Cabrera keeps pace for Triple Crown

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 29, 2012
Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run homer to move into at least a tie for the lead in all three triple crown categories and Justin Verlander struck out eight in seven innings to help the Detroit Tigers stay in front in the AL Central with a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday. Cabrera's blast in the eighth inning off Casey Fien was his 43rd home run for the year, moving him into a tie with Texas star Josh Hamilton for the AL lead. He also leads the AL in batting average (.327) and RBIs (136) as he looks to become the first player since 1967 to lead the league in all three categories. Verlander (17-8) allowed four hits and one unearned run to drop his ERA to 2.64 for the Tigers, who moved two games ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the division. Cabrera's homer proved to be a big one after Ryan Doumit hit a grand slam off of Joaquin Benoit in the eighth. Al Alburquerque helped the Detroit bullpen do what it couldn't do against the lowly Twins on Friday night - finish the game. Jose Valverde picked up his 33rd save. Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks also went deep for Detroit. Chicago lost to Tampa Bay 10-4 moments before the final out of the Tigers game. P.J. Walters (2-5) gave up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts in five innings for the Twins. Joe Mauer went 0 for 3 with two walks, dropping his average to .320. One day after Detroit lost a game of cushion to the White Sox when reliever Brayan Villarreal let a lead slip away against the Twins, Verlander came out determined to make sure the Tigers kept the pressure on Chicago. With a free and easy delivery, the right-hander started the day as he often does, keeping his fastball at 93 or 94 mph while keeping the Twins off balance with an array of off-speed pitches. He started to ramp things up in the fourth when he blew Justin Morneau away with consecutive fastballs of 98 and 99 and hit 100 later in the inning. It wasn't just Verlander's dazzling stuff that gave the Twins hitters problems. The afternoon shadows at Target Field make it very difficult for hitters to pick up the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand and often contributes to slow days for the offense. That appeared to be the case early for Cabrera as well, who was befuddled by Walters. The slugger struck out in his first two at-bats and flew out to right in his third. Cabrera entered the day leading Mauer by five points in the batting race, Hamilton by eight in the RBI race, but trailing Hamilton by one in homers. The bigger prize, of course, is the division title. Neither the Tigers nor the Sox will qualify for one of two wild cards in the American League, so their only way in is through the division door. After wrapping up the series against Minnesota on Sunday, the Tigers will finish the regular season with three games in Kansas City. The White Sox have one more game against Tampa Bay before heading to Cleveland for three games. NOTES: Verlander left with nobody out in the eighth after Denard Span reached on an error, marking just the fourth time all season he's been taken out in the middle of an inning. ... One night after making a costly error late in a 4-2 loss to the Twins, Fielder was sharp at 1B, making a quick decision on a hot grounder from Jamey Carroll in the fifth. Fielder threw to third base and Cabrera chased Trevor Plouffe down to get the lead runner. ... Plouffe snapped an 0-for-18 skid with a double in the fifth inning. ... The Tigers will send RHP Anibal Sanchez (4-6, 3.95) to the mound for the series finale against Twins RHP Liam Hendriks (1-8, 6.09). Sanchez is coming off of his first shutout in more than a year, a three-hitter against Kansas City that put the Tigers into a tie for first place.
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