slump.
“We’re going to have to win more games because (the Twins) are winning, too, so we have to keep it going,” said Todd Jones, who pitched the ninth Tuesday for his 37th save.
Ordonez, who has put together his first full season in three years, left Tuesday’s game because of back spasms. His status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain, but manager Jim Leyland believes one of his lineup’s mainstays will be back on the field soon.
In the top of the third inning, Ordonez was replaced in right field by Alexis Gomez after grounding out the previous half-inning. Ordonez is hitting .296 with 24 homers and a team-high 102 RBIs in 150 games, the most he has played since 2003 with the Chicago White Sox.
Ordonez played only 52 games in 2004 because of a knee injury and 82 games in 2005—his first season with the Tigers—due to hernia surgery.
Detroit will start Nate Robertson (13-12, 3.66 ERA), who is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The left-hander gave up two runs and five hits in six innings, but did not factor in the decision in a 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.
Robertson earned a win against the Blue Jays on June 11, giving up four runs and five hits while striking out eight in five innings in a 10-5 victory. He is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance lifetime against Toronto.
Toronto (83-74) will counter with Ted Lilly (14-13, 4.41 ERA), who had a personal three-game winning streak end Friday, allowing five runs—two earned— and five hits in 5 1-3 innings in a 7-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
The left-hander lost to the Tigers on June 10, giving up five runs and three hits while striking out 12 in 8 2-3 innings in a 5-3 loss. He is 1-3 with a 4.41 ERA in five starts and three relief appearances in his career against Detroit.
Lilly has already set a career-high for wins this season, bettering his previous of 12 set in 2003 and equaled in 2004.
The Blue Jays won eight of 11 before Tuesday, improving their hopes of finishing higher than third place in the AL East for the first time since winning the World Series in 1992-93. With Toronto’s loss and Boston’s win, the Red Sox moved one-half game ahead of the Blue Jays for second in the division.
“We’ve got a battle for the next five days with Boston,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Being in second place was short-lived, obviously, and we hated to relinquish that. Boston’s tough at home and playing two teams they’ve beaten up this year, but we’ve got five days to get it back from them.”