MINNEAPOLIS – Miguel Cabrera sets the tone.
He is, and always will be, the Detroit Tigers’ best player. He is their leader by example and on a night without two of their key players, Cabrera set the tone in a must-win series against the Minnesota Twins with, of all things, his feet.
Cabrera’s savvy baserunning in the fourth inning padded an early lead. Then his big bat punctuated the Tigers’ blowout win, 8-1, on Tuesday night at Target Field.
In the span of three batters, Cabrera showed why – even without above-average speed – he is considered an exceptional baserunner, and the smartest baseball player in the game.
First, he doubled to right-centerfield off left-hander Hector Santiago and aggressively took second base a feet in front of the throw. Then, he deked centerfielder Byron Buxton and tagged to third base on a flyout to centerfield. Finally, he scored on a high chopper to third base, beating the relay throw from first base by an inch, sliding under the catcher’s tag.
That sequence doubled the run support lefty Matt Boyd needed in a spectacular effort, and the Tigers’ offense followed suit in beating up on the Twins.
Boyd pitched his best outing of the season, spinning eight strong to pull the Tigers within 1 1/2 games of the Baltimore Orioles for the second American League wild-card spot.
It was the first time in Boyd’s career he pitched eight innings. He allowed one run on three hits – a Robbie Grossman solo home run – walked one and struck out seven.
Before the Grossman home run, he had retired 18 of 19 batters with only a walk in-between. Boyd’s seven strikeouts tied a career-high.
The Tigers started tacking on runs in the sixth inning.
First, Justin Upton blooped a RBI double down the rightfield line. Then James McCann, starting at designated hitter against Santiago, belted his 12th home run of the season, a three-run shot into the second deck above the bullpens in left-center at an estimated 442 feet.
With Boyd’s pitching, the game was over by then.
Santiago, who stymied the Tigers last homestand, struggled this time around, allowing six runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Cameron Maybin opened the scoring with a RBI triple in the third inning.
Cabrera put a cherry on top with a two-run shot in the seventh inning. It was his 34th home run of the season and 441st of his career, tying Dave Kingman for No. 41 all-time in baseball history.
On the home run, Cabrera also recorded his 1,538th RBI, passing Joe DiMaggio for No. 48 all-time in baseball history.
The Tigers are 7-0 at Target Field this season.