Cabrera, Porcello help Tigers go out with bang
Slugger hits 38th homer to back sharp righty in home finale
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera couldn't quite hit the makeshift "Cabrera for MVP" banner that was hanging along the left-field concourse at Comerica Park. He still gave the last home crowd of the season one more memory in his dominant season.
The Tigers already seemed on their way to victory over the Twins on Sunday, but his two-run homer in the seventh inning punctuated the 5-1 win and the three-game series sweep. What seemed like a line drive headed for the left-field fence instead hit the old left-field wall at the back of the bullpen. It had enough force that neither Tigers relievers nor fans had much interest in trying to catch it.
On distance, Cabrera's career-best 38th home run of the season won't look like much. On impact, it was mammoth. On crowd reaction, it was a shot.
The chant grew louder: "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
Twenty-eight voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will decide that. The managers working with and against him had their own opinions, regardless of the standings.
"I'd say he's probably as good of a hitter as there are in this league," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He ranks right at the top of guys you don't want to have beat you. And he still beats you. You are trying to pitch around him and he still does it.
"You can argue all kinds of different ways. But if you look at numbers, what he's done, if it's not about winning teams, then there you go. There's your MVP."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't want to get involved, but he couldn't help it.
"I'm not going to get into all that political stuff," Leyland said. "But if he's not the MVP ... I'd be surprised. But there are some teams that won that have candidates, so I guess that always plays into the picture. But to me, he's the best player in the league."
Even if he doesn't win it, it's going to be difficult for Cabrera to forget a moment like that crowd reaction. For someone who was far less popular in this town at the end of last year, it was a very good moment.
"That's something special, the way they support you," Cabrera said. "I'm thankful for all that. I'm thankful for being here in Detroit and being around great fans. They love this sport. I feel like this is my second home. When you feel like that, you want to do your best every time you go out there."
He's had better stretches this year, but it's been a while. Cabrera homered in all three games of this series, going 6-for-14 with six RBIs to complete a 9-for-23 homestand. He extended his league lead in runs scored and RBIs, and he turned around a month in which he had been batting under .200.
"He's good. He's really good," said Twins left-hander Brian Duensing (10-3), who gave up five runs on two homers en route to his first loss since Aug. 25. "All you can do is tip your hat to him. He hit a good pitch off Frankie [Liriano] the other night, and he hit another one out tonight.
"He's strong. He's not scared to go to the other way with it, too. It makes him a really big threat. Then you have to be careful with him. He got me."
The Tigers were already in command by then thanks to the other homer, a three-run shot from Ramon Santiago, to go with a strong performance from Rick Porcello.
Minnesota briefly led thanks to Delmon Young's 19th home run of the year, a solo shot with one out in the fourth. But Porcello (10-11), who retired nine consecutive batters before the homer, sent down eight of Minnesota's next nine batters afterward. He scattered four hits, two of them to Young, over eight innings for his fifth win in his last six starts. After midseason struggles sent him to Triple-A Toledo in June, Porcello hasn't lost since an Aug. 19 visit to Yankee Stadium.
"I wish either the season was shifted so that I'm still playing and throwing the ball real well," Porcello, "or that those mishaps had happened in Spring Training so I could've fixed them then. But that's the way it is. It's a learning experience for me. I think it was more valuable to go through that now than to get deeper into my career and then hit rock bottom and not know what to do."
Minutes after Young's home run, Santiago's first home run since June 11 -- and his first all season batting right-handed -- put Detroit on top for good. After Scott Sizemore's two-out single brought Santiago to the plate, he lofted the first pitch he saw from Duensing just over the left-field fence.
"It was a slider, middle-in," Santiago said. "I really put a good swing on it. I was trying to be aggressive, and I hit it pretty good."
The win was the Tigers' 52nd at home this season, topping last year's mark for their most ever at Comerica Park. Seven of those victories came against the Twins, allowing them to battle to a draw in the season series. It means nothing in terms of the standings, though the Tigers continue to keep pace with the second-place White Sox. It means more about how the Tigers feel about their team heading into a critical offseason.
It meant plenty to how Cabrera felt about here.
"It means a lot," he said. "It means I have to work harder to be ready next year."