Tigers beat Twins 5-1 in Detroit’s home finale

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DETROIT (AP)—Miguel Cabrera(notes) and the Detroit Tigers have been one of baseball’s best home teams this season. Playing on the road has been the problem.

Cabrera hit his career-high 38th homer Sunday to help Detroit beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 in its final home game of the year.

The Tigers set a Comerica Park record with 52 wins at home, but they’re 19 games below .500 on the road and can finish no better than second behind the AL Central champion Twins.

“If we played better away, we would’ve had a shot to win the division,” said Cabrera, a force at the plate just about everywhere this season.

Cabrera leads the majors with 126 RBIs—71 on the road—and ranks among the AL leaders with a .328 batting average and 45 doubles.

His two-run liner to left gave the Tigers a four-run lead in the seventh inning and set off an “MVP!” chant that awed the slugger.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard it loud like that,” Cabrera said.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said Cabrera is as good as any hitter in the game and he’s become a solid defensive first baseman.

“Unless it is all about winning teams, that’s your MVP,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve been trying to pitch around him, and he’s still hitting everything out of the park.”

Rick Porcello(notes) (10-11) gave up a solo homer to Delmon Young(notes) and just three other hits over eight innings, getting run support from Cabrera and Ramon Santiago(notes), who hit a three-run homer in the fourth.

Brian Duensing(notes) (10-3) allowed five runs, seven hits and four walks over 6 2-3 innings.

The hobbled Twins played without Justin Morneau(notes), Joe Mauer(notes), Denard Span(notes), J.J. Hardy(notes) and Jason Repko(notes).

“We’re banged up, but they deserve most of the credit,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t think we are playing terrible baseball. Detroit is just playing really well right now.”

The Tigers have won 15 of 23 games this month, closing relatively strong after going 24-31 in July and August to fall out of the division race.

“No excuses,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We just weren’t good enough.”

The Tigers lost some key players to injuries—Magglio Ordonez(notes), Joel Zumaya(notes) and Carlos Guillen(notes)—during the year and Minnesota is missing some standouts toward the end of the season.

Gardenhire said he plans to use Mauer, who has a sore left knee, as a designated hitter Monday at Kansas City and could let him catch during the last weekend of the regular season at home against Toronto.

Morneau (concussion) might not make it back to help the Twins in the playoffs, but Span (foot), Hardy (knee) and Repko (thumb) are expected to be healthy enough to play later this week.

NOTES: Detroit went 51-30 last season at Comerica Park, which opened in 2000. … Gardenhire was back in the dugout after missing Saturday night’s game because he was hit in the ear by a ball thrown by infielder Alexi Casilla(notes) during batting practice. … Tigers RHP Jeremy Bonderman(notes) and C Gerald Laird(notes) said before the game they don’t expect to be back with the team next season. Afterward, 3B Brandon Inge(notes) and DH-OF Johnny Damon(notes) said they hope to return. … The game drew 32,021—despite nothing being at stake and with the Lions playing at Minnesota — to raise the season total to 2,461,237. “I don’t want to sound corny, but it’s amazing,” Leyland said. … Young has hit 14 of his career-high 19 homers on the road. … Porcello has matched a career high with a five-game winning streak.

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