Miguel Cabrera homered in Game 5 of the Division Series and Game 2 of the Championship Series. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — “But Cabrera was feeling better ... ”
If you’re going to bounce back from a tough defeat, that’s a good place to start, with Miguel Cabrera’s physical improvement making headlines.
When all the disappointment from Game 2’s loss in Boston was brushed away, Detroit was left with three comforting thoughts.
Four, if you toss in Torii Hunter not being seriously hurt when he went over the right-field fence in hot pursuit of David Ortiz’s grand slam in the eighth.
But at least three, and here they are in ascending order:
■ Max Scherzer was lights out in Game 2; the Red Sox couldn’t touch him as they struck out 13 times in seven innings. Scherzer will get the nod again in Game 6, if necessary.
■ Win or lose, the Tigers knew they’d be coming back to Comerica Park with Justin Verlander as tonight’s starter. Verlander hasn’t allowed a run his last four starts and is a candidate to strike out as many Boston hitters as Anibal Sanchez and Scherzer — 12 and 13, respectively — did the first two nights.
■ Cabrera is swinging the bat better. He’s also running better, like after foul pop-ups. And he’s running better because his lower-body issues have improved to the point that his power has become visible again.
In other words, after weeks of singles, Cabrera is a genuine power threat again.
No Detroit player would dare grumble for long after a tough defeat when they could turn their thoughts to the chance their Triple Crown winner of a year ago actually might be feeling fine again.
That’s not to say manager Jim Leyland got off the plane smiling after returning from Boston. There were also no reports he clicked his heels.
He is feeling good about Cabrera, mind you, but is realistic.
“I think he’s better,” Leyland said. “But like I’ve been saying for quite a while, he’s not going to be 100 percent the rest of the season.”
Verlander feels that the biggest indicator of Cabrera’s physical improvement was “the ball he turned on in Oakland, the game I started.”
Ramon Santiago said it was “the ball he hit for his home run (Sunday night) in Boston. That wasn’t an easy pitch to pull.”
And Brayan Pena said the biggest indicator is that “it’s not as black-and-blue anymore where, man, it was ugly black-and-blue.”
The emotional aftermath of a walk-off loss has a certain shelf life, of course, but once the Tigers truly moved on — which no doubt coincided with wheels up from Boston — there were reasons they considered the setback more disappointing than devastating.
Ranking as the biggest was that after a virtually powerless September (one home run in 72 at-bats), Cabrera has hit a home run in two of the last three games.
Almost as if this were midseason again.
He belted one into the wind at the Oakland Coliseum in the clincher over the A’s.
And he landed one atop the Green Monster in the sixth in Game 2 for the second Tigers run.
But it’s not just his swing.
Cabrera’s movements are smoother. His step has some spring to it. He pursues foul balls with less stiffness and with more acceleration.
In other words, whatever percent Cabrera is — be it 80, 85 or higher — it’s neither dropping nor just holding steady. At long last, it seems to be climbing.
That doesn’t mean he is about to become a master of doubles. Cabrera finds some gaps, but for him to be able to stretch a double into, well, a double would still require a couple extra caroms.
It also doesn’t mean third-base coach Tom Brookens will be waving Cabrera in from second on a single any time soon.
But you already are seeing physical improvement translating into power, and the process lately has rarely been so smooth.
For a while, Leyland was getting Cabrera questions every day, and enjoyed each and every one.
Are you kidding? Yes. Leyland ran out of ways to describe the situation.
Now, though, all he has to do is tell people to watch the game to see the improvement.
Because lately, it’s been there.