DETROIT -- Jose Cabrera's first game back from the disabled list quickly provided a reminder of what the Tigers missed while he was out, courtesy of Indians ace Corey Kluber.
"Of course he hits a home run his first game back," teammate Alex Avila said after Tuesday's 5-2 win.
For his career, Cabrera has owned Kluber, now 23-for-52 against the former American League Cy Young Award winner. But last year, Kluber held him to 1-for-12 last year with three strikeouts. His two-run homer in the third inning Tuesday was his sixth career homer off of Kluber. But it wasn't necessarily a home-run ball.
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"There's a reason he's probably the best hitter of our generation," Kluber said. "It was a good pitch."
It was a 94-mph fastball inside, up a little and off the plate, an area Cabrera usually shrugs off or hits softly -- well, by his standards. This time, he turned on it and pulled it out.
"He brings his hands in, he's just a special hitter," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's a pretty good piece of hitting."
It wasn't hit hard, just a 92.1 mph exit velocity according to Statcast™. But he hit it well. It was his first home run pulled out to left field since last Sept. 20 against the Twins at Target Field. But it was his fourth home run to left field off Kluber, and an example why he has twice as many home runs off Kluber as anybody else in baseball (fellow Tigers Justin Upton and Victor Martinez are among a handful of others with three homers each).
Cabrera's homer tally off Kluber includes two sinkers, two cutters, a changeup and now a four-seamer.
"He threw me a good pitch," Cabrera said. "I was very lucky to put a good swing. I'm glad it went out."
While the Tigers collectively roughed up Kluber for five runs in three innings before he left with lower back discomfort, Cabrera's homer was the catalyst. After missing the previous nine games with a right groin strain, it made his first trip around the bases an easy trot. It was his only hit of the evening; he went 1-for-4 before leaving after a seventh-inning double play.
The groin injury tightened up on him in the same spot as last time, he said, and he left for a defensive replacement as a precaution. It wasn't a re-injury or a setback so much as a preventative measure.
"Not like it pulled, but it did tighten," manager Brad Ausmus said, "so we just played it cautious and got him out of there. He was standing around a lot on a cold night, especially with the win."
Cabrera talked with Ausmus after the game, and agreed with the need to be careful not to worsen it. But he also said he expects to be back on the field on Wednesday.
"Same mentality as today," he said. "Be ready to play tomorrow and try to be out there nine innings."