NEW YORK -- With the reigning American League MVP and Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera, 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and likely 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer on their team -- as well as veteran big names such as Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder -- the Detroit Tigers have no shortage of star power.
But as the New York Mets learned in getting swept by the Tigers this weekend, it's Detroit's role players -- and the role-player work ethic possessed by their stars -- that really makes the Tigers a legitimate threat to win the World Series.
Andy Dirks hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Tigers the lead for good Sunday afternoon, Rick Porcello threw seven solid innings and Detroit piled on with seven runs in the ninth inning of a 11-3 win over the Mets in front of 32,084 at Citi Field.
"I think that shows that we keep battling, we keep playing and we just wait, wait 'til it's our turn," Hunter said.
The Tigers -- who improved to 77-53 and maintained their six-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central -- outscored the Mets 20-4 in the three-game sweep, during which they outhit New York 41-17. But the Tigers scored just eight runs between the third inning Friday and the eighth inning Sunday, despite collecting 28 hits in that span.
Detroit finally broke out with one out in the ninth, when eight straight batters reached via seven singles and a walk. The Tigers also took advantage of a pair of wild pitches by the Mets and scored their final run on a sacrifice fly by Austin Jackson.
"I thought we probably strung as good at-bats together this series as we have all year throughout the lineup, as far as the whole lineup goes," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
While Cabrera continued his pursuit of a second straight Triple Crown by going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer -- he leads the American League with a .360 average and 128 RBIs and ranks second with 42 homers, four behind the Orioles' Chris Davis -- the last two wins were largely fueled by the Tigers' lesser known players.
On Saturday, Scherzer and Don Kelly had an RBI each in the Tigers' 3-0 win while Dirks went 3-for-3 after entering the game in a 2-for-17 slump.
On Sunday, Dirks finished 1-for-3 with a pair of walks -- including one with the bases loaded in the ninth -- and three RBIs. The final four batters in the Tigers' lineup -- Dirks, Omar Infante, Ramon Santiago and Porcello -- combined to go 7-for-16 with five RBIs and four runs scored.
Yet the ninth inning outburst began with four straight singles, by Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder and Martinez. Cabrera's single came after he fouled off three two-strike pitches.
"We've got a lot of superstars," Dirks said. "But we grind, we battle every game. And that's impressive for me, as more of a role-type guy, to watch these guys get up there and do what they do. At the same time, they're battlers. And that's fun to be a part of."
Porcello may be the least-known member of the Tigers' vaunted rotation, but he became their fifth starter to reach 10 wins by allowing three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four over seven innings.
It is the fifth straight double-digit win season for Porcello (10-7), a New Jersey native who pitched Sunday in front of more than a dozen family members and friends. He retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced after surrendering a go-ahead homer to Travis d'Arnaud in the fourth inning.
Cabrera staked Porcello to a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot in the first inning that landed in the walkway of an overhang in the second deck in left field. Daniel Murphy had an RBI single in the third, and the Mets took the lead in the fourth on d'Arnaud's two-run homer -- the first of his career -- before the Tigers rallied in the sixth during a three-pitch sequence in which Martinez singled and Dirks hit his eighth homer of the season.
The Mets were 90 feet from tying the game in the eighth, but Bruce Rondon struck out Marlon Byrd to strand Lucas Duda at third in the eighth inning to preserve the lead.
Dillon Gee (9-9) took the loss for the Mets after allowing four runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out two over six innings. Juan Lagares finished with two hits for the Mets (58-70), who have lost four straight for the first time since they dropped four in a row from May 31-June 4.
"[The Tigers] obviously pitched us tough, we didn't swing the bats the way we certainly have been or are capable of," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "There's a reason why they're playing the way they're playing."
NOTES: Mets 3B Wilmer Flores, who has been battling a sprained right ankle, got the day off. Justin Turner drew the start instead. Flores was hurt on Aug. 12 and missed three of the Mets' next four games but had played in seven straight prior to Sunday ... The Mets signed OF Ricardo Cespedes, a 16-year-old Dominican. Baseball America reported the Mets gave him a $725,000 signing bonus. ... Tigers SS Jose Iglesias missed his second straight game with a sore left elbow suffered when he was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of Friday night's game. ... Porcello singled in the sixth for his fourth career hit.