DETROIT (AP) – Miguel Cabrera had more hits Saturday than he did over the first four games of the season combined.
His teammates were pretty good, too.
Cabrera drove in one of four runs in the fifth inning on a 4-for-4 day and the Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees 8-4 Saturday.
Prince Fielder, one of six Tigers to drive in a run, had two RBIs one day after a two-homer, five-RBI performance in an 8-3 win over New York.
“It’s a long season, we just have to keep this going,” Cabrera said. “We have to stay focused and do our jobs so we can win as many games as we can.”
The reigning Triple Crown winner had at least one RBI in his first four games this season and just three hits.
“One thing we’re pretty sure of, he’s going to hit,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said
Max Scherzer (1-0) gave up four runs in five-plus innings to pick up the win in a shaky start, his first of the season.
Phil Hughes (0-1) allowed four runs – three earned – on eight hits in four-plus innings on a day he was originally scheduled to make a rehabilitation start in the minors.
“I felt good early on,” he said. “The fifth inning was a big inning and I didn’t make pitches when I needed to.”
Detroit led 5-1 after five innings. New York pulled within a run in the sixth, then let Detroit go ahead 7-4 in the home half.
The Tigers will play for a series sweep Sunday in a matchup of aces, Detroit’s Justin Verlander and New York’s CC Sabathia.
Jayson Nix, filling in for Derek Jeter’s injured backup, Eduardo Nunez, failed to field a routine grounder that allowed leadoff batter Austin Jackson to reach first. Jackson advanced to third on Cabrera’s single and scored on Fielder’s sacrifice fly.
“That’s the reason you have to get the leadoff guy out,” Hughes said. “It’s a tough lineup, but if you make your pitches, it’s not that difficult.”
Vernon Wells sent a 2-0 pitch into the left field seats in the second to make it 1-all. Torii Hunter kept it tied by throwing out Brennan Boesch – easily – on Francisco Cervelli’s fly to right after the outfielder got to, but couldn’t catch Boesch’s drive.
Leyland said Hunter’s throw was a “huge” part of the game.
“That’s a bit of a momentum take-away,” Leyland said. “And a play like that can get lost in the shuffle.”
Jackson hit his first of three singles in the four-run fifth in which Hunter, Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta each had an RBI.
“We swung the bats pretty good throughout the lineup and that’s a good thing to see,” Leyland said. “We talk about it all the time, when you extend your lineup like that, it’s important.”
Hughes, who was to pitch a Triple-A game Saturday as he recovered from a back injury, had his outing ended when he gave up a double to Hunter in the pivotal inning. Boone Logan entered and gave up two hits and an unearned run, and getting only one out.
“The fifth inning was a killer,” Hughes said.
Hughes was one of five Yankees All-Stars on the disabled list with Jeter, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, first baseman Mark Teixeira and outfielder Curtis Granderson, leading to their 1-4 start.
“There’s still a lot of time to turn things around,” Hughes said.
New York got back into the game, briefly, by scoring three in the sixth and chasing Scherzer with two walks and Travis Hafner’s RBI single.
Al Alburquerque relieved Scherzer with a three-run lead, two on and no walks. He gave Wells a free pass on four pitches and had the good fortune of having a call overturned. Boesch lined out to Fielder and the first baseman stepped on the bag before Wells got there, but the first-base umpire signaled he was safe before conferring with the home-plate umpire to fix his mistake.
“They got the play right, that’s the most important part,” Leyland said.
After Alburquerque gave up another walk, Lyle Overbay hit a two-run single to pull the Yankees within a run.
Detroit restored a comfortable cushion with Fielder’s RBI groundout and Andy Dirks’ single in the sixth along with strong pitching from Downs and Benoit.
New York reliever Joba Chamberlain let Detroit take a four-run lead into the ninth, loading the bases by giving up a single to Cabrera and walking Fielder and Martinez to set up Dirks for a sacrifice fly.
Darin Downs and Joaquin Benoit combined to pitch three scoreless innings to finish up for the Tigers.
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