Fielder, Tigers still looking dangerous
Prince Fielder took another massive swing and sent a drive to right that made Comerica Park look like a Little League field.
The homer helped the Tigers finish a three-game sweep of Kansas City entering the All-Star break - and sent a reminder to the rest of the AL Central that there's a sleeping giant in Motown.
After reaching the AL championship series last year, Detroit was considered a lock for the playoffs by many after signing Fielder to a $214 million, nine-year contract in the offseason. The Tigers have struggled - even after winning five straight, they trail the first-place Chicago White Sox by 3 1/2 games - but don't blame Detroit's burly new first baseman. He has adjusted to his new surroundings and performed pretty much as expected.
''The baseball part's the same,'' Fielder said. ''It's just everything's different when you've been playing somewhere for seven years and you come somewhere else. That's the different part. I think the baseball stays the same, but as far as off the field and getting to know your teammates, that's a little different. But once the game starts, it's the same.''
Fielder became one of the most consistent and durable power hitters while with the Milwaukee Brewers, and since joining the Tigers, he's done nothing to cast doubt on that reputation. He's hit .299 with 15 homers in 86 games, and he'll start Tuesday night's All-Star game. Although his power numbers are down a bit from last year, his overall performance is within his normal range.
During Detroit's recent five-game run, he drove in 10 runs and hit three homers, including the three-run shot in Sunday's 7-1 win over the Royals that went an estimated 417 feet.
''The amount of power he has, it's awesome. You got to see it,'' Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer said. ''That's just the type of talent he has and why he makes our team great.''
But Detroit still has enough star power to contend. Ace Justin Verlander has followed last year's MVP season with a first half good enough to earn him a start in the All-Star game. Miguel Cabrera, hitting .324 with 18 homers, bats third and Fielder is at cleanup.
''It's exactly what I expected. He's doing what he does every year,'' Fielder said. ''I still don't think he gets enough credit for how great he is and it's unfortunate.''
The 28-year-old Fielder played at least 157 games each of the last six seasons. The 29-year-old Cabrera has played at least 150 for eight seasons running. They've both played all 86 games this year.
''That's a blessing for a manager. They both like to play,'' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. ''They want to be in there all the time. Most guys do. They want to play. That's what you signed them for.''
The Tigers were able to survive some poor stretches during the first half, but they still have plenty of work to do. If they're able to bounce back and make good on all those preseason expectations, chances are Fielder and his new slugging partner will be among the biggest reasons.
''Cabrera is as good as they get. I don't see too many more clutch hitters. He's a stud,'' Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''When he walks up there, I'm just hoping we have somebody standing where he's going to hit it. I quit worrying about striking him out. Fielder, the same way. You're hoping you get in a situation where you can pitch around them. I don't care who's hitting behind them.''
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.