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Published: Wednesday, 10/12/2011

Big boys find their swings at Comerica

DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

DETROIT -- Reports are that the gravity-defying home run ball Miguel Cabrera launched at Comerica Park last night will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere any second now.

Wow.

His blast leading off the seventh inning gave the Tigers a third solo homer. They finished with 11 hits and it all produced a 5-2 victory over Texas in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

"You watch baseball right now and it's really interesting what guys do," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said afterward. "In the National League, you saw what Ryan Braun and [Prince] Fielder of Milwaukee did in that first game and [St. Louis' Albert] Pujols in Game 2. Tonight, Cabrera had a couple big hits. This is their time of year. It's why they are the big boys."

The Tigers came home down 0-2 and there was no guesswork involved as to why. October is a bad time for a slump, especially for the big boys.

But the drives came in droves and with starter Doug Fister working into the eighth it was more than enough.

The win guaranteed there will be a Game 5 tomorrow and guaranteed another start in the series for ace Justin Verlander.

But before the Tigers could worry about who would or wouldn't be pitching, a team that hit just .208 in two games in Texas had to do something at the plate.

Austin Jackson, the leadoff hitter, had been anything but, batting .120 in the postseason with 14 strikeouts in 25 at-bats.

But he singled in the third and again in the fifth, the latter followed by a hit by Ramon Santiago that put Tigers on the corners with two outs.

Cabrera, the AL batting champion, had seen his postseason average dip just below .200 after striking out and tapping weakly to the mound in his first two at-bats. But in the fifth, down in the count, Cabrera sliced one down the line in right to snap a 1-1 tie.

The Tigers couldn't capitalize further that inning and would again leave the bases loaded -- it happened twice in Game 2 on Monday -- but Jhonny Peralta, hitting .231 with just a lone RBI in the postseason, drove Colby Lewis' first pitch of the sixth inning deep and over the fence in left to bump Detroit's lead to 3-1.

Two outs later, and after a single and stolen base by Andy Dirks, Jackson produced another run-scoring single.

And then Cabrera hit as majestic a shot as you'll ever see just inside the foul pole on an 0-2 pitch to open the seventh.

The Tigers turned the power back on. October, as mentioned, is a bad time for slumps. It's also a bad time for injuries.

Trailing 1-0 early, one of Detroit's big boppers finally came through only to hurt himself before he left the batter's box.

Victor Martinez was the best hitter in baseball with runners in scoring position during the regular season. In the first two games of this series, he was hitless and stranded eight runners.

He hit a leadoff home run in the fourth, but twisted oddly at the end of the swing and immediately grimaced. The ball disappeared over the wall in right, a 370-foot shot, but it took him a while to circle the bases and when he got back to the dugout he was greeted not by high fives but by concern.

Already without Magglio Ordonez for the rest of the season, however long that might be, and without Delmon Young last night due to a day-to-day oblique muscle mystery, the Tigers could ill afford another key injury.

Martinez played on. In Game 3, finally, nothing would rain on this Tiger hit parade.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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