Tigers extend AL Central lead, buy time for Cabrera

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers are not only putting more distance between themselves and the Cleveland Indians, they’re also buying time for their superstar.

After leaving Friday night’s game after two innings with irritation in the abdominal area, Miguel Cabrera sat out Saturday’s game.

It was the first game Cabrera has missed since Aug. 3.

As has been the case in Cabrera’s absence, his teammates combined to pick up the slack in a 10-5 victory over the Indians (71-64), moving 8 1/2 games ahead in the Central Division.

The Tigers (80-56) are now 9-1 when Cabrera does not start and they have scored 58 runs in those 10 games.

“It showed today what we can do,” said Torii Hunter, who batted third and drove in a run. “But it’s always better with Miggy in the lineup. I don’t care who you are, you can be the best team on the planet. Everybody wants Miggy in the middle of it.”

Second baseman Omar Infante was the key to the offense, hitting two home runs, a three-run homer in the second and a two-run homer in the sixth for his second career five-RBI game.

“Miggy transferred the power to him today,” Ramon Santiago joked. “It’s great. Omar’s a good player, he’s been doing that all year. Today he did it in a big way.”

Santiago played third base in Cabrera’s absence and had two hits and two runs on his 34th birthday.

Austin Jackson survived a scare in the eighth inning when he went crashing into the center field wall to try to catch Carlos Santana’s hit, which turned into a two-run, inside-the-park homer.

“I just kind of jammed my shoulder into the wall, and knocked the wind out of me,” Jackson said. “Whole right arm went numb. Just couldn’t catch my breath there for a second. But once I settled down there for a minute, everything was all right.”

Jackson stayed in the game and got the two runs back on a two-RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth.

The Tigers also got RBIs from Jose Iglesias and Prince Fielder and every starter got a hit except Matt Tuiasosopo, who walked and scored a run.

“Like I say, anytime you extend your lineup and get production from the top, the middle and the bottom, that’s a big thing,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Prince had a good night, Victor (Martinez) hit the ball hard all night, and we got some production up front, we got some production at the end, and we got some production in the middle. So that’s a pretty good night.”

Indians manager Terry Francona said starter Scott Kazmir was not working ahead in the count.

“The first five hitters in the order, he was pitching from behind,” Francona said. “With that order, and that’s with Miggy not in the lineup, they can do damage in hitter’s counts.”

The Tigers’ starters have gotten back to pitching like they usually do since the Oakland A’s left town.

Anibal Sanchez improved to 12-7 by allowing three runs on six hits while walking one and striking out five in 6 2/3 innings.

“For me, I try to throw a better game against our division,” Sanchez said. “Because if I keep throwing good ballgames against my division, I can stay in the game, we can keep the team in the race. Right now, we put Cleveland farther behind us, and that’s more important right now. The team won and we need to continue to win to make the playoffs early.”

Sanchez also has a chance to surpass the career-high 13 wins he had in 2010 with the Florida Marlins.

If the Tigers can all keep chipping in, then Cabrera can take the time he needs to heal to the point where he can play without continually tweaking his injury.

“Cabrera’s huge. Everybody knows Cabrera’s a good hitter and we’re better with him in the lineup,” Infante said. “But we’ve got a good team, we’ve got good hitting, good starters. We’re a great team. We’ve got everything.”

NOTES: According to John Wagner of the Toledo Blade, the Toledo Mud Hens fired manager Phil Nevin with two games remaining in the season. The Mud Hens were 192-238 in Nevin’s three years as manager. Wagner said Gene Roof, the Tigers’ roving outfield instructor, will manage the team for their final two games in Columbus.

Wagner also reported that three of the Mud Hens were told they would be reporting to Detroit, right-handed pitcher Evan Reed, who has appeared in 12 games with the Tigers this season; infielder Danny Worth; and outfielder Nick Castellanos.

Leyland confirmed the team was adding three more players but said he was not permitted to release the names yet.