With injuries mounting and losses piling up, the Detroit Tigers needed a power show from Miguel Cabrera.
And when even that wasn’t enough, their third-string catcher shrugged off a horrible night on defense and won the game with a fly ball of his own.
Cabrera hit two prodigious home runs to center field — one into the ivy at Comerica Park and the other onto a camera platform — and Omir Santos’ sacrifice fly in the ninth inning gave the Tigers a wild 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday night.
Cabrera’s homers were estimated at 436 and 433 feet — and that seemed conservative. He also doubled to the wall in center in the sixth.
”That was a lot of footage, to say the least,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. ”But that’s just what that guy’s capable of doing.”
Cabrera had left the clubhouse by the time reporters finished talking to Leyland.
The Tigers (25-28) have been a disappointment this season, but they pulled within five games of the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
Detroit overcame a blown save by Jose Valverde (3-1) and an awful night behind the plate by Santos, who was playing because of injuries to the Tigers’ top two catchers. Santos made two errors and allowed five stolen bases – but his fly to right off Boone Logan with the bases loaded in the ninth was deep enough to score Brennan Boesch.
Valverde hit two batters and walked two in the ninth, allowing New York to tie it after Cabrera’s homer in the eighth gave Detroit a 3-2 lead.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and hitting coach Kevin Long were ejected in the seventh.
Cabrera’s homers cleared two levels of bushes beyond the center-field wall — something rarely seen at Comerica, except maybe during batting practice. The estimated distances only measured how far the hits went before disappearing into the ivy and camera structure, not where they would have landed.
In 2004, Eric Munson homered to nearly the same spot as Cabrera’s second homer, and it was estimated at 457 feet, but the process for measuring homers at Comerica has changed.
It’s 420 to the wall in straightaway center.
”I’ve played a lot of games here, and I don’t even believe it is 420 out there — it is 420 at other places, and it never seems as big as it does here,” said New York center fielder Curtis Granderson, a former Tiger. ”I know I’ve never seen anyone put two balls where he put those two balls tonight. I’ve seen one or two near the camera well, but that wasn’t in a game, and I’ve never seen anything land where the first one went.”
Valverde walked Mark Teixeira on a 3-2 pitch to tie it in the ninth. Santos later kept the rally alive by missing a popup in foul territory for an error, but Raul Ibanez grounded out, leaving the game tied at 3.
Boesch hit a one-out single in the ninth off David Phelps (1-2) and went to third on a single by Jhonny Peralta. Logan came in, and Ramon Santiago pinch-hit for left fielder Don Kelly. The Yankees ended up intentionally walking Santiago to load the bases for Santos.
Santiago was Detroit’s only healthy position player on the bench because of injuries to catchers Alex Avila and Gerald Laird and outfielder Andy Dirks. If the game had gone to extra innings, Leyland said the Tigers would have put second baseman Danny Worth in the outfield for the first time in his career.
But Santos made all that moot with his winning fly.
”I was trying to forget all of that stuff that happened in the game,” Santos said. ”I got a feeling that if I got an at-bat, I was going to be the hero.”
Kelly, playing left field with Dirks out, reached above the wall to rob Teixeira of what was nearly an opposite-field home run in the fourth. In the bottom of the inning, Cabrera homered to open the scoring, the ball hitting the ivy a bit to the right of where his second home run ended up.
In the fifth, Kelly singled and scored on Quintin Berry’s single to make it 2-0.
Ibanez had a run-scoring groundout in the sixth for New York.
Rick Porcello allowed a run and six hits in six innings for the Tigers, and Detroit held on through an eventful seventh.
With runners on second and third and one out, Granderson hit a foul pop toward the New York dugout that went out of play. Plate umpire Bob Davidson then signaled an ejection, and Girardi came onto the field to argue. In an animated argument near home plate, Girardi threw his hat to the ground, and by the time it was over, he and Long had both been tossed.
The dispute began with a previous pitch.
”You saw the pitch, and you can assume we didn’t like the call. This is an emotional game, and things got said,” Girardi said. ”There was the foul pop that got out of play near our dugout, and Davidson turned toward our dugout and looked like at K-Long instead of going back to the plate. He said not to say anything else, Kevin did, and he got thrown out. That’s what made me so hot.
”Umpires don’t have wins and losses. All that matters to us is that they do their jobs. A big part of that job is keeping the peace, and I don’t think he did that.”
Granderson struck out, and Alex Rodriguez reached for an outside pitch and hit a popup to end the inning. In the middle of Rodriguez’s at-bat, the New York star called time just as Joaquin Benoit was starting his motion. The Detroit reliever tossed the ball against the screen, and Leyland said afterward Benoit started experiencing some tightness in his arm.
New York starter Hiroki Kuroda allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings. It was his first no-decision in 11 starts this year.
NOTES: Cabrera has 11 homers. … There was a 39-minute rain delay in the bottom of the first. … Detroit’s Prince Fielder extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a fourth-inning double. … Girardi said ”everything went well” with RHP David Robertson’s throwing session. Robertson has a strained oblique. Girardi also said RHP Joba Chamberlain threw a ”half-mound” – he dislocated his ankle in March. … New York RHP David Aardsma, who had elbow ligament replacement surgery last July, threw 20 pitches during his first batting practice session at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla. … Detroit ace Justin Verlander (5-3) takes the mound Saturday against Phil Hughes (4-5).