Tigers maintain division lead as Detroit’s sluggers overpower Cleveland’s pitchers

5/11/2013
BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Tigers' Miguel Cabrera (24) connects for a three-run home run off Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber during the fourth inning.
The Tigers' Miguel Cabrera (24) connects for a three-run home run off Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber during the fourth inning.

DETROIT — The Indians hoped to ride their best stretch of baseball in years all the way into first place Friday.

They will have to wait — and it might be awhile.

For one night, the Tigers showed that the American League Central rivals are anything but even.

Detroit thumped the Indians 10-4 with an unsparing show of force, ripping more than 1,200 feet worth of home runs and pounding eight extra-base hits in the first five innings alone.

Prince Fielder sent a 460-foot solo shot screaming off the brick facade beyond the right-center fence in the third inning, only to be matched an inning later by a nearly as prodigious three-run homer from Miguel Cabrera.

The Tigers (20-13) won for the 10th time in 13 games and moved two games ahead of Cleveland. The Indians (18-15) fell for just the second time in 12 games.

"Whenever you’re playing a division rival, you always want to try to get up on those guys," Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said. "You got to take the first one first. We want to win the series, but a sweep would be nice."

Asked if Detroit wanted to send the red-hot Indians a message, Hunter laughed.

Tigers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit tags out the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera at first base during a rundown during the ninth inning.
Tigers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit tags out the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera at first base during a rundown during the ninth inning.

"That’s a hot tamale," he said. "I’ve been around a long time. I can’t answer that."

The Tigers’ bats spoke loudly enough.

Cleveland came to visit the division’s team to beat as the team nobody could beat, its plus-50 run differential over the last 11 games the franchise’s most dominant stretch since 2001. The Indians over that span led baseball in hitting (.319 average), home runs (24), and ERA (2.34).

But Detroit refused to be their latest roadkill. After Max Scherzer (5-0) spotted the Indians a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Tigers rocked Cleveland starter Corey Kluber with back-to-back-to-back doubles in a three-run third inning and kept piling on.

Fielder hit his ninth homer to push the Tigers ahead 4-1 in the third — a shot that, for perspective, traveled just as far as the blast Indians slugger Mark Reynolds sent to the last row of the bleachers at Progressive Field this week.

"That was unbelievable," Cabrera said. "Every time he goes to the plate, it's like we expect he's going to hit the ball so far. We know what kind of power he has."

Cabrera then followed with his seventh long ball in the fourth, adding three RBIs to bring his MLB-leading total to 40.

"It’s just special to watch what [Fielder and Cabrera] do every single night," Scherzer said.

The Tigers' Andy Dirks, right, celebrates with teammate Jhonny Peralta after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning.
The Tigers' Andy Dirks, right, celebrates with teammate Jhonny Peralta after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning.

And, for one night, what the rest of the lineup did. Every Tigers starter had a hit as Scherzer received double-digit run support for the second straight game, remaining unbeaten. Scherzer allowed four runs on five hits and struck out seven over eight innings.

Kluber, meanwhile, gave up eight runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"That’s a really good lineup and a team that’s been a real hot club," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "so that was a good win for us."

After the game, the Tigers activated left-handed reliever Phil Coke off the 15-day disabled list and optioned Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo.

Coke returns from a groin injury after two scoreless appearances with the Mud Hens. Putkonen had not allowed a hit in 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Detroit.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.