Cabrera’s homer leads to series sweep

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Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s so simple, a cave man … uh, a reporter could figure it out.

When big Miguel does what he needs to do, the Tigers often do what they need to do.

His are the shoulders on which they often are lifted.

And his were the shoulders on which the Tigers climbed to a 4-3 victory over the Pirates on Sunday.

The big picture was this: The Tigers were down 2-0 in the seventh when Alex Avila hit a home run to dead center, reaching the hedge he seldom reaches even in batting practice.

“I hit it perfectly,” he said.

Must have.

But the Tigers were short-handed. Carlos Guillen, Saturday night’s hero, couldn’t start because of a sore right calf. He eventually proved to be instrumental again, but was not in the starting lineup.

Magglio Ordonez was out because of his sore right side. He missed the entire week, but won’t miss another. He should be in the lineup Tuesday.

Austin Jackson left in the first inning, couldn’t even hit because of back spasms. Still in discomfort after the game, he said, “I’ve had this happen before. It usually takes a couple of days.”

By the eighth, the game was looking like the kind it turned out to be: To sweep the sweepable Pirates, something the Tigers needed to do after a lackluster stretch of games, one big hit would be required.

But with Miguel Cabrera 3-for-his-last-23, and the bottom of the eighth beginning at the bottom of the lineup, where would that big hit come from.

Well, by now you know where it came from. The bat it often comes from.

“Thank God, I did my job today,” Cabrera said.

To give him the opportunity, however, took some doing. Guillen led off with an infield single, his calf not presenting a problem. He took second on a wild pitch.

Two outs later, the Pirates brought in Javier Lopez, a lefty with a funky delivery, to pitch to Johnny Damon. Lopez walked Damon on a five pitches — “the key to the game,” manager Jim Leyland said.

The key because it brought up Cabrera, who slump or no slump can settle matters quickly.

The Pirates countered with their closer Octavio Dotel, who gave up a walk-off home run to Cabrera two years ago almost to the day (June 12), back when Dotel was with the White Sox.

Since then, Dotel had faced Cabrera seven times with these results: Five swinging strikeouts, two walks.

Enough success to face the Tigers slugger with confidence.

“It was a situation where he likes to come in,” Pirates manager John Russell said of bringing Dotel into the eighth.

Ball one: Cabrera has hit far more home runs on the first pitch (55) than any other, but didn’t get a first pitch he liked this time.

The second pitch he liked — a fastball at 93 — but he swung through it, taking a vicious cut that would have convinced many pitchers to throw something other than a fastball on the next pitch.

Not Dotel.

“My fastball is my best pitch,” he said. “One thing I always say is that I can only throw my pitch.”

The 1-1 pitch was up and over the plate. “I might have missed my spot inside,” Dotel said.

Indeed, he might have.

And there it went, toward the angle in right-center, where many home runs go to die, but not when Cabrera hits them.

That quickly, the Tigers led by two — and would win by one when Jose Valverde’s scoreless streak ended at 25 consecutive outings in the ninth.

Cabrera had done what was needed. But so had the Tigers, grinding out a three-game sweep against the Pirates, who have now been swept four times on the road this season.

“They were scrappy, but that’s a team we needed to beat,” Gerald Laird said.

Absolutely it was.

Last Updated: June 14. 2010 1:00AM