With the Detroit Tigers desperately needing a run, the team let the men in the middle of the order take care of business.
After a successful challenge from Tigers manager Brad Ausmus which awarded Rajai Davis his stolen base, and Torii Hunter reaching first base on a walk in the ninth inning, reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera strolled to the plate with two on and two out.
Cabrera unleashed on a hanging breaking ball for a three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to give the Tigers (23-12) their first runs of the game and the lead. Victor Martinez would lay into a Tommy Hunter pitch as well that just sneaked inside the foul pole for his ninth homer, which gave the Tigers the 4-1 lead against the Baltimore Orioles.
Joe Nathan would close out the Orioles (20-17) in the bottom of the ninth after a 4-6-3 double play to give the Tigers the 4-1 win on the road. The win marked the Tigers 13th in the past 17 games since April 24.
Cabrera brought his average up to .298 including six home runs and 33 RBI after his performance on Tuesday night. The slugger went 2-for-3 with a walk to go along with his late home run that gave the Tigers the lead.
Martinez was the only other Tiger with multiple hits against the Orioles, going 2-for-4 that including the solo home run in the ninth inning. The 35-year-old designated hitter has an insane slash line of .331/.380/.583 to open the 2014 season. His .963 OPS is almost 85 points better than any other season and is in Cabrera territory. The sample size is small, but Martinez has been unbelievable in helping the Tigers get off to the hot start in 2014.
Smyly was terrific in six innings of work for the Tigers, just one run on five hits including seven strikeouts. The only run came off bat of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who ripped a line drive that just cleared the left field fence in the first inning. After that home run, the game didn’t see a run scored until Cabrera’s heroics in the ninth inning.
Former AL Central nemesis Ubaldo Jimenez baffled Tigers batters all night, allowing no runs on three hits in seven innings pitched. The right-hander also recorded seven strikeouts to only two walks in what was a vintage start from the veteran hurler. The Tigers were never a threat all game until late, as they were just 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
Davis came in as a pinch runner in the ninth inning after an Alex Avila single to get things going for the Tigers late in the game. The speedster would swipe his 13th base of the season. To put that in perspective, the Tigers only had 35 stolen bases as a team in all of 2013 under Jim Leyland.
The bullpen was sharp in relief for Drew Smyly, as Justin Miller threw two scoreless innings followed by Nathan’s save in the ninth inning. Since the rough start to the season, the bullpen has become respectable for the Tigers a reason why the team has won 13 of 17 games over the past few weeks.
The Tigers will look for the series sweep on the road of the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon before continuing their road trip north into Boston to face the Red Sox. Justin Verlander is set to make the start against Kevin Gausman of the Orioles, who is making his season debut. The afternoon game from Camden Yards is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. EST.