The Detroit Tigers’ pursuit of a second straight Central Division title took a major step forward on Saturday afternoon. Miguel Cabrera hit a big three run home run and the pitching staff did just enough to hang on, downing the Minnesota Twins by a 6-4 final.
With Justin Verlander on the hill and pitching flawlessly down the stretch, things were looking good before the first pitch was even thrown. Prince Fielder got Detroit off the mat early with a big solo home run to center field, providing his pitcher with some run support. Jhonny Peralta plated another run with an RBI double, and Verlander had a comfortable 2-0 lead. Though Verlander walked on eggshells at times. he showcased his dominant stuff as well. That was evident in the fourth inning, as he rebounded to strike out the side after allowing a single and a walk. Verlander stayed out of additional trouble, as he pitched cleanly into the eighth.
Detroit didn’t add any more runs until the eighth, and they would prove huge. Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry reached base, and Cabrera boomed his 43rd home run of the season with a powerful swing, putting himself back into the triple crown chase and giving the Tigers a comfy five run cushion. Andy Dirks added some insurance with a tater of his own, and things were looking good. Joaquin Benoit relieved Verlander in the bottom of the eighth, and had plenty of problems.After two walks, Ryan Doumit crushed a grand slam, pulling the Twins to within two. Further damage was escaped, however, and Jose Valverde managed to nail things down with an important save, preserving the 6-4 win.
Big Cat: Miguel Cabrera. Give Cabrera credit for rebounding after a tough night last night. The home run once again ties him atop the lead with Josh Hamilton, and the blast also helped secure the win, given the troubles late in the game of Benoit. If that’s not the performance of an MVP, it’s hard to say what is.
Stray Kitty: Joaquin Benoit. The hot and cold season of Benoit continues, as the reliever once again had trouble locating pitches and struggled with giving up the gopher ball today. Heading into the postseason, the Tigers need Benoit to be much better at the end of games, regardless of the score. Hopefully, today’s performance does not serve as a setback for the pitcher who rebounded nicely after a tough middle of the summer.
Best Play Of The Game: Justin Verlander’s fourth inning. After getting in some trouble, Verlander showed why he’s one of the best pitchers in the game, simply blowing away the next three hitters he faced. For momentum’s sake, the exchange was devastating for the Twins, who didn’t get much else going after that point. If a few runs score there, the game would likely turn out vastly different. Verlander has elevated his play at the best possible moment.
Worst Play Of The Game: Benoit’s eighth. Once again, Benoit looked bad in a tough inning. The trouble caused plenty of drama, and helped the Twins put the fear back in Detroit that they could come back. Since we discussed it before, we won’t belabor the points, but Benoit has to perform better late in games.
Central Focus: The win, combined with Chicago’s crushing loss, puts the Tigers two games up with four games left. The magic number to clinch the Central Division now stands at three.
On Deck: Tomorrow’s finale sees the red hot Anibal Sanchez take the hill against Liam Hendriks. First pitch is at 2:10 p.m.