By Brian Hedger, The Sports Xchange
CHICAGO -- The Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago White Sox 7-3 on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field, but they lost Miguel Cabrera in the fifth inning to a hip-flexor strain.
Now it's "wait-and-see" as to how long the reigning American League MVP will be sidelined with the Tigers clinging to first place over the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central. Cabrera first felt something when running from second to home on a two-run single by Victor Martinez in the top half of the fifth. He came out for the bottom half to play third base, but left the field, grimacing, with one out.
"When he came in from scoring, his hip was acting up pretty good and the trainers talked to him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He tried to go back out there, but it was obviously just too much discomfort."
Prior to the game, the main storyline was the pitching matchup -- which featured Tigers star Max Scherzer matching skills with lanky left-handed White Sox ace Chris Sale. Both made their first starts since pitching in the All-Star Game for the victorious American League, a game that Scherzer started and Sale earned the win with two perfect innings.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was just the eighth time since 2000 that All-Star pitchers have faced each other in their first starts after the break.
Scherzer was perfect through the first four innings and allowed just two runs in eight innings of work for his 14th win, while Sale gutted out eight tough innings in taking the loss.
Cabrera's departure, however, changed the game's main news from the pitchers to his condition.
"You just know it's a legitimate injury," Scherzer said of his reaction seeing Cabrera remove himself from the game. "He'll play through anything and when he can't go, you know there's a problem. So, hopefully it's not a serious injury. Hopefully he's just hurt and not injured."
Cabrera, who was walked twice - once intentionally - hopes for the same. Still, he struggled to find the right words to describe how he felt physically.
"If I had the answer right now, I'd tell you, but right now I don't know (anything)," he said, when asked if the ailment might be something that might just be short-term. "It's kind of hard right now, what I want to say. I (felt) something, so I (didn't) want to keep hurting myself. I just decided to (take myself) out and do treatment and try to be ready (Tuesday)."
That fifth inning was also a bit controversial for the team on the other side of the field. Sale was instructed to intentionally walk Cabrera with two outs with Detroit leading 1-0 and a runner on third.
The intense fireballer was seen shouting toward White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper near the dugout. Earlier in the game he got into a verbal disagreement with Cooper in the dugout.
As it turned out, Sale then walked left-handed hitting Prince Fielder to load the bases before Martinez rifled a single up the middle off a 1-2 count to score Hernan Perez and Cabrera -- who then felt the injury as he chugged around third.
"He probably (wanted) to pitch to him, but that's my decision," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "It's one of those (situations) with a lefty on deck, I know Prince is a great hitter, but Chris against a lefty, you're going to take that every time just to stay in the game."
As for Sale's feisty demeanor during the sequence, Venture said he'd like to see Sale handle it differently in the future.
"I'm the one making that call, so he needs to have a little more composure and get that guy and not worry about what happened before," he said.
Martinez, who went 4-for-5 with three RBIs, is now hitting .425 (31-for-73) in July and has the most hits in the American League during the month.
Scherzer, while great again, allowed two home runs in a game for the first time this season when Dayan Viciedo launched one in the sixth and Conor Gillaspie belted his eighth of the season in the eighth.
NOTES: Chicago's Paul Konerko said before the game that he might be dealing with lingering effects from the lower-back strain for the rest of the season, if not longer. Konerko was reinstated from the DL on Monday and was the White Sox's designated hitter. ... White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham spent a second straight game out of the lineup and will also take Tuesday off because of a left wrist strain unrelated to the hamate-bone surgery he had on that hand in April. ... Chicago RHP Jesse Crain (disabled list, shoulder strain) is not yet throwing bullpen sessions or off a mound. ... Detroit 2B Omar Infante was scheduled to undergo another evaluation on his injured left ankle prior to the game and might be getting close to going on a minor-league rehab assignment. ... LHP Darin Downs (rotator cuff tendinitis) threw a bullpen session with teammates standing in as hitters before the game.