Ninth-inning homers pack punch for Tigers

Ninth-inning homers pack punch for Tigers

ARLINGTON -- Miguel Cabrera doesn't want to hear any talk about Cooperstown, even with his manager putting a guarantee on it.

"It's too early," Cabrera said when hearing of Jim Leyland's proclamation that Cabrera is Hall of Fame-bound after Monday's 8-6 victory at Texas that saw the first baseman hit the game-winning home run with a moon ball to right-center field in the top of the ninth.

It's that attitude that seems to push Cabrera to a new level every season. For him, it's a neverending quest to show the baseball world what he can do every day.

"I try to push myself," he said. "Push harder."

Cabrera was in his element Monday night. The Tigers had blown a 6-1 lead they took into the bottom of the fifth. Tied at 6 with one out in the top of the ninth, Cabrera stepped in against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, the young gun with the 101-mph fastball.

Where others would have tried to do too much, Cabrera made the moment look easy. He got ahead in the count taking two balls. He swung and missed a fastball. He stayed inside on the next fastball, and lifted it over the right-field fence for his fifth home run and his American League-leading 24th RBI.

"Big time players come through in big-time moments," Leyland said.

Cabrera barely looked like he swung at Feliz's 95-mph fastball that was off his usual radar gun reading, but still barreling in on the Tigers' slugger.

"You don't have to swing hard," Cabrera said. "Just make contact."

Cabrera's homer was followed by the second of the night from Brandon Inge, who hadn't gone deep in 19 games this season (he had seven homers last April).

Inge made it 8-6 with a home run to left field. It was almost the exact spot he belted a two-run home run for a 6-1 lead in the top of the fifth.

Inge admitted he had been trying to do too much lately. He was 5-for-37 on the road trip entering his fifth-inning at-bat. He said he tried to relax.

"I didn't take anything differently," Inge said. "I just had to stay with it and not get too frustrated."

The night began with the Tigers getting four runs in the top of the first -- the first four Detroit batters reached and Ryan Raburn had a three-run double.

That set up Jeremy Bonderman to work with a big lead. And Bonderman dealt, retiring the first 11 batters he faced on 35 pitches. Pitch 36 didn't go as well, as Josh Hamilton swatted an opposite-field home run to make it 4-1.

Inge provided a five-run lead with his first home run, but Bonderman wasn't able to feed off of it. He allowed a run in the bottom of the fifth on a wild pitch, and got a pitch up to David Murphy for a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth. Bonderman was out of the game after walking the next batter.

"He got some quick outs," Leyland said. "That's why I was kind of surprised. I thought he hit a wall. He disagreed."

Joel Zumaya came out of the bullpen off a five-strikeout effort Saturday to strike out Ryan Garko with two on to end the sixth

Zumaya wasn't as sharp in the seventh. He gave up three singles, forcing Leyland to go to the bullpen for left-hander Phil Coke to face left-handed-hitting Josh Hamilton.

"I pitched fine," Zumaya said. "I gave up a couple of hits. I'm not going to have a 0.00 ERA the whole season."

Zumaya proved correct. Coke struck out Hamilton on three pitches for the second out of the inning, but wasn't so fortunate against slugger Vladimir Guerrero, who lined a two-run single up the middle to end Zumaya's scoreless innings streak at 12 and to tie the game at 6.

The Tigers responded in the ninth and finished the trip with a 5-6 record against three solid AL West teams in Seattle, the Los Angeles Angels and the Rangers. It's the longest road trip of the season for Detroit.

"It was OK," Leyland said. "It was a good trip."

Now comes Minnesota to Comerica Park, and the Tigers still don't have their starting pitching in line. Ace Justin Verlander goes Tuesday night against the Twins, and it is up to him to get the rotation turned around.

Leyland said as much after Monday's game.

"Up to this point, the reality of the situation is, if we can just get Verlander and [Rick] Porcello going, that gets us where we need to be," Leyland said. "I'm not upset about it. These guys have a couple of good starts and that takes the pressure off of the 'pen."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.