Cabrera's big night helps Tigers clinch Central


Cabrera's big night helps Tigers clinch Central

From Comcast SportsNet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- There could have been some infighting when the Detroit Tigers were languishing below .500 midway through the season, or even when they trailed the Chicago White Sox deep into September.

This was the team, after all, that won the AL Central last year, and was only supposed to get better with the signing of Prince Fielder. But the lofty expectations out of spring training had been long forgotten by everyone outside the clubhouse, the season so often close to being written off.

Then the White Sox started to falter, the Tigers finally started to play defense, and all the pieces came together for a joyous ride that ended in a raucous celebration Monday night.

The Tigers, paced by MVP front-runner Miguel Cabrera, beat the Kansas City Royals 6-3 to clinch back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1934-35 seasons.

"It was a rocky road, it was a tough season, but in this business, you have to be able to take some hits," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "This isn't a place for the faint-hearted, hell, we took a lot of punches, a lot of them justified, some of them maybe not, but hey, we can take a punch."

They're just as likely to come out swinging, too.

Cabrera had four hits on the night, including a homer during a decisive five-run sixth inning, to prop up his chances of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

Gerald Laird added a bases-loaded double, Rick Porcello (10-12) pitched shutout ball into the sixth inning and Jhonny Peralta went deep off Bruce Chen (11-14) to give the Tigers a big lead.

After hanging over the dugout railing the entire ninth inning, they streamed onto the field behind the pitchers' mound to celebrate their division title the moment Jose Valverde got Alcides Escobar to ground out to shortstop with a runner on second for his 35th save in 40 chances.

"We always knew it wasn't going to be easy, and the guys handled it great," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "This is the first step. We want to go a couple more, too."

The Tigers were even mindful of their victory celebration, choosing Fre Brut -- an alcohol-removed sparkling wine -- in deference to Cabrera, who's had alcohol abuse problems.

"It feels really good," Fielder said. "I mean, it wasn't easy, but we got it done."

The Tigers (87-73) will have the worst record among AL division champions, which means they'll open the playoffs Saturday at home against the division winner with the second-best mark.

Not that when and where matters much to Leyland's bunch.

They're just glad to be back in the playoffs.

"You've got to take your hat off to them. They're the champs," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They've got the starting pitching, the power, a great bullpen. They've got a chance to go deep."

It hasn't just been Cabrera, either. Justin Verlander is closing in another Cy Young Award, right-hander Anibal Sanchez has been terrific down the stretch, and Fielder has delivered everything that Detroit had hoped for when they signed him, including four more hits Monday night.

"You get that kind of momentum, usually it ends up very good," said team owner Mike Ilitch, who has spent a lot of money to chase the Tigers' first World Series title since 1984.

The Tigers clung to a 1-0 lead, provided by Peralta's homer, until their big sixth inning.

Cabrera broke a tie with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the major league lead in homers with his 44th, a solo shot to right, and two fielding mistakes by David Lough in center led to another run.

Laird's bases-loaded double knocked Chen from the game, and effectively knocked the White Sox out of the playoffs, though they didn't do much to help themselves down the stretch.

Chicago beat the Indians 11-0 earlier in the night for just its third win in 13 games.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have won seven of their last eight as they surged to the division crown, including five straight against the Royals, who have dropped eight of their last nine.

Porcello kept the Royals off the scoreboard until the sixth, when Alex Gordon's homer to right field finally gave Kansas City some life. Leyland wasted no time lifting his right-hander, who'd done enough to end a string of six straight losses and pick up his first victory in nine starts.

Cabrera had singles in the fourth, seventh and ninth in addition to his homer in the sixth, pushing his AL-leading batting average to .329, ahead of the Angels' Mike Trout and the Twins' Joe Mauer. Cabrera also moved his RBI total to 137, by far the best in the majors.

Cabrera was only part of the party Monday night, though, slapping backs and exchanging high-fives with the rest of his teammates as Detroit locked up its place in the postseason.

He could be the center of the celebration when the regular season ends Wednesday night.

