Detroit’s All-Star cleanup hitter tied the score with a leadoff home run in the ninth inning and Ramon Santiago(notes) hit an RBI single four batters later, helping the Tigers rally for a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
Fuentes, who missed 14 games with a back strain after saving the Angels’ opening night win against Minnesota, went 3-2 on Cabrera before the Tigers’ cleanup hitter homered to left-center.
“I didn’t think about Fuentes coming off the DL. The only thing I was focused on was having a good at-bat, getting a good pitch to hit and putting a good swing on the ball,” Cabrera said. “On 3-2, you’ve got to be aggressive and always look for the fastball. I know he didn’t want to walk me because he didn’t want us to start a big rally, so he went after me aggressively and I was ready for anything he was going to throw.”
It was his Cabrera’s fourth home run of the season and team-high 18th RBI.
“I knew Fuentes was in his first game back and had to go through the meat of our lineup,” said Gerald Laird(notes), who scored the winning run. “Miggy’s been swinging the bat really good. He’s the beat of the drum for us. We depend on him to get big hits, and there’s none bigger than that one. We definitely depend on him, and that’s why he’s hitting fourth for us. He’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever played with.”
After shaking off the boos from the remnants of the crowd of 35,279, Fuentes (0-1) walked Carlos Guillen(notes) and struck out Dan Kelly—who hit his first major league homer in the fifth. Guillen stole second before a walk to Laird, who pinch-hit for Alex Avila(notes). Guillen was retired in a rundown after getting picked off by Fuentes, but Santiago sent an 0-2 pitch into left field to score Laird.
“This team’s got a lot of guts,” Laird said. “We seem to fall behind early a lot and battle back in a lot of games. It would be nice to get out of the gates one day and get a lead, but tonight just showed the character we have on this team.”
Fuentes, a four-time All-Star, led the majors last season with a career-high 48 saves. Former Tigers closer Fernando Rodney(notes) had filled in for him the past two weeks, converting all five save opportunities. Angels manager Mike Scioscia pointed out that Rodney would have had the day off anyway because of his workload this week—even if Fuentes was still sidelined.
“It wasn’t how we would have scripted it,” Scioscia said. “Brian didn’t miss that much time. I mean, if he missed a month, it’s a little different. He threw a couple of ‘pens, got into a game to pitch to hitters in A-ball, and his stuff looked good judging from our evaluations.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland defended Scioscia’s decision to put Fuentes right back into the fire on his first day back.
“You’re talking about a guy that led the league in saves last year, so that’s a pretty safe choice,” Leyland said. “I’ve done that many times with my closer. I did it with Bill Landrum, Jim Gott and Todd Jones(notes). When the closer comes back, that’s what he is. That’s why he’s down there. That’s your guy.”
Jeremy Bonderman(notes) gave up three first-inning runs and held the Angels to one hit over the next five—a bunt single by Erick Aybar(notes) leading off the third. Only two other batters reached base against Bonderman during that stretch, Mike Napoli(notes) on Kelly’s throwing error at third base, and Torii Hunter(notes) on a fielding error by Bonderman in the sixth.
Bonderman walked two batters in the first, and both of them scored—Aybar on a single by Bobby Abreu(notes) after he stole second, and Hideki Matsui(notes) on Kendry Morales’(notes) fourth homer. Abreu was erased on a double-play grounder by Hunter.
NOTES: Six of the eight batters Bonderman has walked in his first three starts have scored, and one of those walks came with the bases loaded. … Detroit’s Johnny Damon(notes) was ejected by umpire Dale Scott in the fifth for arguing a called third strike. … Tigers CF and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson(notes) struck out three times for the second consecutive night, and has fanned at least once in each of his first 14 major league games—a major league record from the start of a career. The previous mark was 11. Jackson, who leads all rookies with 19 hits, has struck out 23 times in 61 at-bats overall. … The Tigers have yet to score a run in the second inning. Last season they had more runs in the second than they did in any other inning (94).