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Tigers' Scherzer goes to 18-1 with Cabrera's help

The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- Jim Leyland acknowledges he's blessed.

"It's been pretty good for Old Dad in the Motor City," Leyland said Sunday after Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer teamed up to lead his Detroit Tigers to a 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals, their third win in the five-game series.

"I've managed a batting champion (Magglio Ordonez, Cabrera twice), a Rookie of the Year and Cy Young (Justin Verlander), a Triple Crown winner (Cabrera) and two MVPs (Verlander, Cabrera).

"We play in front of packed houses. What more can you ask for?"

Scherzer (18-1) gave up five hits in eight innings, didn't walk a batter and struck out four to join Roger Clemens (2001, 18-1) and Rube Marquard (18-0) as the three pitchers with the best records at this stage of a season in baseball history.

"I can't take credit for 18-1," Scherzer said. "Not with the rest of my teammates doing so much for me."

Cabrera was like Secretariat in the Belmont closing the last season and he's threatening to do it again this year.

The slugger closed Saturday night's game with a game-ending leadoff home run and opened Sunday's with a two-run blast, his 40th homer of the season. Cabrera added an RBI single in the third to get Detroit off to a 3-0 start and boost his season RBI total to 120.

"He's the best player in all of baseball," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You'll find other guys who are more athletic, others who are younger and others who can run faster. But he's the best hitter and with a lot of power.

"He hits in the clutch and he's consistent. He's the best."

Leyland said, "There's an extra mile to him that I don't think gets recognized. And that is how smart he is. He's got a great feel for what they're trying to do to him.

"Plus, he's one of the guys on the team that when I screw up, he knows it."

Cabrera's home run off Bruce Chen (5-1) came on the first pitch he saw. Cabrera also lined out to left on the first pitch in the seventh inning. This season, he's hitting .486 when he hits the first pitch during an at-bat (39-for-80) with 13 home runs.

Torii Hunter had a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Detroit made it 6-0 after six when Brayan Pena hit an RBI double and scored on a single by Ramon Santiago.

Kansas City had only two hits off Scherzer until Billy Butler singled and Alex Gordon doubled in the seventh. Salvador Perez's groundout got Butler home and Gordon scored on a double by Emilio Bonifacio.

Butler added a solo home run, his 12th homer of the season, off Joaquin Benoit in the ninth.

Detroit took all three single games in the series and Kansas City won the Friday doubleheader.

"We play them six more times," Yost said. "We've been competitive with them all season. We won two of five in this series and had an opportunity to win three of five.

"To call this a measurement series, I don't buy that."

Leyland said, "They made a statement a couple of years ago. We've watched them grow up almost as much as the Kansas City fans have."

Yost passed up several opportunities to walk Cabrera with a runner in scoring position and at least one base open because of the respect he has for Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. He was continually burned until walking him intentionally Sunday in the fifth.

"I'd walk him every time," Scherzer said. "As a competitor, I want to win. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of being smart."

NOTES: Royals 3B Mike Moustakas did not play. "He feels basically the same as he did Saturday," said Yost, who took his starter out in the seventh inning on Saturday when he tired during his first start in five days. ... Tigers 2B Omar Infante didn't play after experiencing lower back stiffness and having to come out of Saturday night's game in the seventh inning. ... The Royals for the time being have only three position players on their bench because of their ability to play multiple positions. This allows Kansas City to carry 13 pitchers. ... Detroit C Alex Avila was eligible to come off the seven-day disabled list for concussed players, but Detroit is taking the conservative approach. He might not be ready when the Tigers start a series on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins.
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