Second on the list of Best Things to Happen to the Texas Rangers on Sunday Night was word from the visiting clubhouse that Miguel Cabrera’s bags were packed for a charter flight to Cleveland.
The reigning American League MVP tormented Rangers pitching, hitting three home runs, and dugout decision-makers in the finale of a four-game series.
The only thing that could trump Cabrera’s departure was the final score.
David Murphy hit a three-run homer in the sixth, and Adrian Beltre had a two-run bloop double in a four-run fifth as the Rangers rallied twice to beat the Tigers 11-8 on a wind-swept night at Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers took three of the four games against a team considered to be a contender to win the AL pennant, and upped their record to a baseball-best 29-15. But it wasn’t easy.
“However it was, we won the game. That’s the bottom line,” Beltre said. “We like to win easier than that, but we ended up getting the win against a team that’s really good offensively and had a really good pitching staff. We’re happy to take 3 of 4 in the series.”
Cabrera homered in the third, fifth and eighth innings, going 4 for 4 with five RBIs overall, and the decision to intentionally walk him in the sixth led to a three-run, go-ahead double by Prince Fielder.
Cabrera, who became the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown last year, leads the league in batting average (.387) and RBIs (47) and is second in homers (11).
“I’ve never seen a guy that put the bat head on the ball as regularly as he does,” manager Ron Washington said. “He’s just a tremendous hitter. I’ve never seen plate coverage like that. I’m very happy that he’s headed back to the airport.”
Said Beltre, jokingly: “He can’t hit. We know that. He hit three bloopers today.”
But Beltre’s blooper just inside the left-field line put the Rangers up 5-4 after trailing 4-1, and Murphy’s drive into the right-field seats with two outs an inning later erased the Fielder double and put the Rangers back in front 8-7.
Mitch Moreland added an infield hit later in the sixth to make it 9-7, and Murphy’s sacrifice fly and a two-out single by Lance Berkman an inning later made it 11-7 on a night when offense reigned and neither starting pitcher made it out of the fifth inning.
It didn’t appear that would be the case for either Derek Holland or Doug Fister early on.
Holland’s first eight pitches were strikes before he issued a two-out single to Cabrera in a scoreless first inning, and he found himself leading 1-0 after two thanks to a sacrifice fly by Mitch Moreland in the second.
But the Tigers opened the third with three straight hits, a double by Omar Infante, an infield hit by Torii Hunter and a 441-foot blast by Cabrera for a 3-1 lead.
Cabrera got Holland again in the fifth on a liner that carried until bouncing off the top of the center-field fence and onto Greene’s Hill. Holland walked Matt Tuiasosopo with two outs and was done after 106 pitches.
“I’m disappointed in the way I approached Tuiasosopo,” Holland said. “Cabrera, you just have to tip your cap to the guy.”
The Rangers put a quick end to Fister’s night in the home half of the fifth. They entered the inning with only four hits, two on the infield, but Geovany Soto opened with a double and Craig Gentry followed with a single.
After Leury Garcia was out on a sliding catch by Tuiasosopo in left, Elvis Andrus grounded out to push home Soto. Fister, though, walked Murphy and issued an RBI single to Berkman.
Beltre was next, and his pop-up hit off the glove of shortstop Jhonny Peralta and deflected into foul territory as both runners charged home for a 5-4 lead.
Detroit, though, loaded the bases in the sixth on two singles and the intentional walk to Cabrera to get to Fielder in a left-on-left matchup against Michael Kirkman. Fielder won, with a liner to the center-field wall.
But the Rangers kept coming. They had runners at first and second with two outs in the sixth when Murphy hit his fifth homer of the season, and the next three reached before Moreland’s infield hit.
Murphy and Berkman delivered again in the seventh, but Cabrera launched his third homer with two outs in the eighth off Tanner Scheppers, who entered the game with the lowest ERA among relief pitchers in the major leagues.
“A great team like that, you never let up,” Murphy said. “You like to have your lead at multiple runs there because their offense is dynamic and they can hurt you in a lot of ways and they can turn the game around in a hurry.”
Joe Nathan finally put an end to the Rangers’ longest game of the season (3 hours, 46 minutes), pitching around a leadoff walk to Tuiasosopo for his 36th career save against the Tigers in his 36th opportunity.