Tigers fly high behind homegrown home run trio

August 16th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Cabrera has seen some crazy games in the Twin Cities. He homered in Game 163 down the street at the Metrodome, which is no longer standing. He was in the dugout for the four-hour slugfest two years ago that looked like a football score. His last game at Target Field will be remembered a lot more for the kids around him in the Tigers' lineup than for his 621st career double, and he’s totally fine with that.

He has watched , and since they broke into the big leagues -- in the case of Greene and Torkelson, well before that, since the year they were drafted. Cabrera has seen them fight through their growing pains and work to show they belong.

As he watched Detroit's homegrown trio pound the ball around this ballpark on Wednesday afternoon in a wild 8-7 win against the Twins, he not only saw the work paying off, he also likely saw the future of the Tigers’ offense. 

“Every time we see something special like they did today, we appreciate that,” Cabrera said. “They work hard for that. They keep focused. They want to do something special every day. They go and play every day. They don’t take anything for granted. They grind out every at-bat. That’s what it’s about out there. Go out there and make something happen.”

Wednesday was special, as much for what Detroit did as who did it. Torkelson had his second two-homer game in a week and came within feet of the first three-homer game by a Tiger since Victor Martinez in 2016. Greene came within a double of becoming the first Tiger to hit for the cycle since Carlos Guillen in 2006. He nearly got it in the ninth, settling for a sacrifice fly that plated Akil Baddoo with the eventual deciding run.

Add in Carpenter’s fourth homer in five games on this road trip, and the Tigers’ homegrown trio combined to go 7-for-13 with four homers, seven RBIs and six runs scored. They either scored or drove in every Detroit run in the finale, and the team needed every one of them.

“My god,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Those guys are ... I’m finished with them, and I mean that. We’ll see them again next year. That’ll be OK with me. 

“They’re making adjustments. They’re improving. They’re already very talented, and I think we’re OK saying we’ve seen enough of them and wish them good luck in the rest of their season. I hope they have a ton of great at-bats from here on out.”

As the Tigers try to figure out how to build an offense to match the typical strength of their pitching staff, the trio is a good place to start.

Greene, whose 453-foot home run on Thursday at Comerica Park was Detroit’s only run off starter Kenta Maeda in a pitching duel Detroit pulled out, reprised his role with a 448-foot homer to virtually the same part of right-center at Target Field, bouncing it off the upper-deck seats. Torkelson homered two batters later, sending a 432-foot drive to the second deck in left-center for his 20th homer of the season. The combination punch turned what had been a 4-0 deficit into a one-run game.

That margin still stood when the group erupted again in the seventh off reliever Griffin Jax. Greene followed Baddoo’s leadoff walk with a line drive off the wall in right-center, which he legged out for a game-tying triple. Greene scored on a Matt Vierling groundout to give the Tigers their first lead of the day before Torkelson and Carpenter hit back-to-back homers, the latter going opposite field off the facing of the second deck for his 16th homer of the season.

Torkelson has six home runs in his past seven games. He also became the first Tiger to hit six homers in a season against the Twins since Ronny Rodriguez in 2019. Torkelson did so in 13 games, thanks to this year’s more balanced schedule, something no Tiger had done since Magglio Ordonez homered six times in 11 matchups against the Twins in 2008.

“Even when I’m not feeling amazing at the plate, I feel like I can still get the job done,” Torkelson said. “I think that’s more rewarding than when you’re up there feeling sexy and you can hit everything.”

Not bad for a trio who were teammates at Double-A Erie two years ago while Cabrera was approaching the 500-homer club.

“We come out here and we play our hearts out,” said Greene, who said he hit for the cycle in high school. “This is what we love to do.”