DETROIT (AP) — Miguel Cabrera moved one step closer toward doing something no one has done in 45 years while helping the Detroit Tigers keep their hopes high in the AL Central race.
Cabrera hit his 42nd homer, putting himself in Triple Crown position by sending a drive soaring into the left-field seats as Detroit beat the Minnesota Twins 8-0 Saturday.
“It’s something special,” he said.
Doug Fister (10-9) was pretty good, too, in his first career shutout that saved Detroit’s bullpen for Sunday’s doubleheader.
The Tigers moved to 1/2 game behind the Chicago White Sox, who lost to the Los Angeles Angels.
“This is what you play for, a chance to be in it,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Obviously, we felt we would do a little bit better than this, but we haven’t and we’re still playing for something.”
Cabrera’s solo shot in the fourth inning tied him with Texas star Josh Hamilton for the most homers in the AL.
“Looked like a golf ball that he hit,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s incredible.”
Cabrera has a relatively comfortable league lead with a .332 batting average and 131 RBIs. Hamilton is sidelined for this weekend’s series at Seattle because of a sinus condition that has caused blurred vision.
Carl Yastrzemski won the last Triple Crown in 1967. Yastrzemski took the batting and RBIs title, and tied Harmon Killebrew for the most homers in the AL.
Hall of Famer Al Kaline played in the AL when the last three players – Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson (1966) and Mickey Mantle (1956) – pulled off the feat. Now, he’s watching Cabrera chase history up close as a special assistant in the Tigers’ front office.
“It’s so hard to do because usually when you hit for power like Miguel does, you usually don’t hit for average like he is,” Kaline said during the game.
Austin Jackson hit a leadoff home run in the first inning and Delmon Young hit a three-run homer in a five-run third that gave Fister more than enough support.
Fister allowed seven hits and no walks while striking out seven.
Leyland shook Fister’s hand in the dugout after the eighth inning, a usual sign that he’s taking the starter out, but told Fister he could finish the game if he did so without a lot of pitches.
“It was much appreciated and an honor for Skip to let me go back out there and trust me,” Fister said.
Samuel Deduno (6-5) gave up seven runs to match a career high in just 2 1-3 innings, his shortest start of the season. Deduno allowed seven hits and three walks, leading to his fifth loss in seven outings.
“Everything I was throwing, they were hitting,” he said.
The Tigers led off each of the first three innings with a hit.
Jackson sent Deduno’s first pitch into the left-field seats, leading off with a homer for the sixth time this season and the 10th time in his three-year career. Andy Dirks hit a double in the second inning and scored on Alex Avila’s single.
Deduno’s day was done after following up his only out in the third with his third walk of the game.
“That’s what that team does, they figure out a way to put runs on the board – like a freight train,” Gardenhire said. “Couldn’t get another guy warmed up fast enough.”
Cabrera’s homer off Anthony Swarzak in the fourth gave Detroit an eight-run cushion and extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Before the game, Gardenhire said he realizes fans come to the ballpark to see Cabrera hit.
“I come to the ballpark to see him walk, and not all the way around the bases,” Gardenhire said.
NOTES: Tigers RHP Max Scherzer recovered well enough from a fatigued shoulder to start in the opener of Sunday’s doubleheader against Minnesota. … In a bizarre play, Minnesota’s Alexi Casilla was called out in the fifth while standing on second base after shortstop Jhonny Peralta went in front of the bag to catch a popup, backed up into Casilla and fell as the ball hit the ground. Gardenhire threw his hands up after a brief argument on the field. “I know the base can’t protect the runner, but where was he supposed to go?” Gardenhire asked. Peralta had the same question. “I never seen that before,” Peralta said. “What’s the guy supposed to do?”
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