Cabrera hits 44th homer in Tigers' win

Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers keep steaming toward the American League Central crown. Their best player is picking up steam as well.
Miguel Cabrera blasted his first home run since Aug. 26, ending a 15-game drought, to lift the Detroit Tigers to a 6-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
The Tigers, who have won six of their last seven, maintained a six-game advantage over second-place Cleveland, which defeated Kansas City.
Cabrera's bid for a second consecutive Triple Crown has been hindered by injuries to his abdomen, hip and groin in recent weeks. That sapped his power, but his opposite-field, solo blast in the sixth signaled that his health is improving.
Cabrera's defensive play on Michael Saunders' bunt in the fifth also provided evidence that he's regaining flexibility and strength.
"I saw the play he made at third base. He came in and got the ball and threw the guy out. I thought that was a good sign," Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He couldn't do that maybe a week ago. He's getting better and he's getting through his swings a lot more. That ball he hit today was pretty impressive."
Cabrera's 44th home run tied his career high, established last season. Al Alburquerque (3-3) got the win in relief, while starter Anibal Sanchez had 10 strikeouts, his fifth double-digit total this season. Don Kelly also homered, and Austin Jackson drove in two runs for Detroit.
Raul Ibanez blasted his 28th homer and 299th of his career for Seattle, which has lost eight of its last nine. The Mariners are 1-4 on their current 10-game road trip.
Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, the Mariners had a chance to take the lead after loading the bases against reliever Phil Coke. But rookie Jose Alvarez came in and induced Mike Zunino to hit into a double play.
"Zunino put up a good fight right there," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He's fighting, fighting, fighting, and they end up turning a heck of a double play. Our guys have had a lot of fight. We've played five games on this road trip and in four of the five, we've been giving them everything they can handle."
Alvarez showed some moxie in his new role as a reliever after being a starter in Triple-A Toledo most of the season.
"I was fighting for a ground ball and double play," he said. "It was a good at-bat for the hitter. He fouled off a couple of good pitches, and then I came in on him and the defense made a play."
Hunter's sacrifice fly off reliever Yoervis Medina (4-6), which knocked in Jose Iglesias, gave the Tigers the go-ahead run in the seventh. Detroit tacked on three insurance runs in the eighth on Omar Infante's RBI single and Jackson's two-run single.
A bright spot for Seattle was the performance of Brandon Maurer, who had lost five of his last six starts while posting a 9.11 ERA. He got through the first three innings unscathed and also recorded two outs in the fourth before Kelly's homer.
Maurer lasted five-plus innings, allowing two runs while striking out six.
"Arguably the best start he's had this year," Wedge said. "You look at the time of year, with some of the difficulties he's had prior to this and the team he's facing, I was really impressed."
NOTES: Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit and top left-handed reliever Drew Smyly were unavailable to pitch. Both had appeared in the previous two games and manager Jim Leyland didn't want them to pitch three straight days. ... The Tigers entered the game ranked third among American League teams in attendance with an average of 37,951. They drew 39,076 on Tuesday. "We've got a great atmosphere," Leyland said. "I don't know how you can beat it. The place is hopping." ... Wedge said he has fully recovered from the mild stroke he suffered on July 22. Wedge returned to the club on Aug. 24. "It changes the way you view life," he said. "I'm 45 years old and to have something like that to go down, it does point you in a different direction, but a better direction. I feel better than I have in a long time." ... With his homer on Monday, Abraham Almonte joined Ichiro Suzuki and Carlos Guillen as the only Mariners rookies to have at least one hit in 12 of their first 13 games with an official at-bat. He went 0-for-4 on Tuesday.