Alex Avila started at first base and made two big plays to help make the loss of Miguel Cabrera a bit more palatable, if only for a day.
The Detroit Tigers received contributions throughout the lineup to help ease the pain of losing Cabrera for six weeks with a Grade 3 left calf strain.
The Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and went on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-3, in front of an announced crowd of 37,214 at Comerica Park on Saturday.
Leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. J.D. Martinez, batting cleanup, hit his 22nd home run of the season, and James McCann had an RBI triple in the first inning.
Cabrera, who leads the American League with a .350 batting average, went on the disabled list for the first time in his career.
“Certainly a nice day offensively,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. “Although all things being equal, I’d rather obviously see Miggy in the lineup. It’s just one game, but the last couple games we’ve looked a lot better at the plate.”
Ausmus said before the game he would be cautious with how much playing time he gives Avila at first base. Avila recently missed two months with loose bodies in his left knee.
“Obviously made a couple nice plays,” Ausmus said. “Foul ball and the pickoff. But again, we’re not going to throw Alex over there on a daily basis.”
Avila, who saw some playing time at first base in college, made two good plays in the field. In the fourth inning, he caught a ball in foul territory and hung on to it as he flipped over into the seats.
“The play in the stands, I’m running back,” Avila said. “I had a pretty good bead on it. That little advertisement thing that kind of juts out … just kind of clips my leg there and I just stuck my glove back as I was falling down and it happened to go in.”
Avila said the fans “must have broken my fall because I felt fine afterwards.”
The Tigers also were able to pick off Devon Travis at first base. After the throw by McCann, Avila blocked the bag from Travis in the fifth inning.
“Mac made a good throw,” Avila said. “I could kind of sense Travis sliding in that the throw was a little late and I just kind of stuck my foot where I thought he would be diving in. His hand went right into my foot. At the other bases, first, second and third, when there’s plays, you can do that. There’s no rule against it. Try to get an out any way you can get.”
Toronto starter R.A. Dicky hit two batters and gave up two doubles, a triple and a home run in the first inning. Victor Martinez grounded out to first to score Kinsler. J.D. Martinez added a two-run home run and McCann had an RBI triple.
Martinez hit his team-leading 22nd home run and has hit safely in 15 of his last 18 games. He has 12 doubles and 28 RBIs in that stretch.
The Tigers extended their lead to five runs in the fourth inning when Cespedes hit a single to score Anthony Gose.
Dickey allowed five runs on 11 hits and two walks over 52/3 innings with one strikeout for the Blue Jays.
Kevin Pillar hit his seventh home run in the fifth to cut the deficit to 5-1 for the Jays off Tigers starter David Price.
Price allowed one run on eight hits and one walk over seven innings with seven strikeouts. Al Alburquerque pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning in relief.
The Tigers added three runs in the eighth inning. A fielding error loaded the bases with one out, then Steve Delabar threw a wild pitch, bringing home pinch-runner Jose Iglesias. Kinsler added a two-run single to left.
With a seven-run cushion, right-handed pitcher Jeff Ferrell made his major league debut in the ninth. He gave up a single to Danny Valencia and a two-run home run to Chris Colabello.
The Detroit Tigers’ James McCann hits a triple against the Toronto Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey during first inning action on Saturday, July 4, 2015 at Comerica Park in Detroit.