"I don't know what else to say," Leyland said. "If he's not the MVP then there's no such thing."

Quick Links

Urrutia outrighted to Bowie; does he have a future with Orioles?

Urrutia outrighted to Bowie; does he have a future with Orioles?

BALTIMORE — Three years ago, Henry Urrutia was a flavor of the month for the Orioles. He arrived in the United States in Feb. 2013, seven months after the Orioles agreed to sign him. 

Urrutia was a Cuban defector, who stayed in Haiti until he could get clearance to enter the U.S. When he came, he didn’t speak any English, and manager Buck Showalter was intrigued by him. 

He was long and lean and certainly looked like a ballplayer. Less than five months after his arrival, Urrutia made his major league debut. 

It didn’t go badly, but he showed no power and batted .276 with no walks in 24 games. Urrutia played just three innings in left field, and was returned to the minor leagues. 

2014 was a lost season for him, and he missed significant time with a sports hernia, but last season, Urrutia made it back to the major leagues, and two years after his arrival in this country, he was fluent in English and happily living in Sarasota, Fla. 

Urrutia batted .265 in 10 games and had a game-ending home run. He even drew his first walks. 

The Orioles sent him back to the minors to make room for fellow Cuban Dariel Alvarez late last August, and he hasn’t been in the majors since. 

Urrutia was sent down to Bowie because of a glut of outfielders at Norfolk, and despite batting .298 with the Baysox, was designated for assignment last week. The Orioles chose veteran outfielder Julio Borbon to temporarily fill in while Hyun Soo Kim was on the disabled list instead of Urrutia. 

Borbon can play center field, which came in handy when Adam Jones missed a game due to back spasms. 

Urrutia has cleared waivers, it was announced on Thursday, and will head back to Bowie. 

It seems unlikely that Urrutia will return to the Orioles since Borbon can serve as a pinchrunner, too. 

Borbon, meanwhile, was also designated for assignment, and the Orioles hope that he stays with the organization. 


Quick Links

Stephen A. Smith and ESPN's 'First Take' are coming to Redskins camp

Stephen A. Smith and ESPN's 'First Take' are coming to Redskins camp

Because of Richmond's weather, the Redskins aren't going to want any additional heat during training camp. More will be coming their way next week, though.

Stephen A. Smith and ESPN's First Take will be filming live from the Bon Secours training center on Thursday, Aug. 4, according to a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Smith and his fiery takes will be joined in Virginia by his co-host Max Kellerman, as well as former Redskins safety Ryan Clark, starting at 10 a.m. and ending at noon.

Smith, of course, has been a fixture on the program, while Kellerman just recently stepped in for Skip Bayless (if both Smith and Bayless were heading to Richmond, the players might have melted as a result of the scalding conversations the two were known to have). Perhaps Kellerman could solicit some advice from Kirk Cousins on how to succeed in a new job, since the 'Skins quarterback did so well when he was promoted in 2015.

For fans wanting to check out the show themselves, gates will be opening that day at 9:30 in the morning.


Quick Links

Before football, Josh Norman and others got in a little futbol on Thursday

Before football, Josh Norman and others got in a little futbol on Thursday

To watch a group of Redskins kick around a soccer ball — not effortlessly, but definitely decently — watch the video above.

With the U.S. Men's National Team constantly looking for goal scorers, a potentially prolific trio just put their first piece of film together on Thursday: Duke Ihenacho, Logan Paulsen and Josh Norman.

On paper, a burly tight end and a pair of defensive backs don't exactly sound like an ideal fit for the pitch, but the three made it work in Richmond before they took the field for the beginning of Redskins' training camp. Thankfully, CSN's cameras were there to capture the performance.

Of the players, Ihenacho displayed the most enthusiasm but Paulsen, surprisingly, had the cleanest touch. Norman, meanwhile, came in at the end of the sequence and looked quite capable as well. Overall, for guys used to football and not futbol, it was a pretty solid showing.

Your move, Jurgen Klinsmann.