Miguel Cabrera's 4 RBIs lead Detroit Tigers to 5-1 win over Kansas City Royals

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Detroit Tigers rookie Tarik Skubal only expected to pitch three innings.

The 24-year-old rookie is finishing the season on a strict innings restriction (as is fellow rookie Casey Mize). Both starting pitchers should finish just below 150 innings in their second MLB seasons, preparing them for an increased workload in 2022.

On Saturday night, Skubal didn't need to argue with manager AJ Hinch for additional work against the Kansas City Royals. The skipper gave Skubal a fist bump upon his return to the dugout in the third inning, indicating his return for the fourth.

Skubal tossed four scoreless innings, but the offense didn't back the pitchers until Miguel Cabrera delivered a key double in the sixth inning. Scoring three runs in the sixth, and two more in the eighth, helped the Tigers fend off the Royals for a 5-1 victory at Comerica Park.

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Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers reacts to hitting a single against the Kansas City Royals during the bottom of the second inning at Comerica Park on Sept. 25, 2021 in Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers reacts to hitting a single against the Kansas City Royals during the bottom of the second inning at Comerica Park on Sept. 25, 2021 in Detroit.

The Tigers (75-79) began their three-run sixth with a questionable replay review. With Akil Baddoo (walk) standing on first base, Jonathan Schoop dropped a bloop single into shallow left-center field. On the play, Baddoo hustled to third.

The throw from shortstop Nicky Lopez to third baseman Hanser Alberto barely beat Baddoo to the bag, but the speedster was deemed safe by third base umpire Phil Cuzzi. It didn't appear Alberto's glove made contact with Baddoo's jersey.

But the replay review overturned the call.

As they have all season, the Tigers responded with two outs. After Robbie Grossman's single, Miguel Cabrera produced a two-run double to the right-field corner to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Jeimer Candelario followed with his MLB-leading 42nd double for a 3-1 advantage.

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Jeimer Candelario of the Detroit Tigers doubles on a line drive to Edward Olivares of the Kansas City Royals during the bottom of the sixth inning at Comerica Park on Sept. 25, 2021 in Detroit.
Jeimer Candelario of the Detroit Tigers doubles on a line drive to Edward Olivares of the Kansas City Royals during the bottom of the sixth inning at Comerica Park on Sept. 25, 2021 in Detroit.

In the eighth inning, Royals reliever Ervin Santana loaded the bases by allowing his first three opponents to reach safely. Cabrera capitalized, drilling a ninth-pitch fastball up the middle and into center field. His single drove in two more runs to make it 5-1, Tigers.

Cabrera finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs, giving him 2,983 hits across his 19-year career. Double No. 596 doubles came on his swing in the sixth, tying ex-Tiger Luis Gonzalez for 18th place on MLB's all-time doubles list.

Piggybacking Skubal, righty reliever Drew Hutchison delivered 2⅔ innings of one-run ball. He gave way to Kyle Funkhouser with two outs in the seventh. Although Funkhouser completed the seventh, he ran into trouble in the eighth.

The Royals put two runners in scoring position for Salvador Perez, who entered Saturday with a .274 batting average and an MLB-leading 46 home runs and 115 RBIs over 152 games. Funkhouser struck him out looking with a 3-2 slider, though, for the second out.

Michael Fulmer then entered and recorded the third out by striking out Andrew Benintendi swinging with his refined curveball.

Despite the Tigers' a four-run lead, Hinch sent Fulmer — instead of warming left-hander Ian Krol — back to the mound for the ninth. He recorded three outs in a row for a four-out save, his 12th this season.

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers doubles on a line drive to Hunter Dozier of the Kansas City Royals during the bottom of the sixth inning at Comerica Park on Sept. 25, 2021 in Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers doubles on a line drive to Hunter Dozier of the Kansas City Royals during the bottom of the sixth inning at Comerica Park on Sept. 25, 2021 in Detroit.

Before the sixth inning, center fielder Victor Reyes was removed from the game with right groin tightness. He was replaced in the lineup by Daz Cameron, which shuffled the outfield alignment. The severity of Reyes' injury is unclear.

Skubal starts, Hutchison allows run

Making his second-to-last start this season, Skubal conceded just one hit. It came in the third inning, when Edward Olivares put a slider into left field. Other than that, he was perfect and efficient through four frames.

Skubal tossed 16 pitches in the first inning, 11 in the second, nine in the third and nine in the fourth.

He only needed one strikeout — Perez in the first inning with a 96 mph fastball — because he relied on weak contact. The left-hander induced six groundouts and two flyouts, as the Royals averaged a weak 81.3 mph exit velocity.

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal throws against the Kansas City Royals in at Comerica Park on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal throws against the Kansas City Royals in at Comerica Park on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

Mixing all of his pitches, Skubal fired 14 two-seam fastballs (31%), 11 four-seam fastballs (24%), nine sliders (20%), eight changeups (18%) and three knuckle curves (7%). He generated five swings and misses: two with his two-seamer, two with his changeup and one with his four-seamer.

Entering for the fifth, righty reliever Drew Hutchison lost an eight-pitch clash and walked Carlos Santana.

On the first pitch to Adalberto Mondesi, catcher Dustin Garneau allowed a passed ball to put Santana in scoring position. Mondesi responded to the situation by dropping down a bunt on the second pitch he saw, advancing Santana to third base.

Hunter Dozier's sacrifice fly plated Santana for a 1-0 Royals lead.

Later in the game, Garneau threw out a pair of runners — Olivares (sixth inning) and Benintendi (seventh) — attempting to steal second base.

Baddoo robs HR

Doing his part to protect Skubal's scoreless start, Baddoo made an incredible catch in left field on the second pitch of the third inning.

Dozier clobbered a 95 mph two-seam fastball, sending the ball 369 feet to left field. His swing produced a 98.2 mph exit velocity and .370 expected batting average. If not for Baddoo, the ball would have cleared the wall for a solo home run.

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Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo (60) steals a home run from Kansas City Royals right fielder Hunter Dozier in the second inning in Detroit, at Comerica Park on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo (60) steals a home run from Kansas City Royals right fielder Hunter Dozier in the second inning in Detroit, at Comerica Park on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

The 23-year-old timed his jump perfectly, leaped and extended nearly half of his body over the wall. He robbed Dozier of a home run to keep the contest scoreless. After the play, Baddoo couldn't help but smile about the first-ever home run he robbed as an outfielder in the big leagues.

In the batter's box, Baddoo finished 1-for-3 with one walk.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Miguel Cabrera's big game guides Detroit Tigers in 5-1 win vs. Royals