Miggy's blast backs impressive Anibal in win
DETROIT -- Brandon Morrow led the American League in strikeouts per nine innings in 2011, and he fanned eight Cleveland Indians over six innings in his last start. He had nine two-strike counts out of 21 batters against the Tigers on Tuesday, but no strikeouts.
Morrow had eight guys reach base with two outs in an inning. His day ended with two outs in the fourth inning when Miguel Cabrera cleared them.
That, as much as anything, might tell the story about the offense in the Tigers' 7-3 win over the Blue Jays at Comerica Park. On a day the Tigers welcomed school field trips to Comerica Park for their Math Day promotion, they leveraged the numbers.
The Tigers had plenty of other statistics, too, from Cabrera's second four-hit performance in three games to Prince Fielder's four times on base to Torii Hunter's three hits to reach 2,000 for his career. But they had very few bad at-bats.
The Tigers missed out on chances to add on, leaving the bases loaded against Morrow in the third inning and failing to convert a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity against Esmil Rogers in the seventh. Yet on a day when Anibal Sanchez struck out eight Jays over seven innings of two-run ball, they did plenty.
"This lineup, it's amazing," Sanchez said. "That's why I took the decision to come back here. I know that we have a pretty good team. I know that right now we have Victor [Martinez] out, but if you put out that lineup, I think everybody has to play harder. They have to play hard with us."
Morrow threw 52 of his 83 pitches for strikes, but lasted just 3 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits. He had plenty of quality pitches to get ahead of hitters, but nothing to finish them off.
"I kept throwing my slider in the dirt," Morrow said. "I tried to make an adjustment that last at-bat to Hunter and left it up a little bit. They just weren't biting on the stuff when I was ahead in the count. They got back into some counts, I left some pitches over the plate when I was ahead, and that was kind of the whole game."
The Tigers, in turn, made him pay. Four of the five runs they scored off Morrow came after he had two outs and nobody on.
Cabrera was actually the catalyst in the first rally, singling to continue the first inning for Fielder to drive him in with a double to the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field. Alex Avila, seeing his first pitch at the plate since he became a father on Sunday, lofted it beyond the fence in right field leading off the second inning for a 2-0 lead.
Cabrera nearly had another RBI on his third-inning single, getting an 0-2 fastball down and in and grounding it through the right side before Rajai Davis threw out Hunter trying to score. A pair of two-out walks, including Avila after an 0-2 count, loaded the bases before Morrow escaped with a Jhonny Peralta groundout.
Still, with this lineup, Morrow was tempting fate. The fourth inning was one time too many.
Hunter's early tear was already well known, especially his ability to hit to the opposite field with Austin Jackson on base. Once Jackson hit a ground ball through the middle to extend the inning, Hunter took a fastball and fouled off another before Morrow thought he had him set up.
"He got us down early by keeping a little cutter low and away, and we couldn't really do much with it," Hunter said. "And then with two strikes, he'd elevate and we were able to do something with it."
With a 3-1 count on Cabrera, Morrow had two choices: Load the bases for Fielder, or challenge Cabrera -- who already had two hits -- with a strike. Cabrera got to the slider and sent it down the right-field line. It was his first home run of the year, and the first example of the year of him hitting to right field with authority.
"To me, he's the best opposite-field home run hitter, probably in the history of the game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I've never seen anything like it, to be honest with you. I truly believe that. I think he's got the best opposite-field power of anybody I've ever seen."
Cabrera became the first player with 100 home runs in Comerica Park, once known among the toughest home-run parks for hitters. Hunter became the 14th active Major League player to 2,000 hits when he singled off Rogers in the sixth, again working his way out of an 0-2 count.
In fact, the Tigers didn't have a strikeout until their final out of the day, when Edgar Gonzalez fanned Peralta to end the eighth inning. If not for that, they would've had their first game with at least 15 hits and no strikeouts for the first time since 1982, and just their second since 1958, according to research on baseball-reference.com.
Sanchez (1-0) retired his last seven batters he faced after Melky Cabrera singled in Jose Reyes in the fifth to draw Toronto to within 5-2. He was helped by Don Kelly's catch to take a home run away from J.P. Arencibia leading off the second inning.