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Cabrera launches first All-Star Game homer

Tigers slugger gives American League three-run lead in first inning

MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Cabrera's response to questions Tuesday afternoon about his recovery from offseason surgery and its impact on his power lasted two words.

"I'm good," he said before Tuesday night's All-Star Game on his way out of the clubhouse.

One first-inning swing backed up the words.

It was a line drive Cabrera hit hard enough to clear the left-field wall, and it gave the American League All-Stars a three-run lead in an eventual 5-3 victory over the National League. It also put Cabrera on the home run ledger for the first time in nine career appearances in the Midsummer Classic.

He didn't need to say much after that.

"It felt good. I feel good," Cabrera said on his way out of Target Field, fishing pole in hand. "See you back in Detroit."

His swing did most of his talking. It left everybody else to react.

"He's special, man," teammate Ian Kinsler said. "You've seen it. We've all seen it. Nothing really surprises me. With Miggy, that's what he does. That's why he hits cleanup for the American League."

Cabrera was 2-for-12 with a double and an RBI in his previous eight All-Star Games. He became the first Tiger to homer in an All-Star Game since Lou Whitaker sent a Dwight Gooden pitch deep into the Astrodome in 1986.

Cabrera's victim, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, earned the start for the NL All-Stars in part because he had allowed just four home runs this season, none since May 30.

"If you go look at where the pitch Miguel Cabrera hit out of the park was, he's a Nintendo-type player. He's so good," Wainwright said. "The ball is on the white chalk line off the plate. Nobody keeps that ball fair. He's just a very good hitter."

It was a pitch far enough inside that it brought back memories of the home run he hit off Phil Hughes at Yankee Stadium last August. That pitch was well in and off the plate, too, before Cabrera sent it deep into the left-field seats.

Max Scherzer was in the dugout for that one. He saw Tuesday's shot from the bullpen.

"Surprised? At this point in time, I expect it," he said. "I expect greatness out of him, because he has absolutely wowed me every single day in Detroit. The things that he can do, no one else can do.

"He has as much fun as anybody, but when he's between the lines, he plays as hard as anybody, fights hard at the plate and defensively for you. He really is one of my favorite teammates I've ever played with."

Cabrera's All-Star home run comes in a season in which his power output has been down after back-to-back 44-homer seasons. While his 34 doubles mark his best pace since 2004, his 14 home runs mark his lowest total entering the break since his rookie season of 2003.

Cabrera has cited issues with his swing at different times this year and did the same when he declined an invitation for Monday's Gillette Home Run Derby. On Monday, he told USA Today's Jorge Ortiz in Spanish that he still experiences muscle tightness in his recovery from core muscle surgery last winter. Cabrera downplayed those issues when asked Tuesday.

"He jokes around that he's a doubles hitter," Kinsler said, "but in the second half, anything can happen. If he gets in a groove, it's the most dangerous at-bat in the game. He showed that tonight, again, on the biggest stage."

According to baseball-reference, Cabrera hit the 24th first-inning homer in All-Star Game history, and the first since Boston's Manny Ramirez and Texas' Alfonso Soriano both went deep against Houston's Roger Clemens in the 2004 game at Minute Maid Park.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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