Manager John Gibbons is having to cobble together some interesting lineups these days, as he hopes to continue the Toronto Blue Jays’ recent revival in the American League East.
There was the slap-hitting Munenori Kawasaki – he of the .229 batting average and one career home run – assuming the designated-hitter role for the first time in his major-league career Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers.
Watch: Tigers beat Blue Jays 7-6
With regulars Adam Lind (back) and Edwin Encarnacion (hamstring) unavailable for the second consecutive game, there was little else Gibbons could do.
Utility man Mark DeRosa assumed first base, while Josh Thole, normally R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher, was behind the plate in place of J.P. Arencibia, who jammed a shoulder in last Saturday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.
The injuries left Toronto without a position player on the bench for Gibbons to turn to in the late innings, if necessary.
And let’s not forget Chien-Ming Wang, the right-hander whom the Blue Jays plucked off the minor-league scrap heap earlier this season, making his fifth start.
“Just win, baby,” the manager chuckled before the game when asked his lineup.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays (41-42), they fell short of living up to Gibbons’s credo, blowing an early big lead before falling 7-6 to the Tigers (44-38) before 27,189 at Rogers Centre.
Torii Hunter had the final say in this see-saw affair, stepping into the batter’s box in the eighth inning with two out and Omar Infante on third base.
Hunter hit a grounder back through the middle that was too hot for Toronto reliever Neil Wagner to handle. The ball deflected off Wagner toward Jose Reyes at shortstop, but his throw was not in time to get Hunter at first as Infante crossed home plate with what would be the winning run.
It looked good for the Blue Jays early on, as they sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning and assumed a 4-0 lead on starter Doug Fister, who had an erratic 38-pitch beginning.
Colby Rasmus tallied the big hit: a two-run ground-rule double that bounced over the wall in the left-field corner.
Handed a comfortable lead, Wang promptly gave it back – and more – as the Tigers erupted for six runs off seven hits in the top of the second. The Tigers would send 11 men to the plate, with the damaging blow a three-run home run to centre off the bat of Miguel Cabrera, his 26th of the year.
Wang was gone three batters later, and his second consecutive dismal outing will fuel conjecture about his continued employment with the club.
Last Thursday in Boston, in a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox, Wang lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing all seven runs off six hits. Against Detroit, Wang once again pitched just 1 2/3 innings, getting roughed up for six runs off eight hits.
Before the game, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos suggested he was under no real pressure to have to go out and swing a deal for a pitcher.
The GM noted Brandon Morrow (forearm) is finally pain-free and would need at least three starts in the minors before he could return to the big-league team, which could be as early as late July if all goes well. Starter J.A. Happ is still experiencing knee soreness and Anthopoulos said he could be back by August, and even the vanquished Ricky Romero is a possibility if he ever gets on a roll in Triple-A.
But Wang has pitched himself off the team as the Blue Jays announced after the loss that he was being designated for assignment. On Wednesday, the Blue Jays will summon right-hander Todd Redmond (3-1) from Triple-A Buffalo.
The Blue Jays knotted the score 6-6 in the bottom of the second with Rasmus once again shining bright, clubbing a two-run homer, his 15th of the season.
After his shaky first inning, Fister allowed just two hits and no more runs over the next five innings.
Gibbons was ejected with one out in the ninth inning, after coming out to argue with home plate umpire Alan Porter that Kawasaki was hit by a pitch, a stance that appeared to be backed up on television replays.