Lopsided win pulls Tigers within 1½ games of wild card

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Minneapolis — First, the important stuff.

The Tigers' playoff hopes, put on a respirator just three days ago, are suddenly alive and thriving. They stand just 1.5 games out of the second wild-card spot after they put an 8-1 hurt on the Twins Tuesday.

James McCann, filling in at designated hitter for the injured Victor Martinez (right knee), capped an 11-hit attack with a 442-foot, three-run home run in the sixth inning to break the game open.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 8, Twins 1

“This is what you live for,” said Tigers starter Matt Boyd, who pitched a career-high eight innings for his sixth win. “I wouldn’t want it any other way; backs against the wall, fighting our way out. And we’re going to keep fighting.”

Seven days ago, Boyd didn’t last four innings against these same Twins. He was tagged for seven runs in 3⅔ innings. Afterward, he vowed to bounce back strong. Done.

“Just a small mechanical tweak,” he said. “I knew what I did wrong and I knew what it would take to get back to where it was for me. I drilled and drilled, made the adjustment and came out today and let all the preparation work for me.”

He gave up a leadoff single to Brian Dozier in the first, then didn’t give up another hit until the seventh, when Robbie Grossman hit a 3-2 fastball into the seats, spoiling his shutout bid.

Boyd set down 18 of 19 Twins in between, allowing only a walk in that span. He gave up just three hits and striking out seven.

“He kept his composure and didn’t work too quick,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “He was really able to slow things down. He kept his body in control and kept his mind and his thoughts under control.

“Those are signs of maturity, signs of a guy who is getting more comfortable.”

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It was the second straight win for a Tigers’ starter, after going 20 games without one. It was also significant to go that deep into the game. The Tigers are giving Buck Farmer a spot start on Wednesday and he hasn’t made a start since the Triple-A season ended.

And now the fun stuff:

Miguel Cabrera’s usual method of destruction is with his bat. He’s a former Triple Crown winner, a four-time batting champ. He slugs.

On Tuesday, he unveiled a different weapon — his legs.

He almost single-handedly stole the Tigers’ second run with some daring baserunning in the fourth inning.

The Tigers were up 1-0, thanks to an RBI triple by Cameron Maybin the previous inning. Cabrera led off with a laser shot off the right-field wall. It’s a drive that, because it’s hit so hard and caromed immediately to the right fielder, usually yields a single for Cabrera.

But he never hesitated around first and barely beat the throw from Max Kepler. Cabrera was just getting loose.

J.D. Martinez followed with a fly ball to medium-depth center. The Tigers have already demonstrated no fear of center fielder Byron Buxton’s arm, which is exceptional, running on him often these last two series.

Cabrera tagged and broke for third. He was in with a pop-up slide.

Justin Upton then hit a two-hopper to third base. Cabrera went back to third, until Eduardo Escobar threw to first. Then he took off for home, trying to catch first baseman Kennys Vargas sleeping.

He was not. The throw to the plate beat Cabrera easily, but he slid around the tag of catcher John Ryan Murphy. He was initially called out, but it was overturned after replay.

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“That's leading by example,” Maybin said. “A guy like me, you expect me to do that. (Ian) Kinsler, (Andrew) Romine, you kind of expect those guys to do that — guys who are more fleet of foot. But Miggy, that's just being a leader, man. Especially right now.

“By him doing that, he let us know, 'We're in a playoff race.' Those are the things, if he's doing it, then everybody needs to be ready to come and do the little things. Everybody knows we can hit and sometimes we sit around and wait on the home run ball. But doing the little things, that's how you win big games.”

Of course, Cabrera’s bat was also a factor. In the seventh he bashed his 34th home run of the season, a two-run shot into the left field seats.

The home run was No. 442 in his career, tying Dave Kingman for 41st on baseball’s all-time list. The two RBIs gave him 1,538, passing Joe DiMaggio for 48th all-time.

This after he achieved his 2,500 career hit on Sunday.

“Seeing him do that (running the bases) fired me up and it fired the whole dugout up,” Maybin said. “The reaction of the dugout speaks for itself….That's what a real leader does. I always had respect for that guy, but little stuff like that is why he is who he is.”

Twitter @cmccosky