CHICAGO -- For the second time this season, Miguel Cabrera was ejected in the middle of an at-bat early in a game. This one took out the Triple Crown candidate and Major League batting leader in the first inning of a game the Tigers knew would be short on offense for them against White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, a game the Tigers went on to lose Monday, 5-1.
The question for many on the Tigers side was whether the rule justified the playing a game in a division race without their best hitter.
"He made the correct calls," manager Jim Leyland, who was also ejected in the ensuing argument, said of plate umpire Brian Gorman's strike call on Cabrera. "I wasn't questioning the calls at all. But I just thought that it was an unnecessary ejection."
For Cabrera, given the implications, it was a perplexing one.
"I don't know if I've got bad history," Cabrera said. "I don't know what was going through his mind. To me, it's not like he's not the best umpire, he's not the worst umpire. To me, it's in the middle of a situation where you want to do good for your team and you want to fight.
"Right now, we're in good position to win our division. Kicked out of the game like that, I think that's frustration for me."
The call itself was pretty clear. Cabrera, batting with two outs in the opening inning, took a called first strike from Sale before trying to check his swing on a nasty slider that drove down and in on him.
Replay showed the ball hit him on his right knee, but Gorman said Cabrera went around on his swing. In that case, it's a strike regardless of whether the ball hits him.
Cabrera tried to argue he was trying to avoid the pitch.
"I tried to get out of the way," Cabrera said. "He said, 'You swung.' He said, 'You're too far out.' I said, 'How can you explain that? How can you explain I'm too far off?'"
Gorman, at some point, warned Cabrera to stop it.
"He kept arguing about the swing part of it," Gorman said. "He was warned, and he continued to argue."
Cabrera fouled off the next pitch, then apparently said something more as he stepped out of the batter's box. Gorman promptly ejected him, much to Cabrera's surprise.
"Oh, come on," Cabrera could be seen telling Gorman on replay.
It was somewhat similar to a July 28 ejection Cabrera received from plate umpire Chad Fairchild, who tossed Cabrera for his reaction to a called strike with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning. In that case, too, Cabrera saw another pitch before being ejected for saying something about the previous one. In neither case did Cabrera make a physical gesture.
In both cases, the respective umpires said they warned Cabrera not to say anything more, and promptly ejected him when he did.
"He was told to stop arguing and continued to argue," Gorman said, "and he was ejected for continuing the argument."
Cabrera said he didn't hear any warning from Gorman, or any response at all.
"He didn't give me anything," Cabrera said. "He didn't say anything. I think he said a couple words to skip. I don't know if he didn't understand what I said. I don't know what happened that moment, but I don't think I said anything to get thrown out of the game, especially right now. …
"We're in the race. You don't want to get thrown out of the game. You know what I mean? You want to fight. You want to compete. I don't know why. I don't know what happened. I don't know why he threw me out."
Asked if the situation of the game made the ejection call a difficult one, Gorman said, "I think all situations are difficult. You just have to handle them as an umpire. It's part of our job."
Leyland, in this case, disagreed with the decision, given the situation. He said Cabrera did answer back, but didn't believe it warranted an ejection.
"He was pointing toward the first-base umpire, but once the umpire calls it a strike, he can't check with the first-base umpire," Leyland said. "The calls were correct. But Brian, basically, Miguel said about three or four times, 'That's bull ...'
"That really doesn't, in my opinion, warrant an ejection. He wasn't in his face. He wasn't throwing his hands up. He wasn't putting on a big show. I just felt it was a very unnecessary ejection."
Even White Sox Josh Phegley, who overheard the argument, seemed surprised. He didn't think Cabrera said a profanity.
"I didn't think it was much of an argument," Phegley said. "It surprised me that he got thrown out that early. But I was hoping to try to get him out today and pitch to him."
Gorman said continuing the argument essentially amounts to arguing balls and strikes, which in itself is an ejection.
That's the explanation Leyland received when he came out to argue. Leyland, too, continued to argue after the explanation. Gorman said he warned Leyland, then ejected him.
"He deserved an explanation, and I gave him an explanation," Gorman said. "I don't think he was too happy with it, but I gave him the explanation. It's just he continued and he was warned and he was ejected."
Monday marked the fifth ejection in Cabrera's career. Leyland's ensuing ejection was his fourth this season and the 72nd of his career.
Ramon Santiago replaced Cabrera to finish out the at-bat, grounding out to short before taking over at third base in the bottom of the inning.