DETROIT -- Luke Putkonen began Thursday heading north on Interstate 75 from Toledo, Ohio, called back to the big leagues as a fresh reliever after the A's had battered Detroit's bullpen.
"We're not looking to have this situation," manager Jim Leyland said the night before, "but you never know."
By the end of the day, Putkonen was pitching. By the end of the game, he was a huge reason the Tigers were able to come back and win.
Putkonen replaced Max Scherzer in the sixth and racked up four strikeouts over two scoreless innings. He pounded the strike zone with his mid-90s fastball to go with a curveball and changeup he commanded.
It was one of his better outings of the year, and it came on a day when he really didn't have time to think about the hitters he'd be facing.
"I just wanted to come in and put up a couple zeros," Putkonen said afterward.
It marked the second time this season Putkonen has delivered two or more scoreless innings, both in late-inning victories. He pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings with four strikeouts May 2 in Houston, where his extra-inning work allowed Detroit to pull ahead in the 14th inning.
Miggy exits second straight game early with injury
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland knew Miguel Cabrera wanted to play against Cleveland, despite his abdominal strain. But after Cabrera lasted just two innings of Friday's opener before his second consecutive early exit, Leyland and the Tigers might be weighing whether to sit him to get him right.
"I don't have any idea whatsoever what the status is," Leyland said after Friday's rain-shortened 7-2 win at Comerica Park. "All I can tell you is normally when you pull a guy out of a game one night, he probably doesn't play the next day. But I don't have any idea. I just have to play it by ear and see what happens."
Cabrera is listed as day to day with abdominal irritation, the continuation of an injury that has bothered him to varying degrees since early July. He has been playing through it, and playing at a star level, but his exits the past two days might force the Tigers to reconsider.
Matt Tuiasosopo, who played third base in Spring Training while Cabrera was in the World Baseball Classic, took more ground balls at third base during batting practice Friday than he has all season. Leyland, meanwhile, said before the game that he might use Cabrera at designated hitter for a game and put Victor Martinez at catcher, where he played well for two games against the Mets last week.
The Tigers will be able to call up reinforcements on Sunday, when 25-man rosters expands and anyone on the 40-man roster can be active. For that reason, a trip to the disabled list -- which would cost them at least 15 days of his services -- is highly unlikely.
Cabrera said after Thursday's game that he planned on starting Friday. True to his word, he was back in the Tigers' starting lineup, batting third and playing third base.
Leyland said before the game that he checked with Cabrera on Friday afternoon before writing him into the starting lineup, and Cabrera was all smiles. He grew suspicious watching Cabrera swing during batting practice, though.
"He wasn't swinging real well," Leyland said. "I could tell that he was not really turning it loose."
Cabrera struck out swinging to end the first inning and did not have a play to make in the field in either of the first two frames. He went after a Lonnie Chisenhall pop fly in foul territory to end the second inning, but shortstop Jose Iglesias ran it down and caught it.
When the Tigers took the field for the top of the third, Cabrera didn't come out of the dugout. Don Kelly, who started the game in left field, replaced Cabrera at third, with Andy Dirks entering the game in left.
"When I saw the first at-bat, I knew that what I was seeing in BP was probably right. So I got him out of there," Leyland said.
That's the first time anyone has mentioned Cabrera's injury hampering his swing. On Thursday, it was an acceleration around first base, trying to stretch a fifth-inning single into a double, that led to Cabrera aggravating the injury. He left that game against Oakland after five innings.
"All I can say is I don't feel 100 percent," said Cabrera, who told reporters the injury is not believed to be a hernia.
The Tigers' win gave them a 7 1/2-game lead on Cleveland in the American League Central. A larger lead with 25 games left to play after the weekend series might be enough to start looking into rest for the slugger. The team medical staff told Leyland that Cabrera can't worsen the injury by playing through it, but at the very least, his recent issues clearly suggest he isn't getting any better, either.
"If he needs a day, he'll get it," Leyland said before the game. "If he needs two days or three days, whenever it is, big series, little series, whatever you want to call it."
Comeback vs. A's among Leyland's favorite wins
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland has a World Series ring thanks to a walk-off hit from Edgar Renteria in 1997. He has an American League championship ring thanks to a walk-off homer from Magglio Ordonez in 2006. He has a lot of dramatic victories mixed in.
Thursday's 7-6 comeback win against Oakland ranks pretty high on his list.
"That will go down as one of my favorite wins of all time," Leyland said Friday, a day after Torii Hunter delivered a three-run walk-off homer. "That was exciting. It didn't look too good for the old home team."
It wasn't just the turnaround in the game, however, that made it one of his favorites. It was the way his team responded after being roughed up for 3 1/2 games in the series against the A's, down 6-1 after five innings Thursday before rallying to avoid a sweep.
"The way we got our butts kicked for three days, it looked like we were going to get our butts kicked again," Leyland said. "I think that says a lot for your team when you just got your fanny beat and you could've said, 'You know what, it just wasn't our four days. We'll take our beating and try to get ready for Cleveland.'
"But they didn't do that. They hung in there and played it out and played nine innings and pulled a game out that we probably shouldn't have won. That was a very impressive game to me. You could tell on the bench, too, the guys were into it. Nobody gave up. Nobody thought we didn't have a chance."
The five-run comeback was the biggest of the season for Detroit. The four-run ninth inning tied their season best from Aug. 5 in Cleveland.
Hoping to keep hitting, Avila grows out hair
DETROIT -- Alex Avila tried growing out his beard the last few years. Now, he's looking for good luck by growing out his hair.
It's hard to see under his helmet and mask, but he's growing a pretty decent head of hair. He hasn't cut it since he came back from his first stint on the disabled list at the beginning of July. The way he hit upon his return, he didn't want to risk it. Now, he's debating whether to grow it out for the rest of the season.
It's something new, he said.
Avila was back in the starting lineup Friday after going 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter in Thursday's ninth-inning comeback. He entered Friday's series opener against Cleveland batting an even .200 on the season, but .247 with four home runs and 25 RBIs in 28 games since returning from the DL in July.
• Major League Baseball reversed a scoring decision from last week, turning a Brian Dozier error from an Aug. 21 game against Minnesota into a Prince Fielder infield single.
• Phil Coke has six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts at Triple-A Toledo after another scoreless appearance for the Mud Hens on Thursday. Coke is eligible to be recalled on Saturday, though the Tigers could wait until rosters expand on Sunday and still have him eligible for the postseason if they use an injury exemption.