Cabrera's birthday bash backs Scherzer

Cabrera's birthday bash backs Scherzer

SEATTLE -- Miguel Cabrera celebrated his 27th birthday with a mammoth three-run homer. But there were plenty of other young Tigers who looked a little bit older, too.

Putting the potential tying run on base with a walk might have set up Ryan Perry's unraveling last year, he readily admits. Missing time and again on RBI opportunities might've spelled doom for the Tigers' offense all-around, let alone for a rookie leadoff hitter. A high pitch count in the first couple of innings led to short outings more than once for Max Scherzer in Arizona last season. Asking Alex Avila to throw out Chone Figgins last year might've been a tall order.

All of those young Tigers came through in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Mariners. It was Cabrera who put on a display, but it took a collective effort from less proven youngsters for Detroit to salvage a game at Safeco Field and put an end to a three-game losing streak before it reached something worse.

It's the kind of damage control that helped the Tigers stay in a playoff race until the very end last year.

"All year long in baseball, what you try to do is put together a few winning streaks -- five, six in a row -- and then stay out of long losing streaks," manager Jim Leyland said. "Over the course of a long season, if you can do that, you normally have a pretty good year. You might not win anything, but you'll have a pretty good year. But you have to stop [the losing streaks]."

Inexperience can add fuel to a losing streak in tough times, and it could have on Sunday. But at some point while the Tigers were trying to scrape out a lead for the first time all series, ability and confidence took over.

For seven innings, Cabrera's 403-foot drive to the second deck in left field stood as the Tigers' only hit with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-11 with a handful of runners stranded, and two opportunities thwarted with two runners on and nobody out.

Jackson was on third base when Cabrera took Mariners starter Ian Snell deep in the third. Jackson didn't have far to go to put the Tigers on the board, but he just watched to see where the shot landed.

"You don't move for a second," Jackson said after the game. "You kind of take it in. I mean, I don't even know if he got all that ball. It just flew."

Cabrera said the swing felt almost effortless. He made a point coming up to the plate to be aggressive, and he got his chance. By contrast, when Jackson came up in the eighth inning to face hard-throwing Jesus Colome, he wasn't thinking of powering the ball. Scott Sizemore and Ramon Santiago had just tried to drive in an insurance run from third and failed -- Sizemore on a nice stop by Colome, Santiago on a grounder to third that caught Brandon Inge in a rundown.

All Jackson needed was a single, which was what he was thinking he might be able to do.

"When you have a guy in there throwing 97-98, you're not going to be turning on that too much," Jackson said. "In that situation, I'm just trying to look for a ball up. He's a good sinkerball pitcher, just look for a ball up and out of the zone and try to put the barrel on it. A guy throwing that hard, you don't have that much time to react."

Jackson's line drive carried over first baseman Casey Kotchman and into right field as Avila came home, earning Jackson his first three-hit game in the big leagues. They couldn't get Santiago in from third, but one run made a world of difference.

"Changed the whole complexion of the game," Leyland said. "Sometimes people don't understand in baseball what a huge difference there is between a two-run game and a one-run game."

Perry had a pretty good idea. He was waiting in the Tigers' dugout the whole time, having entered in the seventh. His one pitch that inning ended up bunted hard to third baseman Inge for the final out.

Perry came back out firing, putting Jack Wilson and Ichiro Suzuki in 0-2 counts, but lost both of them. Wilson's infield single and Ichiro's walk put the potential tying run on base before Chone Figgins' sacrifice bunt advanced it into scoring position.

This is the nature of the setup role Perry wanted. Now he had to face the heart of the Mariners' order, Franklin Gutierrez and Jose Lopez, with a hit away from a tie game.

"I'm sure that ran through my head at one time," Perry said, "but what I'm learning to do better from last year is to just say, 'Hey, if he gets a hit, he gets a hit. That's just how it goes.'

"I'm able to just focus on pitching and not necessarily 'What if this happens?' And that's where last year I would get really mind-screwed."

A year ago, Perry said he probably would've followed up the Ichiro walk by simply throwing harder. He still threw hard to Gutierrez, but with a purpose, spotting a 96-mph fastball on the inside corner for a called third strike. After putting Lopez in an 0-2 hole with fastballs, he jammed him at 97 mph inside for a popout to right.

Veteran closer Jose Valverde took care of the ninth for his third save, but the youngsters got it to him, from those plays above to Sizemore's alert throw home to get Eric Byrnes at the plate.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.