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Miggy doesn't miss beat back in Tigers' lineup

Miggy doesn't miss beat back in Tigers' lineup

Miggy doesn't miss beat back in Tigers' lineup

DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera's first swing at a game-speed pitch in five days sent a line drive into the left-field seats. Think about that.

"If you miss a day in baseball, it kind of sets you back a little bit. Miggy missed four days, and he had no setback," teammate Torii Hunter marveled. "That's weird. This guy is unbelievable."

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Cabrera certainly didn't miss an 87-mph fastball, nor did he miss a Michael Young line drive to his right on his first play in the field. About the only obvious sign he was hobbled came running the bases, and he didn't let that limit him, either, running through a stop sign from third-base coach Tom Brookens to score from second on a Victor Martinez single.

On the night Cabrera returned to the Tigers starting lineup after four days out, he drove in a run every time up, homering once, singling in a run and driving in another on a groundout. His 2-for-3, three-RBI performance led the Tigers to a 10-0 win over the Phillies at Comerica Park.

Cabrera did all that in just four innings. It was a nine-run lead, not any tweak or soreness, that led manager Jim Leyland to take him out of the game in the fifth.

"I normally don't take my guys out with big leads," Leyland said. "I usually take them out with big deficits. ... In this case, when we have someone that's coming off an injury, it makes a lot of sense."

For Cabrera, four innings were plenty.

Cabrera missed the previous four games after leaving Monday's series opener against the White Sox with what was classified as a sore left hip flexor. On Saturday, Cabrera said it was more of a left abdominal injury, different than the hip and back issues he had been dealing with off and on for the past month or so.

Cabrera said he tweaked it running the bases on Monday. He's still limited in his running, but he feels fine doing everything else.

"It was good hitting, fielding," Cabrera said after his workout on Saturday. "It bothered me running."

Cabrera is not at full strength, more like about 70 percent by his estimation, but he's good enough to play. And as Cabrera has demonstrated over the years, when he's healthy enough to play, he plays.

As Cabrera showed once again, his 70 percent is better than a lot of players at full strength.

"Nothing that he does surprises me anymore," Leyland said.

Cabrera's first at-bat allowed him to trot around the bases. After watching Phillies spot starter Raul Valdes go inside, then outside with fastballs, he pounced when Valdes went back in. The result was a lined shot that cleared the bullpens beyond the left-field fence and landed in the seats for Cabrera's 32nd home run.

"Those eyes of his see things different than other guys, it looks like to me," Leyland said. "I don't know how that happened, but it happened and we're grateful."

Cabrera's next time up in the second inning resulted in another liner to left, this one dumped in front of left fielder Darin Ruf for a single to score Alex Avila. This was the test for him to see how well he could maneuver the bases, and he was clearly limited as he rounded first base and moved to second on a wild pitch.

The Tigers didn't want Cabrera to test his running too much, which explained Brookens' stop sign on Martinez's single. Cabrera, sensing he could score without much trouble, kept going and jogged in ahead of a throw.

"The trainers told him don't risk anything," Leyland said.

The Phillies finally retired Cabrera on a groundout to short in the fourth, but it still extended the lead. Ramon Santiago replaced him at third base for the fifth.

Leyland wants to wait and see how Cabrera feels on Sunday morning before deciding whether to start him in the series finale. The Tigers have an off-day Monday. Cabrera, for his part, said he'll "hopefully" be able to play as the Tigers go for the series sweep.

After more than a month of dealing with various aches and pains, Cabrera is hoping to get to some sort of injury-free play for the stretch run.

"It's hard," he admitted. "You try, but it's hard."

Cabrera raised his league-leading average to .361. With his 99th RBI, he regained his league lead from Baltimore's Chris Davis, who had passed him earlier in the week.

From a purely statistical standpoint, it's a better season than last year for Cabrera. He just didn't have a season like Davis' challenging him last year.

If Cabrera doesn't win the Triple Crown, he could end up with a historic third consecutive batting title as a consolation. He'd be just the eighth hitter in Major League history to do it and the first since Tony Gwynn won four in a row from 1994-97. No right-handed hitter has won three straight batting crowns since Rogers Hornsby dominated the National League from 1920-25.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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