CLEVELAND (AP) — Torii Hunter came up one measly single shy of history.
It’s about the only thing the All-Star-studded Detroit Tigers haven’t accomplished during two days of dominance inside Progressive Field.
Hunter drove in three runs and fell a single short of hitting for the cycle, and Miguel Cabrera cracked a two-run homer as the Tigers overpowered the Cleveland Indians again, 9-4 on Saturday for their fifth straight win.
Hunter hit a two-run homer, tripled and doubled as the Tigers won their seventh consecutive game over the Indians and pushed their lead in the AL Central to 3 games. Needing just a routine base hit in the eighth inning, Hunter grounded out weakly to reliever Vinnie Pestano.
“I tried to bloop it, but it just didn’t work out,” said Hunter, who would have already had his cycle but was robbed by outfielder Michael Bourn’s diving catch in the third. “That was my single. He ruined it for me. I’ll have to talk to him tomorrow.”
Detroit improved to 8-2 against Cleveland this season, and the Tigers have won 11 of the last 14 games in what has been a lopsided rivalry.
The Indians came into the four-game series hoping to cut into Detroit’s lead. Instead, the Tigers have opened some distance and are threatening to widen the gap.
“We’ll show up tomorrow,” Indians manager Terry Francona promised. “We certainly need to do better against them. They’re the team that is directly ahead of us and they’ve kind of had their way with us, but I don’t think we’ll show up tomorrow and not feel we’re going to win. But we need to play better.”
The Tigers have outscored the Indians 16-4 in the first two games of the series and Detroit still has Doug Fister (6-5) and Max Scherzer (13-0) scheduled to pitch.
Anibal Sanchez (7-5) returned from the disabled list and pitched five innings for his first win since June 4.
Cabrera and Prince Fielder homered in the third off Carlos Carrasco (0-4), who was recalled from the minors to face the AL’s best hitting team.
Nick Swisher and Ryan Raburn went deep for Cleveland, which has dropped four straight.
In the eighth, the Tigers learned that Cabrera will make his first start for the AL in the All-Star game and will be joined by five teammates; Hunter, Fielder, shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Detroit’s Jim Leyland will manage the AL squad for the July 16 game at Citi Field in New York.
“I’m very happy for all our guys,” Leyland said. “Everybody from the Tigers was a players’ choice. The one guy I added was Justin Verlander and I don’t think that’s really going out on the limb too damn far.”
Hunter said Cabrera’s first All-Star start was long overdue.
“I couldn’t believe he’d never been a starter,” Hunter said of Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown last season. “He’s been the best hitter on the planet for a long time.”
The Indians will be represented by pitcher Justin Masterson and second baseman Justin Kipnis, who had his hitting streak stopped at 16 games.
Leyland picked both Cleveland players, selections that delighted Francona.
“I knew all along that the process is what it is and I knew he would put his heart and soul and brains into it and try to do the best job that he could,” said Francona, who managed the AL team in 2005 and 2008. “Sometimes it’s an impossible job, but knowing him I knew he would do the best he could for every team.”
Hunter’s two-run homer in the sixth put the Tigers ahead 9-1. With a chance to become the first Tigers player to hit for the cycle since Carlos Guillen in 2006 — and the first to do it in Progressive Field history — Hunter tapped out on a slow roller.
Sanchez had been sidelined since June 16 with a strained shoulder. With the luxury of a large lead, he was able to pitch relaxed and allowed one run and three hits before Leyland pulled him after 73 pitches.
Carrasco wasn’t so lucky.
He survived his first trip through Detroit’s vaunted lineup unscathed, but the right-hander wasn’t so fortunate the second time around as the Tigers roped two homers, two doubles and a single in the third off Carrasco, who hasn’t won in the majors since June 29, 2011. He missed all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery.
Cabrera connected for a two-run homer and Fielder followed with another drive as the Tigers scored four times — all with two outs.
With one out, Austin Jackson doubled before Carrasco retired Hunter on a hard liner to center. Cabrera fouled off two pitches before launching his 27th homer into the left-field seats to make it 2-0, thrilling thousands of orange-and-blue clad Detroit fans who made the trip from Michigan.
Two pitches later, Fielder hit his 15th homer, a towering blast into the right-field seats to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the game and 10-0 in the series.
After the game, the Indians held a brief players’ meeting to address all that has gone wrong in the past two games.
“We’re definitely not intimidated by them,” Kipnis said. “We’ve just come out flat the last couple days and we’re looking to change that. The pressures not really on us, it’s got to be on them and that’s the way we’ve got to approach it.” a
NOTES: The Tigers have six All-Stars for the first time since 1985.
Indians manager Terry Francona is opposed to the league that wins the All-Star game receiving home-field advantage in the World Series. “I’m not sure I have the answer,” said Francona, who managed the AL team in 2005 and 2008. “But you play all year in our sport, I think that should mean something.”
Before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, former Indians SS Omar Vizquel spent 30 minutes discussing his playing career and future. Vizquel, currently a roving infield instructor with the Angels, aspires to manage in the majors. As for his chances of making the Hall of Fame, the 11-time Gold Glove winner, believes he has a shot at enshrinement. “The numbers are there,” he said.
Leyland isn’t sure when 2B Omar Infante (bruised left shin) will return. He hasn’t played since being taken out on a slide by Toronto’s Colby Rasmus on Wednesday.
Indians 3B Mark Reynolds, in the middle of a miserable slump (0 for 20) didn’t start. He pinch-hit in the ninth and struck out.