Tigers get some breathing room
SEP 29, 2012 7:31p ET
Justin Verlander (17-8) was his usual stellar self, shutting the Minnesota Twins down for seven innings in a 6-4 victory on national television. He allowed one unearned run whole walking two and striking out eight.
With the eight strikeouts, Verlander has 1,447 since 2006, which moves him past the New York Yankees' CC Sabathia for the major league lead since 2006, Verlander's rookie season.
Verlander was especially effective with runners on base, as the Twins (66-92) were 0-for-13 against him in those situations.
Twins first baseman Justin Morneau struck out three times against Verlander. Morneau has 13 strikeouts against Verlander, more than he has against any other pitcher.
Including Saturday, Verlander has an 0.64 ERA in his last four starts, all wins. It was the final start of the regular season for Verlander, who is in line to start a Game 163, if needed, or the first game of the postseason if the Tigers (85-73) hang on to win the Central Division.
But Verlander might not have been in line for the victory had it not been for Triple Crown/MVP contender Miguel Cabrera.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning, courtesy of Prince Fielder's 29th home run and an RBI double by Jhonny Peralta in the second inning.
Cabrera was 0-for 3 coming into the eighth and was hitting only .211 in his last 10 games.
But against former Tiger Casey Fien, Cabrera hit a 1-0 change up on a line into the left-field seats, giving his team a 5-0 lead. Andy Dirks added a solo home run that same inning.
The home run was Cabrera's 43rd of the season, tying him with Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton for the league lead in home runs. His .327 average and 136 RBIs already lead the league.
According to research by the Tigers' public relations staff, Cabrera has 17 home runs and 43 RBIs in the seventh inning or later, leading the majors in both categories.
In addition, Cabrera's 27 RBIs in September are the most since Hank Greenberg had 39 in Sept. 1946.
While Tigers fans were getting nervous watching Joaquin Benoit give up a grand slam to Twins catcher Ryan Doumit, cutting the lead to 6-4, the Tampa Bay Rays were helping the Tigers out in the Central Division race.
Former Tiger Matt Joyce hit two home runs, leading the Rays past the Chicago White Sox 10-4.
That combined with the Tigers' victory cuts the Tigers' magic number to three.
If recent trends hold, their magic number could be one by Sunday evening.
On Sunday, Anibal Sanchez, who is 4-5 with a 3.61 ERA in his last 10 starts, will oppose Liam Hendriks (1-8, 6.09). Sanchez is coming off a complete-game, three-hit shutout of the Kansas City Royals.
The White Sox will have to contend with 19-game winner David Price, who hasn't faced the Sox this season. Rookie Jose Quintana (6-5, 3.60) will start for the White Sox.
The Rays (87-71) still have a lot to play for as they are three games back behind the second qualifier for a wild card berth. No doubt they'd also like to help build Price's resume for American League Cy Young voters.
But as manager Jim Leyland has been saying all month, the Tigers just need to win games.
If they can do that, it won't matter what the White Sox do the rest of the way.
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