The Detroit Tigers received some Miggy magic at an opportune time.
Miguel Cabrera squared up a hanging slider from Cleveland Guardians right-hander Shane Bieber with two on and two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning Wednesday, lacing a single to right, to score Tucker Barnhart and Javier Báez, giving the Tigers a three-run lead.
Detroit never looked back from Cabrera’s fifth-inning blow, beating the Guardians, 8-2, and sweeping the four game series at Comerica Park. The Tigers have now scored four or more runs in six straight games, their longest streak since 2018. They also notched their first four-game sweep of Cleveland since 2013.
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Tigers manager A.J. Hinch joked afterward that Cabrera, not the power hitter he once was, is willing to bat leadoff “since he only hits singles.” He also said Cabrera will sit Thursday against Chicago to rest, but obviously not because he’s slumping.
“(With) guys in scoring position, it’s amazing to see how calm he is,” Hinch said. “I mean, if I was Miguel Cabrera, I’d be pretty calm too, so I get it, but I love how he’s executing his at-bats. And even with the base open, I’m sure he’s sitting breaking ball and he gets one in a hitters count that normally you’d kind of sell out for fastball, or at least something harder, and smokes a ball to right field for the base hit.
“He’s obviously in a really good spot and contributing a ton to these wins. He’ll get tomorrow off to rest up to keep him in this good spot, and hopefully this continues, because the quality of his at-bats are more impressive than the results. The results speak for themselves.”
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The Tigers scored their eight runs on nine hits and four walks, despite eight strikeouts. Kody Clemens (2-for-3) was the only Tiger with multiple hits, but eight of nine — only Willi Castro did not — had one.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (2-3) earned the win, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts over five innings. Bieber (3-5) took the loss for Cleveland, giving up five earned runs on seven hits and three walks.
Next up, Detroit (33-47) opens a four-game series at the Chicago White Sox on Thursday — the first of three straight road series against American League Central foes.
“It’s huge for our confidence going forward and looking forward to showing up tomorrow and do the same thing,” outfielder Robbie Grossman said of sweeping ahead of the road trip. “It’s just all confidence for us. We’ve played with extreme confidence the last couple days and it’s fun, and we’ll keep this feeling going.”
Cleveland took an early 1-0 lead in the second when Franmil Reyes stayed on an outside fastball from Pineda and drove it to right for a solo home run.
The Tigers countered with a productive bottom of the second, starting with Jonathan Schoop’s leadoff single to left on a first-pitch slider. Schoop had a hit in all four games against the Guardians, and is batting .474 with a 1.050 OPS through six July games.
After Schoop stole second, Clemens smoked Bieber’s first-pitch changeup up the middle. The ball bounced off a sliding Ernie Clement’s arm into the outfield, plating Schoop and knotting the score, 1-1. Then Clemens swiped second and Barnhart drove a fastball to center field, singling home Clemens and putting Detroit up, 2-1.
“All of us kind of passed the bat to the next guy and kept putting the pressure on,” Clemens said. “And luckily we had a few hits in there and scored some runs for our pitchers, so it was a good game all around.”
Cleveland tied it in the fifth, but the Tigers came right back. Spencer Torkelson singled and Barnhart walked to start the bottom of the inning. Rookie sensation Riley Greene then struck out before Baez’s scorching single to right field scored Torkelson and put Detroit on top, 3-2. After Grossman grounded out, Cabrera stepped up and delivered the knockout punch.
It was only Cabrera’s third at-bat this season with runners on second and third (though he had two walks in that situation). But Cabrera entered Wednesday hitting .382 in 45 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and came through again with three RBIs against Cleveland.
The Tigers added two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh off right-hander James Karinchak. Grossman’s triple into the right center field gap scored Bàez, who walked to lead off the inning. Two pitches later, Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to right center brought Grossman home. Fundamentally, it was exactly what Hinch expected from Cabrera.
“I just think he understands more and more who he is right now in his career, in his life and his role on this team,” Hinch said. “… I think his ability to think the game is impressive at a time where it’d be really easy for him to want to sell out and be the hero in a different way. He’ll just take what the game gives him.”
Clemens’ home run to right in the bottom of the eighth — his third of the season — off right-handed flamethrower Emmanuel Clase was the finishing touch in the win. It traveled 377 feet with a 103 mph exit velocity.
Pineda, bullpen gritty
Pineda made his second start since coming off the injured list (broken finger) July 1. After a 21-pitch second inning, Pineda settled down to toss a scoreless third and fourth.
“I liked how he battled,” Hinch said. “It was a really slow game to start the day. It looked like Bieber wasn’t gonna give very many runs up, and Michael had to match him a little bit.”
The top of the fifth became the most difficult portion of Pineda’s outing, via a two-on, no-out jam.
Following a leadoff walk to Clement and a single by Sandy Leon, Pineda induced a 6-3 double play from Myles Straw. Left-hander Steven Kwan then beat the shift and doubled to left with two strikes, plating Clement from third.
Pineda struck out Amed Rosario to end the 19-pitch inning and was rewarded by his offense with the three runs in the bottom frame.
“I thought he tired a little bit at the end,” Hinch said. “We haven’t stretched him out a ton. You can’t consider him a fully stretched out starter yet, so for him to get the last out after the pitch to Kwan — which I know he was disappointed about — and then the team answers back with a run, it was a good day for Michael and a good day for our team.”
Alex Lange pitched a scoreless sixth with two strikeouts and one hit allowed. Michael Fulmer worked around a walk and single for a scoreless seventh and lefty Andrew Chafin stranded a runner on second in a blank eighth after a throwing error by Clemens.
Will Vest, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Monday but recalled Wednesday after Tuesday’s injury to Wily Peralta, recorded a scoreless ninth.
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