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MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Cabrera set another record, Max Scherzer recovered from a brief bout with wildness and frustration, and the Detroit Tigers headed home in a good mood after a rough start to this road trip.
They’re still right there in the playoff race, despite months of substandard play.
Cabrera became the first player in Tigers history to reach 30 home runs in five straight seasons and Scherzer threw seven scoreless innings for Detroit in a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
“I’m awful proud of our guys,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, claiming the 8-3 loss at Texas on Sunday was the only time all year he was disappointed with their performance. After losing three straight games, they rebounded with two wins here, beginning the day two games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
Cabrera also singled in the fifth off Cole De Vries (2-4) to push his majors-leading total to 103 RBIs. His opposite-field solo shot in the first inning put the Tigers in front, and Scherzer (12-6) struck out 10 batters to move ahead of teammate Justin Verlander for the AL lead for at least a few days. Delmon Young added a two-run homer against his former team.
“It’s not about one person. I’m more excited because we’re winning today,” Cabrera said.
The time to look back will come later.
“When my career’s over?” he said, smiling. “It’s a long way to go to talk about my numbers. That’s good, but Detroit’s seen a lot of great players.”
Cabrera went 6 for 14 in this series and 10 for 24 on the trip. He’s a .411 hitter at Target Field, with five home runs in 90 at-bats here.
“That dude’s a beast,” said De Vries, who hasn’t won since June 30. He allowed eight hits, four runs and two walks while striking out three and failing to record an out in the fifth.
The Tigers have won 25 of their last 34 games against the Twins. Overall, they’ve won 27 of 43 since June 28, the best record in the league during that stretch.
Scherzer started the game in fitting fashion, striking out the first two batters in the first inning and then walking the first two Twins he faced in the second. The 28-year-old has continued to fight persistent control problems and high pitch counts that hinder his ability to work deeper into games, but he’s also become one of baseball’s most powerful pitchers.
So what happened after those two walks to start the second? He struck out three straight to finish the inning.
“I hate walking guys. I just hate it,” Scherzer said, adding: “You just can’t give hitters credit and be afraid of them.”
Scherzer walked just those two batters and allowed four hits. The right-hander improved to 6-1 with a 3.36 ERA in his last nine starts and reached double-digit strikeouts for the fourth time this year. He threw 117 pitches, matching his third-most this season.
“I needed to just fire myself up and just go after them and be aggressive with it. Once I fired myself up, put the adrenaline in and started letting the fastball lead, that’s when I got back into the zone,” Scherzer said.
The Twins played without center fielder Denard Span for the third straight game because of a sore right shoulder.
They put the leadoff man on three times, including Justin Morneau’s seventh-inning double, but couldn’t manage more against Scherzer. Joe Mauer’s RBI single in the eighth against Octavio Dotel kept the Twins from being shut out for the first time since June 23 at Cincinnati.
NOTES: Young was traded to the Tigers a year ago to the day, and he homered against the Twins that time, too. This, though, was only the second time he went deep in 113 at-bats since the All-Star break. He has 13 home runs this season. ... Both teams have Thursday off. Verlander (12-7, 2.46 ERA) pitches for the Tigers on Friday, when they start a three-game series at home against fellow wild card competitor Baltimore. RH Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.54 ERA) takes the mound for the Orioles. The Twins travel to Seattle, with RH Nick Blackburn (4-8, 7.33 ERA) pitching Friday against RH Hisashi Iwakuma (3-3, 4.16 ERA) of the Mariners. ... The Tigers have decided to keep surging RH Doug Fister on his regular rest pattern and start him Sunday against the Orioles. Struggling newcomer Anibal Sanchez will be bumped back to Wednesday. Sanchez, the RH acquired in a trade last month with Miami, is 1-3 with a 7.97 ERA in four starts with the Tigers.