Toronto — As Miguel Cabrera was being mobbed by his teammates on his way back into the dugout after he clubbed historical home run No. 500 in the sixth inning Sunday, he yelled, “Let’s go.”
The home run made it a 1-1 game and his message was clear — “We still got work to do.”
They pushed it to extra innings, improbably, and then in the top of the 11th, rookie Daz Cameron and Willi Castro delivered back-to-back, two-out doubles and the Tigers were able to celebrate Cabrera’s milestone day with a 5-3 win in the rubber match of the three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Joe Jimenez, the sixth Tigers’ reliever, went through the top of the Jays’ batting order — Bo Bichette, Marcus Semien and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — to lock it down.
Cameron’s rifle shot into the corner in left against left-hander Kirby Snead came with two strikes. The Tigers were also down to their last strike when they pushed the game into extra innings in the top of the ninth.
The Tigers were down 2-1 after Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., singled off Michael Fulmer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring Corey Dickerson.
And side-arming reliever Adam Cimber got two quick outs and looked poised to quickly dispatch Willi Castro and end the game. He had him 0-2 after getting Castro to swing and miss at a pitch that hit him in the hip.
But Castro drove the next one into the gap in left-center, the ball bouncing over the wall for a ground-rule double to extend the inning.
Manager AJ Hinch sent left-handed hitting Harold Castro to pinch-hit for Dustin Garneau and Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo countered with lefty Tayler Saucedo.
Harold Castro, who delivered a go-ahead pinch-hit single in the 10th inning on Friday, bounced a two-strike pitch to second base. A routine play for Marcus Semien. Except his throw was low and first baseman Vlad Guerrero, Jr., couldn’t come up with it.
The Tigers went up 3-2 in the top of the 10th on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Schoop. The Blue Jays tied it in the bottom of the 10th on a sacrifice fly by Alejandro Kirk, then threatened to win it.
They loaded the bases with two outs, but Gregory Soto, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning. struck out Kevin Smith with his 39th pitch to get the game to the 11th. Gritty work.
Cabrera’s home run was all the damage the Tigers could muster off Toronto lefty starter Steven Matz. Matz had beat Cabrera with fastballs in his first two at-bats, and induced an ugly swing with a fastball to even the count 1-1 in the sixth. Then he threw a change-up and left it off the plate outside.
Cabrera drilled it on a line (104 mph off the bat) and drove it into the seats in right-center.
But the Tigers, shut out on Saturday, struggled to put anything together until Willi Castro’s double in the ninth.
One of the side plots to this one was Tigers’ starting pitcher Drew Hutchison, though he truly didn’t want to make a big deal about it.
It was his first return to Rogers Centre since he was traded away by the Blue Jays in 2016. He had been the club’s Opening Day starter in 2015 and then didn’t make the team out of spring training in 2016.
Tumultuous times, for sure. But nothing compared to his nine-team journey these past three years trying to get back to the big leagues. So, getting a start against the Blue Jays had a different dynamic than it might’ve in 2016 or 2017.
“It’s a little bit (special),” he said before allowing only an unearned run in 4.1 innings. “It’s the first time I’ve been back. But I have been around a little bit since so maybe it doesn’t mean as much as it would’ve if it happened right away.”
It was also Hutchison’s 31st birthday and he knows both Matthew Boyd and Jose Urena are working their way back off the injured list. There’s no telling how many more starts he might get. So he took care of the only thing he had control of and he pitched his tail off.
He allowed just four hits. He worked out of trouble in the second inning with a large assist from center fielder Derek Hill. With two on and two out, Jays third baseman Kevin Smith hit a missile into the gap in left center. Hill, who has shaded more toward right, raced far to his right and caught ball on a full-out dive. Spectacular play.
He worked his way out of a mess in the third inning, too, getting the ever-dangerous Guerrero, Jr. to bang into a 5-4-3 double-play with runners on first and second. Hutchison then got Teoscar Hernandez to hit another routine ground ball to third base, but this time the ball went through Jeimer Candelario, allowing the run to score.
Hutchison gave way to the Tigers bullpen after facing exactly 18 hitters, two times through the order. Kyle Funkhouser, Alex Lange (just activated off the taxi squad) and Jose Cisnero kept the Blue Jays off the board.