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Published: Friday, 10/19/2012

Not as much drama as ’06 but AL title just as thrilling

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

DETROIT — It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard it.

When Miguel Cabrera swings and launches a ball high and far it is an awe-inspiring sound and sight.

When it happened late Thursday afternoon it was the Tigers’ MVP candidate punching his team’s ticket to the 2012 World Series.

Detroit fans got out their brooms and their heroes popped corks with a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees, whose remote hopes were dealt a crushing blow when the Tigers roughed up their ace and last best chance, CC Sabathia.

The Tigers had scratched out a couple runs, courtesy of six singles in the first three innings.

A 2-0 lead didn’t look bad in this series, not the way the Tigers were pitching and not the way the Yankees weren’t hitting.

Detroit was just getting cranked up, so to speak.

A one-out bloop single by Omar Infante set the stage in the fourth inning for Cabrera to turn on a Sabathia fastball that sliced the inside third of the plate, more than the big lefty would have liked.

Cabrera hits ’em all ways. He had 44 homers during the regular season, good for one-third of his historic Triple Crown of hitting.

There are those laser shots that rise and rise and rise and can’t be contained by any ballpark in the game. There are line drives that leave in a hurry, frightening fences on their way past.

Then there are ones like he hit Thursday evening, a majestic, towering, moonshot that had 42,477 fans rising, their arms straight up in the air, celebrating the instant it left his bat.

Miggy stood and watched. He knew too.

The Tigers dugout erupted. They had won by two runs, three runs and one run in the first three games, the late innings gut-wrenching, the games still close because as poorly as the Yankees were hitting and scoring, the Tigers weren’t ripping any covers off the ball.

Now, it was different.

It wasn’t close to ending.

“We got tremendous pitching and I believe in the first couple games we caught some breaks, we really did,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. “A couple bloop hits here and there, a couple breaks, and we were able to take advantage. But today we hit a bit more like the Tigers.”

Did they ever. The Tigers set single-game postseason records for hits with 16 and matched the franchise record for a playoff game with four home runs.

Cabrera’s was the first and it was like a giant pressure valve was released.

Back to the fourth inning: After Cabrera’s shot and after Prince Fielder struck out, Delmon Young singled and shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who has played his best ball of the season the last few weeks, especially in the field but also at the plate, stepped in.

The first pitch was a curve that hung in the zone and Peralta crushed it, deeper even into the left-field bleachers than Cabrera had gone.

Cabrera’s blast all but wrapped up the pennant. Peralta’s all but turned it into a rout at 6-0.

Stunningly, Sabathia was gone after 3 2/3 innings, 11 hits on his ledger, six runs, five of them earned, and 93 pitches. It was certainly not his finest moment.

He was done. The Tigers were not.

Austin Jackson would homer to lead off the seventh and Peralta went deep again, just more icing on this cake, in the bottom of the eighth.

This was a series that was won by some remarkable Detroit pitching, especially from the starters and lefty reliever Phil Coke. Max Scherzer capped it Thursday with a 10-strikeout gem. The Yankees hit .157 and scored six runs in 39 innings.

We heard them lament over and over their offensive failure. Think the pitching had anything to do with it?

Miguel Cabrera knew it did.

“It’s why we’re here right now, because [of] our pitching,” he said, squinting his eyes as bubbly sprayed in every direction. “Unbelievable. Wow.”

So was his season. So was his 45th home run.

It wasn’t like Magglio Ordonez’s hair-raising walk-off in the 2006 ALCS. There wasn’t that kind of drama this time. Miggy’s came in the fourth inning. In this series, it was just as decisive.

“Yeah, we did it,” Cabrera shouted. “Four more wins, guys. Four more wins.”

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



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