TORONTO (AP) – Max Scherzer’s latest victory was overshadowed by some bad blood on the basepaths.
Scherzer worked into the seventh inning to become the first pitcher in 27 years to get off to a 13-0 start, leading the Detroit Tigers to a 6-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
Alex Avila hit a three-run homer and Victor Martinez belted a solo shot as Detroit beat Toronto for the eighth time in 10 meetings.
The Tigers were angry at Colby Rasmus after he knocked Detroit second baseman Omar Infante out of the game with a hard slide in the fourth.
“We’re really mad about that slide,” Scherzer said. “That’s a very dirty play in my book. When you watch it on replay, his spikes are up, he’s sliding late.”
After he was hit by a pitch from Scherzer, Rasmus slid hard into Infante on Rajai Davis’ grounder to shortstop, breaking up the potential double play. Rasmus’ right leg caught Infante on the left shin, sending him to the ground in pain.
Infante, who was replaced by Ramon Santiago, needed help walking off the field but X-rays were negative. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Infante would not play Thursday.
Scherzer said Rasmus deserved to be suspended for injuring Infante, whom he called “a critical reason why we’ve been good this year.”
“That’s something where, if we were to retaliate on him, we get suspended but it’s really him who should be suspended for making a slide like that,” Scherzer said. “He slid way too late. I understand him playing the game hard but that’s not a clean play and we didn’t like that.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons declined to comment, saying he didn’t want to “inflame” the situation. As for Rasmus, he denied sliding any differently than normal.
“I go in hard every time,” Rasmus said. “My intention is never to hurt anybody or nothing like that. I was taught that early in this game and that’s how I play it. I didn’t mean for nothing bad to happen. But it’s no different than any time I ever come in.”
Then both benches and bullpens emptied after Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter took exception to being hit by a high pitch from reliever Todd Redmond in the sixth.
“Trust me, it’s nothing against Redmond,” Hunter said. “It was all Rasmus sliding late with his spikes up.”
Hunter took a few steps toward the mound and gestured at Redmond after being hit on the left shoulder. Plate umpire Mike Estabrook quickly steered Hunter away and he was wrapped up by teammate Prince Fielder.
“That’s the only way I can vent and I wanted to vent,” Hunter said.
No punches were thrown, and the relievers from both teams were pointed back to their bullpens before reaching the infield.
All four umpires huddled and, before play resumed, Estabrook warned both benches.
Scherzer (13-0) allowed two runs and seven hits, struck out eight and walked one in 6 1-3 innings. He’s the first pitcher to begin the season with 13 wins and no losses since Roger Clemens won his first 14 decisions for the Boston Red Sox in 1986.
“It might not have been vintage Max but he was really good,” Leyland said.
Scherzer also improved to 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA in six career starts against the Blue Jays. He has 139 strikeouts this season, second only to Texas’ Yu Darvish among AL starters.
“We’re confident when he’s on the mound and we’re excited to see him get this 13th win,” Hunter said.
Bruce Rondon got two outs in the seventh, Drew Smyly pitched the eighth and Joaquin Benoit finished for the Tigers.
The Blue Jays dropped to 3-7 since matching a team record with an 11-game winning streak.
Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera, who left Tuesday’s game in the ninth with a sore lower back, started and batted third but was replaced by Don Kelly in the ninth. Cabrera, who came in with a major league-leading .368 batting average, went 1 for 4 with a walk.
Leyland said Cabrera’s back was still bothering him, possibly because of consecutive road series on turf in Tampa Bay and Toronto. He also said Cabrera would get the day off Thursday.
“We’ve been on turf now for six straight days,” Leyland said. “Guys aren’t used to that.”
The Tigers took advantage of two miscues to score four runs in the second. Fielder was credited with a single when pitcher Josh Johnson couldn’t handle his comebacker and Martinez reached on an error by second baseman Emilio Bonifacio before Jhonny Peralta hit an RBI single.
With two outs, Avila drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left for his sixth homer.
“We definitely didn’t help ourselves there,” Gibbons said. “Against the better pitchers, you fall behind like that, it’s an uphill battle.”
Hunter reached on an error by Johnson to begin the third and scored on a base hit by Martinez, who made it 6-0 when he connected for his seventh homer leading off the fifth.
Johnson (1-3) allowed six runs, one earned, and seven hits in five innings.
Toronto’s Mark DeRosa hit a two-out triple in the second but was stranded when center fielder Austin Jackson made a leaping catch at the wall to retire J.P. Arencibia.
“Austin had the opportunity to go up like Michael Jordan and he got up,” an appreciative Hunter said.
The Blue Jays broke through against Scherzer in the sixth when Rasmus and Maicer Izturis hit RBI singles.
“They hit some balls hard but I was able to keep it on the ground and keep them to singles and minimize the damage,” Scherzer said.
Adam Lind returned to Toronto’s lineup after missing two games with a sore back, while catcher Arencibia started after sitting out Tuesday’s game with a sore right shoulder.
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