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09/24/12 11:32 PM ET

Miggy's Triple Crown hopes alive and well

DETROIT -- Just about everyone in the American League race for the home run title went deep Monday night, except for Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who was held to a single in four at-bats in a 6-2 win over the Royals. As a result, he fell out of the lead in one of the Triple Crown categories.

Texas' Josh Hamilton returned to the lineup after a five-game absence and sent one out of the park to break the first-place tie with Cabrera. Hamilton has 43 dingers on the year, while Cabrera sits at 42.

White Sox slugger Adam Dunn added two dingers to his tally to pull one back of Cabrera with 41. Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion hit his 41st as well. And despite playing at Target Field, Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson belted his 40th.

However, Cabrera retained a comfortable lead in batting average and RBIs.

Hamilton's solo shot put him at 124 RBIs on the year, but Cabrera has 133 -- nine ahead of Hamilton and 23 ahead of the next-closest hitter, Minnesota's Josh Willingham (110).

Going 1-for-4, Cabrera's average remained at .331. Twins catcher Joe Mauer had reached .326 after Sunday's first game of the Tigers-Twins doubleheader and was in striking distance, but he's gone 1-for-8 since to drop to .322. Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the closest challenger at .323.

The good news for Cabrera is he's 15-for-49 (.306) against the Royals this year, though he has no home runs.

Alburquerque key, but Tigers won't overuse him

DETROIT -- Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque isn't back to his old self yet following his offseason elbow surgery. But even at less than 100 percent, he's been a valuable piece out of the bullpen.

Since being called up at the beginning of September, he's made five appearances, and through 9 1/3 innings, he hasn't allowed a run. In fact, he's yielded only three hits while striking out 12.

Alburquerque has also been able to pitch in big spots for the Tigers, including Sunday night's game against the Twins, when he faced a bases-loaded situation. Although one inherited runner scored due to an error, the 26-year-old got out of the jam with Twins catcher Joe Mauer on deck.

In total, Alburquerque provided 2 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Tigers in the game, although they eventually lost, 2-1, in 10 innings.

"He did terrific, there's no question about in," manager Jim Leyland said.

Despite it being a chilly 56-degree night in Detroit, Alburquerque said it was the quickest he's warmed up this year. Usually it's a lengthy routine to stretch out his arm in the bullpen, but he said he was encouraged with how it felt in a shorter time.

Still, through the final nine games of the season, Leyland said Alburquerque won't be used at the same rate if he were healthy.

"The thing with Alburquerque is for the rest of the season and Spring Training, [you can't] overuse him," Leyland said. "Let him continue to get back where you can settle in and where you're not worried about him getting hurt."

'Confusing' year for Tigers, but Leyland has insight

DETROIT -- With 10 games left in the regular season, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked his thoughts Monday on how the year has gone to this point.

"It's been a freaky year, to be honest with you," Leyland responded

However, asked if "freaky" would be the one word he's use to sum it up, he said no.

"I would say probably a little bit more confusing would be the word I'd use," he said.

There's a lot of reasons it's been a confusing year in Detroit. The team's pitching has been solid, its hitting has been OK, but yet the Tigers find themselves eight games above .500 and behind by a game in the American League Central.

Leyland elaborated.

"There's some pitchers this year that we've faced that I thought we'd do a lot better against than we did," he said. "By saying that I'm saying -- and this is not with any disrespect -- but some teams' fourth and fifth starters, I assumed in Spring Training that we would wear that guy out. We really haven't done that."

Leyland didn't single any pitcher out. But he did express disappointment in not scoring more runs Sunday night against right-hander P.J. Walters. Walters held Detroit to one run and five hits in six innings.

Walters' overall stats against Detroit provided the perfect example. He is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts vs. the Tigers this season, compared to a 6.70 ERA against all other opponents.

"I can understand the [Zack] Greinkes and the guys like that," Leyland said. "But with the type of offense we have, with fourth and fifth starters I think we probably should've done better than we have. I know we should've."

Worth noting

• The Tigers-Twins game this Saturday at Target Field has been moved from its original start time of 1:10 p.m. ET to 4:05 p.m. as it has been selected to be part of FOX Saturday Baseball.

• Leyland said relievers Brayan Villarreal and Al Alburquerque would not be available out of the bullpen Monday night. He called Joaquin Benoit a "question mark."

Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.