CLEVELAND (AP) – Nobody rocks Cleveland like Miguel Cabrera.
Detroit’s menacing slugger homered twice and drove in four runs as the Tigers moved to 6-0 for the first time in 30 years with an 8-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
Cabrera, who entered the series batting just .182, hit a two-run homer in the first inning off T.J. House (0-1) and J.D. Martinez added an insurance solo shot in the ninth as the Tigers finished off a series sweep, improving to 18-5 in Cleveland since 2013.
Cabrera went 4 for 4 with his first two homers of the season, a double and single. With Cabrera needing a triple for the cycle, Indians manager Terry Francona intentionally walked him in the eighth even though there was a runner on first.
During the three-game series, he went 11 of 14 (.786) with six RBIs, and raised his average to .520.
“He’s special, man. He’s special,” Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “He’s fun to watch and a game should be sold out just because of him. People should just want to come watch him hit. It’s incredible.”
Not to the Indians.
Cabrera pounds Cleveland pitching like no one else. For his career, he’s batting .357 with 37 homers and 118 RBIs in 133 games against the Indians, who haven’t figured out a way to even slow him down. Cabrera has 23 homers – the most by any player – at Progressive Field, which had its right-field section remodeled during the winter. Cabrera threatened to renovate left field with his two homers.
Cabrera isn’t just partial to Cleveland’s ballpark.
“He’s a freak anywhere we go,” Justin Verlander said.
The Tigers are 6-0 for the first time since 1985, and they’ve served early notice that they’re going to give up their spot atop the AL Central without fight.
“I’ll put it in perspective,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s the first week of the season and I’m not ready to throw any parties.”
The Tigers jumped to a 6-0 lead after two innings, giving Kyle Lobstein (1-0) a comfortable cushion. Joakim Soria worked the ninth for his second save.
The Indians had a rough opening weekend at home in their spectacularly remodeled ballpark. In addition to being swept by the division’s four-time reigning champions, All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley missed two games with a back issue and Cleveland lost catcher Yan Gomes for at least six weeks with a sprained knee.
After the Indians pulled within 6-3 in the third, Cabrera led off the fourth with his second homer.
Francona said the Indians would have walked Cabrera when they could, but there weren’t opportunities.
“He’s that good a hitter and when he feels that good at the plate, that’s a bad feeling,” Francona said.
The top of Detroit’s lineup did the majority of the early damage, as the Tigers top five hitters went 6 for 6 with six runs, a homer and three walks in the first two innings.
Detroit didn’t let House get out of the second, rocking the left-hander for six runs and six hits in 1 1-3 innings – the shortest outing of his career.
Cabrera put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first with a 410-foot shot onto the pedestrian plaza in left. No injuries were reported.
“I don’t think it’s just us. I don’t think it’s just our pitching,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “I said it to maybe Kinsler or someone on second, ‘I’m glad we got to lock him back in’ and he’s like, ‘You think you’re the only team that locks him back in?’ He’s just a special hitter.”
Verlander (strained right triceps) threw a bullpen session with no discomfort Sunday and is expected to pitch in a simulated game Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Verlander threw about 45 pitches including curveballs.
Tigers: DH Victor Martinez was in the lineup despite leaving Saturday’s game in the seventh inning with a left leg injury. Martinez appeared to hurt himself on an overswing. He hit an RBI single and gingerly jogged to first before he was replaced by a pinch runner. Martinez has had multiple surgeries on his left knee, most recently in February.
Indians: Brantley missed his fourth game with a back issue. Francona said Brantley felt “slightly better” after resting Saturday and believes two more days – the Indians are off Monday – of rest will help. Francona remains hopeful Brantley won’t go on the disabled list, but hasn’t ruled it out.
Tigers: RHP Anibal Sanchez starts as Detroit opens a three-game interleague series in Pittsburgh. He blanked Minnesota on three hits over 6 2-3 innings in his season debut.
Indians: After an off-day, RHP Carlos Carrasco starts the opener of a two-game home series with the White Sox. Carrasco struck out 10 in his first start last week, one day after signing a four-year, $22 million contract.
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