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Miner, power performance net first win

Power backs Miner for first win

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TORONTO -- Two nights after Tigers outfielders had baseballs coming down on them from the stands, Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Inge kept sending them back.

In Cabrera's case, they were way back. In Inge's case, it was back again.

"When he hits the ball, they're usually asking for a new ball," starting pitcher Zach Miner said after Cabrera's two-homer game helped power Detroit to its first victory of the season with a 5-1 win over the Jays on Wednesday at Rogers Centre.

It isn't simply the home runs Cabrera is hitting hard. Even the singles are being blistered, including the one he hit in the eighth.

It gave an appreciation for how hard Cabrera is hitting every pitch with which he connects. It went into left field hard enough that Inge worried shortstop Marco Scutaro might get pummeled.

"I said right after he hit it," Inge said, "that I have never seen somebody hit more balls so hard than him -- maybe a home run, maybe an out, anything. Solid contact.

"It's almost like when a ball goes in the stands and you think, 'Look out,' because you don't want a fan to get hit. That's what you feel like when he hits a ball at a position player -- with a glove on. He hits the ball so hard, it's almost unreal."

The Jays have retired Cabrera just three times in 12 plate appearances this series -- seven hits, two walks, a groundout, two fly balls and no strikeouts. He's 5-for-6 in his past two games. Every hit has been well connected, either up the middle or pulled to left.

"I feel good," Cabrera said. "I feel like I'm seeing good pitches. I feel like I see the ball very good right now. My swing is right there right now. I don't try to do too much. I don't press."

It's a vastly different feeling than he had at this point a year ago.

Cabrera homered in his first game as a Tiger on Opening Day last year, then didn't hit another one for two weeks. He admitted during that stretch that he was pressing, feeling the pressure to step up for a club that struggled badly out of the gate.

If he was supposed to feel pressure over the Tigers' first two losses this season, nobody told him.

"After the [contract] extension I got last year, I got that in my mind," Cabrera said. "Right now, we go out there and play relaxed, play our best baseball. Like Skip said, go out there and give 100 percent every day. That's what we do right now."

Most consecutive games with HR to start season since 1990
Player
Season
Games
Mark McGwire19984
Brandon Inge20093
Grady Sizemore20073
Charles Johnson20043
Lance Berkman20023
Derrek Lee20023
Gary Sheffield20023
Chris Truby20013
Fernando Tatis19993
Dean Palmer19923
Kevin Mithcell19913
His best is a worst-case scenario for American League pitchers. Inge's best, meanwhile, is a cause for opponents to change their approach to him. Both of Cabrera's home runs came off sinkers from Toronto starter Jesse Litsch (0-1), who tried to start off Cabrera with one in the first inning after back-to-back singles from Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez. Cabrera was waiting for it and lined it up perfectly, drilling it into the left-field seats for a 3-0 Detroit lead.

Litsch contained the Tigers' offense from there until Cabrera came up with two outs in the fifth. This time, Cabrera centered it to the deepest part of the park. He not only cleared the fence, but hit the ball off the glass facing of the Windows restaurant in the second deck of straightaway center field.

Based on that part of the Rogers Centre, unofficial estimates from the press box tabbed it at 440 feet.

It was the same approach Cabrera used for three singles and a double over the first couple games. Beyond his own approach, Cabrera said, is his knowledge of opposing pitching after changing leagues last year.

"In the new league, I had to make a lot of adjustments," Cabrera said. "Right now, I feel comfortable, because I know the league better. I know how they're going to pitch me. I have an idea how they want to pitch me, so I'm more relaxed. I'm not thinking a lot at home plate.

"I'm seeing the ball good. I've got my strike zone, and that's where I'm looking."

For Inge, the key has been his adjustment to a new approach mechanically. The offseason move to raise his hands higher before he swings is allowing him to reach pitches he would've struggled to hit last season.

The Blue Jays have been pitching him to last year's approach and have paid for it. Inge's solo homer in the seventh came off a cutter, the same pitch Inge hit off Roy Halladay on Monday to start his streak of three straight games with a homer.

"We may need to change it," Jays manager Cito Gaston said of their plan for Inge. "Whatever it is, we need to take a different look at it. I like that kid. He's a good player."

No Tiger had ever homered in three straight games to start the season, according to David Vincent of the Society for American Baseball Research. Just 21 other players have accomplished the feat overall.

"Spring Training, I was still working on it -- [it] didn't quite feel like the timing was there," Inge said. "The last week of spring, it started to click a little bit. Right now, it feels like I would be able to pull myself out of slumps pretty quickly. I don't even think about it anymore."

The way they're hitting, neither Cabrera nor Inge seem likely to worry about a slump quite so soon.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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