DETROIT (AP) — Miguel Cabrera followed a pregame retirement celebration by scoring the first run and driving in another, helping the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Guardians 8-0 on Saturday to clinch second place in the AL Central.
The start of the game was delayed 33 minutes by the retirement celebration of Cabrera, the 40-year-old, 12-time All-Star who is playing his 21st and last big league season.
Cabrera went 1 for 4 with a double and is batting .260 with four homers and 34 RBIs. The 2012 AL Triple Crown winner plays his finale on Sunday, the same day Cleveland’s Terry Francona manages his final game.
Detroit (77-84) moved one game ahead of Cleveland (76-85). The Tigers are 8-4 against the Guardians this season and hold the tiebreaker should they finish with the same record.
“We feel good about the way we are finishing,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re playing hard, we’re playing smart and we’re finishing games. That gives me hope.”
Cabrera led off the fourth with his third double and fourth hit in two days, then thrilled the sellout crowd of 40,224 by taking third on Kerry Carpenter’s lineout to right field.
“Nothing he does surprises us. Eeven the young guys have stories of him making plays like that,” Hinch said. “It’s smart baseball and he knows that. It’s just a matter of his body getting there and staying in one piece.
“When he got to third, he looked into the dugout to see if I was going to give him the ‘go on contact’ sign. No, for obvious reasons.”
Cabrera scored on Matt Vierling’s triple off Tristan McKenzie (0-3). who gave up one run, three hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.
“I thought his command was in and out, but when I got to the mound and asked him how his arm was, he said ‘good’,” Francona said. “That’s a huge step for him and now he can go home and get ready for what everyone hopes is a good, long, solid year.”
Akil Baddoo hit a two-run triple in the sixth against Eli Morgan. Cabrera added a sacrifice fly in a five-run seventh that included two-run singles by Andy Ibañez and Carson Kelly.
“Being here for Miggy’s last weekend has been awesome,” rookie Parker Meadows said. “I’m soaking it all in, just like all of these fans.”
Beau Brieske (2-3), the third of seven Tigers pitchers, allowed one hit over 2 1/3 innings as Detroit pitched its ninth shutout. Cleveland was blanked for the 13th time.
“They did a good job of mixing and matching,” Francona said. “They brought guys in and got them out before we could beat up on them.”
Cleveland RHP Lucas Giolito (8-14, 4.77) faces Tigers ace LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (12-9, 3.40), who may be pitching his final game for Detroit. Rodriguez can opt out of his contract’s final three seasons to become a free agent, giving up $49 million in guaranteed salary.