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Cabrera, Verlander team up to help Tigers top Athletics

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Associated Press
9/19/2012 11:28:01 PM
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DETROIT -- Detroit manager Jim Leyland had his head on a swivel, looking at reporters when they asked a question one moment and glancing up toward the TV in his office with Kansas City leading Chicago when it got quiet.

"If I didn't have this on, I might as well go home," Leyland said.

The Tigers improved their chances of sticking around beyond the regular season when Miguel Cabrera homered, Omar Infante drove in three runs and Justin Verlander pitched six scoreless innings to help them beat the Oakland Athletics 6-2 on Wednesday night.

The Royals later helped out with a 3-0 win over the White Sox that trimmed their lead to two games over Detroit in the AL Central with 14 games remaining.

The Tigers have won two straight over the A's -- and 28 of their last 36 games at home.

"We played a couple good games against one of the hottest teams in all of baseball," Leyland said. "That's pretty good."

Oakland, clinging to an AL wild-card spot, has dropped three straight and might have had a costly loss on the mound because Brett Anderson (4-2) left the game after two-plus innings with a strained right oblique.

"He's getting an MRI right now," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "So, we won't know anything until he gets back."

Melvin plans to pitch Dan Strally in Anderson's spot in the rotation if he can't make his next start.

The A's forced Justin Verlander (15-8) to throw 122 pitches and that ended his night. He allowed five hits and three walks while striking out five.

"It was a grind," Verlander said.

Octavio Dotel struck out two in a perfect seventh. Joaquin Benoit had two strikeouts in the eighth. Jose Valverde closed the game in a non-save situation, entering with a six-run lead, and was booed after giving up two-out RBI singles to Cliff Pennington and Stephen Drew.

Detroit played some small ball to take a 3-0 lead in the third.

Andy Dirks and Gerald Laird started the inning with bunt singles and advanced on Austin Jackson's groundout. Infante followed with a double down the left-field line to put the Tigers up 2-0.

"Those were two perfect bunts or they would have been outs," Melvin said.

Infante's groundout in the eighth inning gave the Tigers a six-run lead.

After walking Cabrera intentionally and giving Prince Fielder a free pass on four pitches to load the bases, Anderson was injured while pitching to Delmon Young. Anderson fell forward and landed awkwardly after throwing his 48th pitch. Oakland trainer Nick Paparesta and Melvin talked with Anderson briefly on the field before deciding to take him out of the game.

"We could see earlier in the inning that he was trying to stretch out his back, so I don't think the fall had anything to do with it," Melvin said. "We just checked him at that point and decided we didn't want to go any farther with him."

Right-hander Pat Neshek replaced Anderson and Young promptly hit a sacrifice fly to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta had an error in the fifth -- snapping a 75-game errorless streak -- but he helped turn a double play to end the inning. He chipped in at the plate in the home half, hitting an RBI single to put Detroit ahead 4-0.

Cabrera sent Jim Miller's 94 mph high fastball on an 0-2 pitch over the fence in left field for his 41st home run and 130th RBI to bolster his shot at being baseball's first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski pulled off the feat in 1967.

"It's something that is a dream," Cabrera said. "But right now, I got to focus on trying to help us make the playoffs."

Verlander said it has been "unbelievable," to watch Cabrera this season.

"Obviously, he's got my support for MVP," the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner. "He's one home run away from the Triple Crown, and that's a rarity in baseball, and that's a testament to how good of a player he is.

"Look at the ball he hit for a home run. We were talking about that, you just don't see that. You execute your pitch, 94 up at his chin, and he hits a home run.

NOTES: Tigers RHP Max Scherzer hopes to make his next scheduled start on Sunday at home against Minnesota. He left the series opener against Oakland after just two innings because of a fatigued right shoulder. "It wasn't sharp pain, it was weakness," he said. "I need a couple days of not throwing." ... A's OF Coco Crisp didn't play because of infections in both eyes and Melvin is hoping his contagious ailment doesn't spread. "He's got his own towels," Melvin said. ... Tigers C Alex Avila, still feeling the effects of colliding with Fielder on Sunday, didn't play and the team is hoping he'll return this weekend at home against the Twins. ... Peralta's 75-game scoreless streak was the longest by a position player for the Tigers in a season since at least 1957.

Justin Verlander  (Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
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