DETROIT -- For a player who spent the past two years in the Minors, Matt Tuiasosopo is certainly exceeding the expectations the Tigers had when they signed him to a Minor League contract this offseason.
Tuiasosopo drilled a 438-foot three-run home run to straightaway center field in the first inning of Saturday's rout against the Phillies, his seventh home run of the year to raise his slash line to .294/.410/.569.
"It's a nice story really, because he really hadn't done much in the big leagues and really didn't get a whole lot of opportunities," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's one of those guys, it doesn't really happen very often, but he was one of those guys that actually opened our eyes up in Spring Training and earned a spot."
Tuiasosopo struggled at the beginning of the spring, going hitless in his first 13 at-bats with seven strikeouts.
"His swing was real long and he wasn't doing very well," Leyland said. "Then we had some guys that were out -- [Andy] Dirks was down, the World Baseball Classic -- and he got some opportunities. As the spring went on, he shortened up his swing and started hitting the ball really hard. He really deserved to make the team."
Tuiasosopo says he's simplified his approach at the plate and tries not to think too much. He's also received pointers from Miguel Cabrera after he began hitting with him in batting practice.
"He's helped me a lot," Tuiasosopo said. "Here and there he's seen a couple of things that he's mentioned to me. His swing from the right side is so perfect, so I just like watching that and try to emulate it as much as I can by staying inside the ball and driving it.
"I'm looking for a fastball right down the middle of the plate, anything else I'm just reacting to it. Anytime I've tried to do more than that, add any other thought process to it, I haven't been so good. So I'm just trying to keep it like that."
Cabrera, Leyland ejected after strike-call dispute
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera is one of the most dangerous two-strike hitters in baseball, covering so much of the strike zone and beyond that it's hard to point to a reliable out-pitch against him. The one sure place where Cabrera can't hit is the clubhouse.
It's not a place any hitter often finds on strike two, let alone Cabrera. But home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild said he heard something strong enough from Cabrera on a second called strike in the third inning Sunday at Comerica Park that led him to eject the slugger.
"He was removed from the game for arguing balls and strikes," Fairchild said. "What exactly he said will be in our report."
Cabrera's description after the Tigers' 12-4 win over the Phillies was succinct.
"I said, 'That was horrible,' and he threw me out," he said.
Fairchild's report will also include remarks on manager Jim Leyland, who was ejected a minute later for picking up the argument.
It's the second time this month that the Tigers have had multiple ejections from Fairchild. He was behind the plate to toss reliever Luke Putkonen on July 11 for throwing behind White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez after Chris Sale threw high and inside on Prince Fielder.
That ejection without a warning drew Leyland's temper high enough that players on both sides, who had cleared the benches, stopped to watch him argue. Sunday's argument wasn't nearly as much of a scene, but it was still contentious. Leyland was soon ejected, then followed Fairchild down the first-base line along with the rest of the crew.
"I'm not getting into that," Leyland said. "That's a dead issue. [Cabrera] obviously said something and made a remark that the umpire didn't care for. We'll just leave it at that."
Cabrera stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning against Philadelphia starter Jonathan Pettibone, who threw a first-pitch strike that drew a remark from Cabrera after Fairchild's call.
"I said something to him like, 'What's going on?'" Cabrera said. "Not 'going on,' but something with bad words."
Faircihld said he warned Cabrera after that pitch to stop arguing. Cabrera said something again once Pettibone got a strike call on the next pitch, but not with the same type of language.
"I warned him to stop, but after the second pitch, he began to argue balls and strikes again, and was removed from the game," Fairchild said.
Cabrera didn't make a motion to show up the call, nor did he step out of the box to pick up the dispute. The verbal reaction prompted the ejection.
"It was a big at-bat with the bases loaded, so you want to try to get a good pitch to hit," Cabrera said. "When you see that, you get kind of upset, say something, and I don't know, he decided to throw me out."
Fielder, who was on deck, stepped between the two as Cabrera yelled at Fairchild until Leyland came out and took over the case.
"Jim came out and asked for an explanation, which I gave to him," Fairchild said. "He then began to argue balls and strikes, and since he had left his position and argued balls and strikes, he was removed from the game."
Asked if the July 11 ejection came up in Leyland's argument, crew chief Jeff Kellogg said, "That will be in our report, but I'm not going to comment on that now."
The two ejections from Fairchild are the only ones Leyland, who now has 70 for his career, has drawn this season. Bench coach Gene Lamont took over managerial duties for the rest of the game.
Cabrera's ejection led to the unusual situation of Matt Tuiasosopo stepping to the plate in an at-bat charged to Cabrera. Tuiasosopo was credited as a pinch-hitter, but because he entered with a two-strike count, the strikeout was charged to Cabrera.
"I try to get my body as loose as possible real quick, because you don't know what move they're going to make on the bench, which one of us they're going to put in," Tuiasosopo said. "When they did, I had a couple seconds to get a couple swings in. You just try to see the ball and hit it, kind of like what I do normally, but you only get one strike. I should've swung."
