Inside Pitch: The Best Hitter in Baseball

Miguel Cabrera isn't your prototypical, one-dimensional, power-hitter. And that is why managers voted Cabrera the best hitter in the American League.

INSIDE PITCH

Miguel Cabrera goes against the grain of the stereotypical slugger.

Most power hitters are seen as one-dimensional hitters who yank the ball to left if they bat right-handed or to right if the hit from the left side.

Cabrera hits the ball to left, right and center.

Toronto, which at the outset of its four-game set with Detroit said it was going to avoid pitching to Cabrera if at all possible, passed on a chance to park him at first base with a runner on second and two out in the first inning.

Cabrera took an outside 1-1 pitch and drove it off the wall in extreme right field for a run-scoring double and his 107th RBI of the season.

He later singled to center to complete a 6-for-17 series against the Blue Jays in which he drove in three runs with a pair of home runs and two doubles.

But look at how his hits divide up.

Cabrera has 58 hits to left, 61 to center and 40 to right. Nearly a third of his 32 home runs have gone to right.

The ability to go with the pitch is normally something only seen in hitters such as center fielder Austin Jackson, whose spray chart is roughly similar to the first baseman's. Jackson has two home runs.

That ability to hit the ball to all fields, hit with power and average, is why Cabrera is considered by his peers one of the best hitters in baseball. He was voted by managers the best hitter in the American League in a Baseball America poll.

TIGERS 10, BLUE JAYS 4: LF Ryan Raburn hit two home runs to drive in four runs, 3B Brandon Inge added a two-run shot and RHP Rick Porcello turned in seven innings of two-hit ball for the second straight start to earn Detroit a split of its four-game series in Toronto. Raburn hit a solo home run in the seventh, the same inning in which Inge hit his, and added a three-run blow in the eighth. Rookie RF Casper Wells had an RBI single and a two-run double while 1B Miguel Cabrera doubled home a run in the first.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Rick Porcello pitched seven innings of two-hit ball Sunday for the second straight start. Porcello seems to have gotten back on track in his last five starts after struggling much of his sophomore season. A typical approach against Toronto was a low fastball followed by a slider on the outside corner, and he used that to win his third game in those five starts. He threw first-pitch strikes to just half of the 24 batters he faced but had two strikes on 15 Blue Jays and threw just 101 pitches. The only run he's allowed in his last two starts came on a solo home run to SS John McDonald in the sixth. "I was able to find my slider pretty early, and I think that was the biggest thing," Porcello said. "They are such a good fastball-hitting team, I knew going in I had to have a good off-speed pitch, whether it was my changeup or my slider."

--1B Miguel Cabrera doubled home a first-inning run to start Detroit on its way to its one-sided win. Cabrera later grounded a single up the middle for his 301st total base of the season. Cabrera is now grouped with three Hall of Fame players as the only Tigers to get 300 total bases in three straight seasons -- 1B/OF Hank Greenberg, 2B Charlie Gehringer and OF Harry Heilman. The Blue Jays vowed to be cautious pitching to Cabrera during the series, but he still went 6-for-17 in four games with two home runs, two doubles and three RBI.

--LF Ryan Raburn slammed a pair of home runs good for four RBI. Raburn has settled in since beginning to play regularly when RF Magglio Ordonez broke his right ankle July 24. Since Aug. 9, Raburn is 26-for-75 with seven home runs and 17 RBI. Manager Jim Leyland has played him mostly in left field but also at second and in right. Raburn could be in consideration for regular playing time next season. He hit 16 home runs a year ago hitting less than 400 times and now is just one RBI short of the 45 he had a year ago. "He's starting to understand that he belongs up here," Leyland said. "Like I've said many times, if he thought as much of himself as we thought of him, he'd be a real good player."

--2B Will Rhymes looks like one of those "makes something happen" guys. Rhymes has shown Detroit excellent range and a good arm at second and has been a pesky under-sized offensive player. Rhymes has been slotted behind leadoff hitter CF Austin Jackson most of the time and has sacrificed (often on his own) when Jackson reaches base to open a game. He also has functioned as a second leadoff man in that spot. Rhymes walked in the first inning against Toronto, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when the Blue Jays made the mistake of pitching to 1B Miguel Cabrera, who doubled to right. Rhymes singled in the eighth and scored on LF Ryan Raburn's second home run of the game.

--RHP Jose Valverde is still very erratic after a dominating first-half of the season. Manager Jim Leyland is trying to get his closer back on track after an assortment of circumstances (two mild injuries, irregular use, no save situations) have robbed him of his effectiveness. He pitched a tuneup inning against Toronto and was lit up for a three-run home run, giving him 15 runs allowed in 12 1/3 innings since July 25. His velocity was down in his previous appearance but on Sunday, Valverde was in his usual 94-97 mph range. However, his split-finger fastball was mostly flat or up in the strike zone where it could be hit. Leyland says his lack of a sharp split-finger has been the root of his problems.

--RF Casper Wells looked like an improved hitter against Toronto, collecting two hits Saturday and two more Sunday to drive in a total of five runs against the Blue Jays. Wells looked overmatched in his first tour of duty with Detroit this season but went back to Class AAA Toledo and modified his batting stance, going from an upright hitter to a bent-knee batter and that seems to have helped. He hit .350-plus in August for Toledo to earn a second shot with Detroit. He hit a 2-1 outside fastball for his RBI single in the fourth and a full-count fastball off the wall in dead center for his two-run double in the sixth.

--C Gerald Laird missed Detroit's last three games in Toronto due to back spasms but was hopeful of being able to play when Detroit returns to action Tuesday in Minnesota. "I started having spasms during batting practice (Friday) and took some pain killers before seeing a chiropractor," Laird said. "I'm feeling better." He normally would have started Sunday against LHP Marc Rzepczynski.

--Manager Jim Leyland will give all his starters an extra day of rest rather than skip someone due to Monday's day off. That means RHPs Armando Galarraga, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will start at Minnesota when that series begins Tuesday. RHP Jeremy Bonderman, who missed his Saturday start with right rib cage tightness, was scheduled to pitch Friday at Kansas City. "It happened during his last start," Tigers trainer Kevin Rand said of Bonderman's injury. "He felt it on a pitch in the third inning and still ended up pitching six. He felt some increased soreness the next day."

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Detroit players with three consecutive seasons of 300 or more total bases after 1B Miguel Cabrera doubled in a first-inning run Aug. 29. Cabrera joined Hall of Famers 1B/OF Hank Greenberg, 2B Charlie Gehringer and OF Harry Heilman in that grouping.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it sends the wrong message to say, 'Well, here's an opportunity to jump ship.' I'm not going to do it, not to these guys. I love Detroit and I love the fans. The tough thing is, there's no guarantee where I'll be next year. As much as I'd love to be back here, that's something the team doesn't really decide until the offseason. And I'm OK with that." -- DH/LF Johnny Damon, on part of his reasoning behind rejecting an offer to accept a waiver claim and return to Boston. The Red Sox were one of 21 teams Damon could refuse to go to as part of his Detroit contract.


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