'Incredible' Cabrera homers twice, Tigers claw to .500
Detroit — Mike Pelfrey is enjoying this new view of Miguel Cabrera.
“When I was on the other side, I thought he was incredible,” the former Twins pitcher said. “But I don’t think you fully realize how good a guy he is and how great a player until you get to play with him and get to watch him every day.
“He’s the best hitter of our generation. Pretty blessed to day in and day out to watch him play.”
The Phillies were stuck with his former view of Cabrera Monday. They winced as he pounded out two home runs — one to right field and one beyond the Tigers’ bullpen in left — hit his 500th career double and scored the deciding run in the Tigers’ 5-4 win.
“Miggy looks as good as I’ve seen him since I’ve been here,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
The Tigers have now won three straight and seven of their last eight. They have fought their way back to .500, averaging 6.6 runs in the last eight games.
“We felt this offense was going to score runs,” Ausmus said. “We were in a drought for a while, but I think we’re starting to score runs like we thought we would. And Miggy is a big part of that.
“He’s in the heart of our lineup. He’s driving the ball as well as I’ve seen him drive it.”
Cabrera has 11 home runs on the season, five in the last four games. In this eight-game stretch, he is hitting .533 with six homers and 10 RBIs. He’s 6-for-6 in the last two games and has taken his average from .262 on May 6 to .327.
“I mean, I’ve won a triple crown,” he said. “I have three or four batting titles. I got 11 years at like 100 RBIs and stuff like that, so I’ve been hitting .300 for a lot of years.
“I don’t know (if this is the best I’ve hit). I hope I can keep it like this.”
The ball was flying out of the old ball yard Monday. Six home runs left the yard in the first 4.5 innings — four by the Tigers, three in the fifth inning.
But the winning run was batted in off a lousy single in the bottom of the seventh inning by Victor Martinez.
“I’m just glad I got that hit and it helped the team win,” said Martinez, who had three singles and is hitting .340. “You know how it is, winning is always fun. Things start looking a lot better for us and we start playing a little bit better.”
J.D. Martinez and Cabrera went back-to-back in the fifth inning off Phillies starter Vince Velasquez. Martinez deposited his 10th home of the season and fifth in eight games into the seats in right. Then Cabrera followed with a blast that cleared the Tigers’ bullpen in left.
It was the fifth time this season Tigers have recorded back-to-back home runs.
One batter later, Nick Castellanos hit his ninth of the season, also to left field, putting the Tigers up 4-3.
“I don’t know if I’ve been a part of three home runs in an inning, maybe,” Castellanos said. “We are playing well right now, but just because we are playing well doesn’t mean they are going to roll over for us tomorrow.
“Our job is to keep bringing good energy and continue to play good baseball.”
Pelfrey was in line for his first win as a Tiger, and his first win period since last Aug. 12, until he gave up a home run to Tommy Joseph in the top of the sixth.
“I’d love to get a win, but if I’m able to take the ball every five days and even if I don’t get the win, the team does, I will take it,” said Pelfrey, who allowed four runs and 11 hits in six innings. “I love winning, but my job is to keep the team in the game. I could’ve had a win tonight but I gave back that fourth run.”
The Tigers bullpen made the one-run lead stand up.
Justin Wilson, who had allowed four runs in his last four outings, pitched around a leadoff error by Castellanos at third. After walking Maikel Franco intentionally, putting runners on first and second with two outs, he struck out Ryan Howard on three fastballs — 96, 97, 98 mph.
Mark Lowe gave up a single in the eighth inning, but struck out two and got the game to the ninth inning and closer Francisco Rodriguez, who posted his 13th consecutive save.
“Things can snowball on you,” Ausmus said. “When you are playing badly, it’s hard to find the one thing to turn you around and when you are playing well, it seems to feed off itself.
“We’re trying to keep this feeding frenzy going.”