Instead, Tuiasosopo took a called third strike at the knees.
"I said anything close, just swing," Tuiasosopo said. "Bases loaded, put the ball in play at least. That last one, I thought it was down. He called it strike three. Kind of a crazy situation."
Leyland wants Alburquerque to throw multiple innings
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland tried stretching out Al Alburquerque to a multi-inning reliever in April with mixed results. Though Alburquerque tossed five scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts over a three-game stretch on the West Coast, his struggles with walks after that eventually led him to Triple-A Toledo.
When the Tigers finally brought Alburquerque back last month, Leyland made it clear they saw him as a one-inning reliever. After an up-and-down July, however, Leyland is open to the possibility of stretching out the high-strikeout, lower-command right-hander again.
"If everything was perfect, I think you'd go two," Leyland said. "You'd like to see that. But that all depends on the results you get."
On Saturday, Leyland used a 10-0 cushion on the Phillies to give Alburquerque a second inning with good results.
"If you're only going to get one real good [inning] and he doesn't handle the second inning very good, then you don't do it," Leyland said. "But I would like for him to be able to pitch two innings."
Leyland wasn't sure if Alburquerque's struggles while stretching out were due to him sitting down and getting back up between innings. There have been times when his second inning looked like a completely different game than the first.
Opponents entered Sunday having gone 24-for-95 (.253) with 18 walks and 38 strikeouts in Alburquerque's first inning of work. Beyond that, they're 1-for-13 with seven walks, six strikeouts and a hit batter.
Tigers get encouraging news on rehabbing Dotel
DETROIT -- The Tigers had just about written off the season for Octavio Dotel, who has been on the disabled list since mid-April with repeated bouts of right elbow inflammation. Finally, however, they might have a return for him in sight.
"Dotel is feeling good," manager Jim Leyland said Sunday morning. "He's throwing off a mound."
Dotel is back throwing in workouts at the Tigers' Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla. Leyland didn't have much more information than that, but the reports he has received have been positive.
"I know I always sound cold, but it sounds like it's very encouraging," Leyland said.
For a manager who's usually skeptical about recovery timetables, for Leyland to even acknowledge encouragement is a pretty decent sign. Leyland was upbeat enough to acknowledge the possibility that Dotel could come back and act like a late-season trade acquisition.
"If he could come back like the Dotel of the second half of last year, that would be a nice trade at the deadline that you didn't have to make," Leyland said. "But I can't predict that, and I'm not saying that's going to happen."
Dotel's absence this year has had a cascade effect through Detroit's bullpen, from added workload on Al Alburquerque to a Major League role for Bruce Rondon.
Scherzer joins rare company with 15 wins
DETROIT -- Max Scherzer's win Saturday made him the fifth Major League pitcher since 1978 to go 15-1 to begin a season, according to research from Elias Sports Bureau. Three of those 15-1 marks have come in the past four years, with Scherzer following the footsteps of Jered Weaver from last year and Ubaldo Jimenez from 2010.
The others were both New York Yankees: Roger Clemens in 2001 and Ron Guidry in 1978.
Baltimore's Dave McNally, whose 15-0 mark Scherzer threatened to match before the Rangers beat him two weeks ago, stood 15-1 following his first loss in 1969. The same goes for Cleveland's Johnny Allen, who won his first 15 decisions in '37 before losing his final start of the year in Detroit.
Of that group, McNally is the only one to go 16-1, a mark Scherzer will have the chance to match when he makes his next scheduled start Saturday against the White Sox at Comerica Park.
Deaths of well-known Tigers fans touch Leyland
DETROIT -- Most Tigers players likely never had a chance to meet James Van Horn or Michael Alston. Though the two became well-known to fans at Comerica Park, hanging around before or after games, players and coaches usually arrive at the ballpark earlier and leave later.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, however, said he met Alston, a wheelchair-bound man known to some fans as "Dreadlock Mike," leaving the park after a game. He was stunned to read news reports that the two were killed early Saturday morning in a hit-and-run incident crossing Gratiot Avenue near Detroit's Eastern Market.
"I loved that guy," Leyland said. "He was a good guy."
Detroit Police have not confirmed the identities of the two victims, but multiple reports have stated those were the two.
Max Scherzer hadn't met either of them, but through friends and relatives knew of Van Horn, best known for chanting "Eat 'Em Up Tigers" as fans made their way to the ballpark before games and again at the games' end.
"He died in such a tragic way," Scherzer said. "He was kind of a part of the Detroit baseball culture, as well."
Fans have paid their respects through a makeshift memorial along Montcalm Street between Witherell and Woodward Avenue, placing flowers alongside an "Eat 'Em Up" t-shirt. A few fans picked up the chant at times before and during Saturday night's win against the Phillies.
Detroit Police are inviting anyone with information about the accident to call Crime Stoppers at 800-SPEAK-UP.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.