Tigers 5, Blue Jays 3: Cabrera’s 500th homer comes with a stirring extra innings win

Bless You Boys

History was made in Toronto on Sunday. Miguel Cabrera launched home run number 500 of his Hall of Fame career in the sixth inning, and the Tigers rallied late to pull out a close fought game in 11 innings.

Drew Hutchison made his second start for the Tigers in this one, and it didn’t go badly, which is all we ask. The Tigers were pitching in and out of trouble all day long, and no doubt the Blue Jays had regrets as the game progressed, but Hutchison was able to get soft contact when he needed it, and the Blue Jays left a whole crate of LOBsters out there on the bases.

Hutchison stranded runners on on first and second in the second inning, getting Randal Grichuk and Kevin Smith to fly out. He needed some spectacular help from Derek Hill to get there. We’ve seen better than this from Hill on many occasions in the minors, but this is the best effort yet at the major league level. Look at that closing burst of speed.

The Jays started the third with two singles, but Hutchison got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground to Jeimer Candelario for a double play. An error by Candy on a Teoscar Hernandez grounder allowed Bo Bichette to score, but it went no further than that as Corey Dickerson grounded out to second base.

Hutchison only recorded one strikeout, but he only walked one as well to get the Tigers into the fifth inning. After recording the first out of the frame, A.J Hinch turned to Kyle Funkhouser. Bichette greeted him with a double, but Marcus Semien grounded out. Funk pitched Guerrero carefully, eventually walking him, but struck out Hernandez to escape the jam.

Meanwhile the Tigers didn’t muster a threat until the third inning. Dustin Garneau led off with a single, and after Zack Short flew out, Derek Hill dropped down a bunt single to put men on first and second with one out. Jonathan Schoop squared one up but lined it right to Bichette at shortstop, and Robbie Grossman grounded out to end that threat.

The Tigers got one-out doubles in both the fourth and the fifth innings, but couldn’t do anything with them. Leave it to Miguel Cabrera to get them on the board.

The 500th home run of his storied career was a big one in the game as well, knotting things up at one run apiece. Check out the full story here, and we’ll have more on Monday, including reactions from former teammates, opponents, and managers.

Alex Lange, newly recalled from Toledo, did a nice job in his return, throwing a 1-2-3 sixth inning. Garneau doubled in the top of the seventh, but Short and Hill struck out to end the threat. Jose Cisnero allowed a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh, and later hit Semien, but again the high-powered Jays offense didn’t come through, as Guerrero flew out to Grossman in right field.

Michael Fulmer had some trouble in the eighth. He allowed singles to Dickerson and Lourdes Gurriel, allowing the Blue Jays to re-open a one-run lead going into the ninth inning.

However, the Tigers had a little more magic left. With two outs, Willi Castro drilled a ground rule double to left field. Hinch turned to Harold Castro to pinch hit for Garneau. The stage was set for Hittin’ Harold, but instead he grounded weakly to second base…and Semien threw the ball in the dirt. Guerrero couldn’t pick it, and Castro raced around with the game tying run. Do not question the Harold magic.

Gregory Soto allowed a single, but no more in the bottom of the ninth, and so we had extra baseball.

In the top of the 10th, with Short starting at second base, the Tigers turned to some solid situational hitting. Deep fly balls from Hill and Schoop moved Short around to score the go ahead run. Unfortunately, Soto got wild in the bottom half. He allowed a run on a ground out and a sacrifice fly, and also walked two hitters in the inning, but was ultimately able to escape further damage by striking out Kevin Smith with his 38th pitch of the game. Soto has had some long outings lately, and he was sketchy here, but it was impressive to see him dig deep in the end and turn the Jays away.

This all set the stage for the top of the 11th inning. Grossman started at second and Miguel Cabrera struck out to start the inning. Candelario flew out to right, and things were looking grim with the Tigers best relievers already burnt for the day. However, Daz Cameron and Willi Castro came through with back-to-back doubles to left field to plate two runs and put the Tigers on top.

Joe Jiménez came on, and in Joe fashion, suddenly looked great after several rough outings recently. He got Bichette to ground out on the first pitch he threw, and then struck out Semien to bring Guerrero to the dish. All of Tigertown held their breath, fearing a game tying blow. Instead, Jiménez just dusted the league’s best hitter on three pitches and put this one to bed.

An excellent win to take the series, and fitting considering the history making performance from Cabrera today. Long may the big man run.

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