Miggy's legs lead way for Tigers' offense vs. Twins

Miggy's legs lead way for Tigers' offense vs. Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Cabrera broke in some new cleats on the road trip. On Tuesday, he decided to take them for a spin.

With Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez out due to injuries, Cabrera felt the need to give the Tigers' lineup a lift. He did plenty of that with his bat in Tuesday's 8-1 win over the Twins, belting a two-run home run and a double. But his biggest impact came with his legs.

"I wanted to stay aggressive on the bases, trying to make something happen," he said. "You don't have to be 100 percent sure you're going to be safe. If you think you have a chance, you have to do it."

Cabrera manufactured Detroit's second run when the Twins didn't expect it. In the process, the 33-year-old showed that even if he can't run bases as fast as he used to, he can still run them aggressively.

"I've said it before, he has great instincts on the bases," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's not 21 anymore, but he still has a pretty good idea of what he is and isn't capable of."

From the moment he rounded first as his fourth-inning line drive hit the base of the right-field wall, Cabrera pushed himself to take the next three bases. Each time, he caught the Twins off-guard. Each time, he had close plays. Each time, he ended up being safe -- barely.

"He made a run happen by himself," Twins starter Hector Santiago said.

The first sign that Cabrera had something different in mind was the strain on his face as he pushed for second base. Max Kepler made a solid throw, but Cabrera's feet-first slide earned him a leadoff double.

Two pitches later, J.D. Martinez lofted a fly ball to center. Though rookie Byron Buxton has a reputation for a strong arm, the Tigers have been aggressive running on him since last week's series at Comerica Park.

Cabrera didn't get a signal from third-base coach Dave Clark. It was all him.

"Each player has gauge whether he can make it or not based on the situation, the outfielder, how far he is, which direction he's moving," Ausmus said.

If Buxton got a late read, he made up for it with his throw. Again, the play was close. Again, Cabrera made it.

"When I was backing up third," Santiago said, "I said to him, 'What are you doing?' He called time and laughed it off."

Cabrera had created a sacrifice fly opportunity for Justin Upton, but Santiago kept the ball on the ground. When Upton hit the ball to third baseman Eduardo Escobar, it appeared Santiago had denied the run. But Cabrera, taking a secondary lead, had other ideas.

"I thought it was going to be a tough play for him," Cabrera said. "And if he sees me go, I think I'm going to put a little more pressure on him, so he might throw wild. But he made a perfect throw."

Said Santiago: "I saw his first two steps and thought he was going to fake him out. But when I saw the third [step], I started yelling, 'Four, four.'"

Whether Escobar heard him or not, he fired strong to first. And Cabrera, as he picked up speed, had a moment of panic.

"I forgot Escobar has a good arm," Cabrera said. "I was like, 'Oh my god.'"

The throw from first baseman Kennys Vargas beat Cabrera. The question was whether Cabrera's slide beat catcher John Ryan Murphy's tag higher up. Plate umpire Adrian Johnson didn't think so, calling him out. The Tigers challenged.

Tigers challenge play at plate

"I knew I put my foot down first," Cabrera said. "But maybe he sees something I don't see. With all the reviews, you don't know."

After a review, the replay crew agreed. And Cabrera had swiped a run. He created more offense with his two-run homer later, but the psychological effect of the small-ball run was bigger.

"That's leading by example," Cameron Maybin said. "A guy like me, you expect me to do that. Kinsler, [Andrew Romine], you kind of expect those guys to do that -- guys who are more fleet of foot. But Miggy, that's just being a leader, man. Especially right now."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.