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DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers do not want to become the Cleveland Indians.
They want to avoid trading away key veterans, conceding defeat this season, and hoping for better things in 2009.
Last night was a step in the right direction.
Detroit blasted four home runs and beat up on the hapless Indians 9-2 in Cleveland's first game since dealing CC
Sabathia. The Indians, last year's American League Central Division champs, have lost nine in a row and could be the owner of baseball's worst record by the All-Star break if they're not careful.
The Tigers are eight games up on Cleveland in third place, but they're one disastrous homestand away from falling too far behind first-place Chicago.
"Do I like our position? No," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said before last night's game. "We've got to play well, and we hope we can make some more progress and get it down to where it gets a little hairy in September."
Sabathia was scheduled to pitch for the Indians last night, but because he was traded to Milwaukee on Monday, he toed the rubber for the Brewers instead. Cleveland sent Jeremy Sowers to the mound in Sabathia's place.
Put a different way, the Indians switched out the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner for a pitcher who was 1-10 in his last 20 major league starts before last night.
The results played out accordingly.
The Tigers battered Sowers despite being down a few good men themselves. Magglio Ordonez, the AL's reigning batting champ, is still out with his oblique muscle injury, and Detroit's lone all-star, third baseman Carlos Guillen, was not with the team last night because his wife gave birth to the couple's daughter Monday.
Miguel Cabrera snapped a 2-2 tie in the third inning with his two-out, two-run homer. Cabrera added a solo homer off reliever Brian Slocum in the seventh for his 10th career two-homer game, and finished the night a perfect 4-for-4.
He's batting .340 (33-for-97) with seven homers and 17 RBIs in his last 25 games.
"We're seeing more and more of what we know we got," Leyland said of Cabrera, who was acquired in an eight-player, blockbuster trade in December.
Marcus Thames, who scored on Cabrera's first homer, smacked his own two-run shot in the fifth.
Sowers was charged with an unearned run in the sixth and left the game having allowed seven runs on 10 hits.
Pudge Rodriguez added a solo homer and Edgar Renteria snapped an 0-for-23 skid with a base hit - both off Slocum in the seventh.
Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta homered off Tigers starter Justin Verlander in the first inning, giving the Tribe a 2-0 lead. Casey Blake doubled with two outs and Peralta followed with his 14th homer this year.
Cleveland never had another hit.
Verlander (6-9) walked a batter in the third and another reached on an error against reliever
Aquilino Lopez in the eighth. That was it.
The batter who walked - all-star center fielder Grady Sizemore - stole his 100th career base, becoming the second Indians player (along with Joe Carter) to record 100 homers and 100 stolen bases.
Before the game, Sizemore and others talked about losing Sabathia and about finishing out a lost season.
"It will be a challenge, but the Indians are paying my salary right now," Blake said. "I'll come to the field and prepare myself just like I always do and do
everything in my power to help this team win."
Blake acknowledged that if Cleveland is not finished selling off players, he could be the next to go.
"I'd be lying if I told you I don't think about it quite a bit," he said.
Contact Joe Vardon at:
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