The impressive part for Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland wasn't Miguel Cabrera's 40th home run, nor the two-run shot Prince Fielder hit to reach 100 RBI. It was the performance of his bullpen Tuesday after starter Max Scherzer had to leave after two innings due to shoulder fatigue.
"When Max had to go out, we were scrambling," Leyland said after Detroit's bullpen combined for seven innings of one-run relief in a 12-2 win over the Oakland A's. "The bullpen was the key to the game.
"We were fortunate to have an explosion and get some runs."
Oakland is laden with left-handed bats and switch hitters, so Leyland immediately turned to lefty Darin Downs to begin the third. Downs lasted 2 2/3 innings and didn't allow a run, with the help of a double play that got him out of a first-and-third, one-out situation in the fourth.
Leyland got two outs from right-hander Brayan Villarreal and then went back to another lefty, Phil Coke, who was very sharp in getting five outs, although he did allow a double and an RBI single.
"What's amazing," Leyland said, "is that those guys hadn't pitched in a long time. Downs hadn't pitched since September 3rd, and (Luis) Marte hadn't pitched at all since we brought him back. Coke has pitched in four straight games, so I won't use him (Wednesday)."
The coaching staff picked up on diminished velocity by Scherzer right away and after he reported tiredness, and the right-hander was removed early. He threw 44 pitches to 10 batters before being whisked away for an MRI.
"It's a deltoid," Leyland said. "I've got big deltoids. You guys know how to spell that, don't you?"
Scherzer won't throw for a couple of days, and then it will be determined whether he can make his next start or not.
"He was standing in the line (after the game) saying, 'I'm fine,'" Leyland said.
Detroit also lost left fielder Quintin Berry, who injured his shoulder trying to make a sliding catch on an RBI single in the seventh. With Oakland throwing lefties the next two days, he wouldn't have been starting anyway.
Alex Avila was a scratch for a second straight day with concussion-like symptoms from taking a Fielder elbow to the jaw.
Cabrera put on an offensive show for Detroit. He had a sacrifice fly in the first, his 39th home run in the third, a double in the fifth, a flyout in the sixth and the Tigers' first grand slam of the season in the eighth.
He is now the AL batting and RBI leader, and he's just two homers behind Texas' Josh Hamilton for the league lead.
"I don't pay too much attention to those things," Leyland said. "Whatever happens, happens. But I'd say he's making a case for MVP. He's pretty locked in."
Catcher Gerald Laird said, "If he's not the MVP, then I should quit this game. I've been in both leagues and seen a lot of players, and he's the best hitter in baseball. If you have to win the Triple Crown to win it, there shouldn't even be an MVP."