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Monday, May 20, 2013
Miggy unstoppable, but what about Tigers?

By David Schoenfield


Well, Miguel Cabrera was due.

I mean, he'd gone a whole four games without a home run. He'd driven in just two runs in his previous eight games. He was probably taking extra batting practice before Sunday's game. The bum.

Cabrera was a one-man wrecking crew on Sunday for the Detroit Tigers, however, going 4-for-4 with three home runs, a walk, four runs and five RBIs. Unfortunately, the Texas Rangers had more than one man and won 11-8 to capture the first showdown of the season between the two teams many consider the best in the American League by winning three of four games, including a battering of Justin Verlander on Thursday.

More on that in a moment. First, let us appreciate the greatness of Cabrera. The scary thing about his hot start -- he's hitting .387 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs, leading the AL in batting and RBIs while ranking one behind the league leaders in home runs -- is that last season he heated up after May. He hit nine home runs and 42 RBIs through the end of May, still a pretty good two months for most players, but then hit .336 with 35 home runs from June 1 onward. What if he hasn't even heated up yet? I mean, the dude is on pace for 181 RBIs, putting him within spitting distance of Hack Wilson's record of 191. He's making it seem possible that he could win another Triple Crown.

Yes, it's mid-May, but Cabrera is so good it doesn't sound ridiculous mentioning stuff like this.

How do you get him out right now? He's hitting .405 against fastballs. He's hitting .375 against inside pitches. He's hitting .314 on pitches outside the strike zone (with a bunch of walks, as well, since that's where walks come from). Get two strikes on him and he's still hitting .299, compared to the major league average of .194.

Unstoppable right now. Unstoppable.

But the Rangers stole his thunder, lashing out 18 hits in the win. Not a bad four games for Texas, which knocked out Verlander in the third inning on Thursday, Anibal Sanchez in the third inning on Saturday and Doug Fister in the fifth on Sunday.

Which sort of leaves me wondering: What exactly do we have with these Tigers? The AL Central looks much tougher than last season, when the Tigers sort of limped to the division title despite Cabrera's Triple Crown and huge seasons from Verlander, Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson. We're sort of seeing the same thing right now. Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball, Fielder is doing Fielder kinds of things, Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante are all hitting more than .300, and the rotation has generally been excellent before this series.

But for some reason, it hasn't all added up, and the Tigers are just 23-19, now two games behind the Indians. They're under .500 against teams not named "Astros" (17-18). Their run differential is plus-47, second in the AL behind the Rangers' plus-54 but just plus-11 against teams not named "Houston." And the Tigers don't get to play the Astros any more.

And, no, you can't blame the bullpen (although it did get the loss on Sunday). The bullpen ERA is 3.91, 21st in the majors, but still better than the Red Sox, Rays or Cardinals. Their OPS allowed is actually fifth-best in the majors. The relievers' record is 3-8, which is tied for the fewest wins in the majors, but that speaks as well to the offense's inability to score late and Detroit's 2-4 record in extra innings.

There are no questions about Cabrera, but this series certainly left us with some questions about his teammates.