Miguel Cabrera became the first player in Tigers history to reach 30 home runs in five straight seasons and Max Scherzer threw seven scoreless innings for Detroit in a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
Cabrera also singled in the fifth off Cole De Vries (2-4) to push his majors-leading total to 103 RBIs. His opposite-field solo shot in the first inning put the Tigers in front, and Scherzer (12-6) struck out 10 batters to move ahead of teammate Justin Verlander for the AL lead for at least a few days. Delmon Young added a two-run homer against his former team.
The Tigers began the day two games behind Chicago in the AL Central, with seven contests remaining between them this season, and they kept the pressure on the White Sox — as well as the wild card leaders — with a well-rounded performance against a division rival that used to be a nemesis for them.
The Tigers have won 25 of their last 34 games against the Twins, who rallied to beat them out for the Central title in both 2006 and 2009. Overall, Detroit has won 27 of 43 since June 28, the best record in the league during that stretch.
Cabrera went 6 for 14 in this series and 10 for 24 on the road trip.
Scherzer started the game in fitting fashion, striking out the first two batters in the first inning and then walking the first two Twins he faced in the second. The 28-year-old has continued to fight persistent control problems and high pitch counts that hinder his ability to work deeper into games, but he's also become one of baseball's most powerful pitchers.
So what happened after those two walks to start the second? He struck out three straight to finish the inning.
Scherzer walked just those two batters and allowed four hits. The right-hander improved to 6-1 in his last nine starts and reached double-digit strikeouts for the fourth time this year. He threw 117 pitches, matching his third-most this season.
Young was traded to the Tigers a year ago to the day, and he homered against the Twins that time, too. This, though, was only the second time he went deep in 113 at-bats since the All-Star break. He has 13 home runs this season.
De Vries stumbled badly the last time he took the mound, by far the worst of his 12 career starts, when he gave up eight runs, got only four outs and described the batting practice display by Tampa Bay as an "ambush job." The right-hander was a little better this time, but he failed to record an out in the fifth before Jeff Manship was summoned from the bullpen.
De Vries hasn't won since June 30. He allowed eight hits, four runs and two walks while striking out three.
The Twins played without center fielder Denard Span for the third straight game because of a sore right shoulder.
They put the leadoff man on three times, including Justin Morneau's seventh-inning double, but couldn't manage more against Scherzer. Joe Mauer's RBI single in the eighth against Octavio Dotel kept the Twins from being shut out for the first time since June 23 at Cincinnati.
NOTES: Both teams have Thursday off. Verlander (12-7, 2.46 ERA) pitches for the Tigers on Friday, when they start a three-game series at home against fellow wild card competitor Baltimore. RH Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.54 ERA) takes the mound for the Orioles. The Twins travel to Seattle, with RH Nick Blackburn (4-8, 7.33 ERA) pitching Friday against RH Hisashi Iwakuma (3-3, 4.16 ERA) of the Mariners. ... The Tigers have decided to keep surging RH Doug Fister on his regular rest pattern and start him Sunday against the Orioles. Struggling newcomer Anibal Sanchez will be bumped back to Wednesday. Sanchez, the RH acquired in a trade last month with Miami, is 1-3 with a 7.97 ERA in four starts with the Tigers. ... Pedro Florimon, recalled from Triple-A Rochester when struggling SS Brian Dozier was sent down, became the 43rd player used by the Twins this season. Florimon, Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla will share time at SS and 2B.