September 1, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Tigers 12, Indians 1

Miguel Cabrera rediscovers home run stroke as Tigers clobber Tribe

Cleveland — The Tigers didn’t acquire a hitter on Monday, but they found one whose power had been reported as missing.

With just three home runs since July 1 going into the game, Miguel Cabrera hit two in a 12-1 victory against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

Snapping the longest homerless streak of his career (101 at-bats), Cabrera’s first of the game supplied the Tigers with a lead they steadily stretched.

His second came in the eighth while the Tigers were pummeling the Indians’ bullpen. They were his 18th and 19th of the season.

But if Cabrera has suddenly found the range again with his power, imagine the boost that could give the Tigers down the stretch — after they’ve been scuffling to survive without it.

“Who knows?” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Maybe this is a flashpoint.”

Benefiting from the power, but mostly from his own effectiveness, starter David Price recovered from a horrific start against the Yankees — “the worst of my career,” he called it — to allow the Indians a first-inning run, but nothing else in what proved to a lopsided victory .

In six starts, Price is 2-2 as a Tiger and 13-10 overall. He allowed eight hits, but also struck out eight in seven innings.

“That felt a lot better than five days ago,” said Price, adding that his previous start “left a bad taste in my mouth. “But we made some pitches today.”

Twenty hits by the Tigers were the most allowed by the Indians this season, the most in more than three years, in fact — and were far from what was expected against Cleveland’s ace Corey Kluber (13-9).

“You always enjoy games like that,” Ausmus said. “The hitting was good, the pitching was good.

“I’m sure the Indians were tired, and that might have played into it, but we’ll take it either way.”

Arriving home late after a night-game rainout in Kansas City, the Indians played a sloppy game, especially a couple of atrocious plays in right by Mike Aviles. But that’s not the way the Tribe has been playing lately.

Far from it.

The Indians came into the game a season-high six games over .500 and were hoping to cut the gap between themselves and the Tigers to two games.

Instead, it grew to four as Kluber was dealt his earliest exit of the season.

Cabrera’s two-run home run in the first got the Tigers off on the right foot — an awkward reference, perhaps, since it’s been Cabrera’s right ankle that’s been dragging him down lately.

While saying after the game “it was important to win,” he wouldn’t comment about the condition of his ankle — telling reporters to “talk to the trainer.”

Ausmus said it’s a day-to-day situation.

“There are some days where he looks really good,” the manager said. “There are some days he looks hobbled. I don’t know if this is ever going to be cleared up during the course of the season.

“I wouldn’t say he looked better or worse than any other given day.”

Trying in vain to overcome the discomfort, the Tigers’ slugger had seen his batting average plummet from .311 to .299 because of a .196 stretch in his last 13 games.

But after resting his ankle in the finale of the White Sox series, Cabrera told Ausmus Monday that he felt good enough to play first base.

Ausmus opted to use Cabrera as his designated hitter instead and to start Victor Martinez at first base.

The move paid dual dividends: Cabrera hit his first home run since Aug. 2 in the first inning and Martinez hit his first since (only) Saturday in the Tigers’ three-run third when Victor and J.D. Martinez connected back-to-back off Kluber.

It didn’t take playing a position for Victor to find the seats again, obviously — because he’s been hitting well all season. The home run was his 28th. But Martinez does react positively when playing a position.

In 23 previous games at first base this season, Martinez had hit .353.

“He has a passion for the game,” Ausmus said of Martinez, “but really has a passion for hitting. That’s unparalleled in my mind.”

The Tigers capped their scoring in the ninth with a three-run home run by September call-up Tyler Collins, his first in the majors, after the first major-league hit for Steven Moya.

Collins’ HR gave the Tigers’ No. 3 spot in the batting order a 5-for-6 day with three home runs, six RBIs and five runs scored.

tgage@detroitnews.com

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Miguel Cabrera celebrates with Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers after both scored on a home run hit by Martinez during the third inning. The Tigers defeated the Indians, 12-1, Monday. / Jason Miller / Getty Images