(Sports Network) - Miguel Cabrera's primary goal is to help the Detroit Tigers capture an American League Central title. Still, one would think the possibility of becoming baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 43 years has got to cross the All-Star first baseman's mind at times.
Detroit got the upper hand in this four-game series with a 5-2 triumph in Thursday's opener, with Cabrera coming up with the contest's biggest hit. The standout slugger snapped a 2-2 tie with an run-scoring double in the eighth inning, capping off a 3-for-4, two-RBI day.
Cabrera's final hit ignited a three-run frame for the Tigers, with Ryan Raburn following with an RBI single and Gerald Laird later tacking on a sacrifice fly. The clutch double also made a winner out of fellow All-Star Justin Verlander (12-5), as the Detroit ace yielded just two runs and scattered eight hits before giving way to closer Jose Valverde to start the ninth.
Thursday's performance raised Cabrera's major league-leading RBI total to 85, while his .347 average trails only Texas' Josh Hamilton for the best in the AL. He also has 24 home runs on the season, topped only by Toronto's Jose Bautista for the AL lead in that category.
"Every time he comes up, I'm like, 'OK, here we go,'" shortstop Danny Worth told the Tigers' official site of Cabrera.
The win was the second in a row for Detroit following a season-worst string of seven straight losses and moved the club within two games of idle Chicago for first place in the AL Central.
John Buck accounted for all of Toronto's scoring with a two-run homer off Verlander in the second inning. Starting pitcher Ricky Romero (7-7) held the Tigers to two runs over the first seven frames, but was removed after walking Johnny Damon to start the bottom of the eighth. Damon would cross the plate with the go-ahead run on Cabrera's double against reliever Shawn Camp.
"I think I battled all game," Romero said to Toronto's website afterward. "It's a tough lineup. I made some good pitches when I had to and got some good double plays when I had to. It's a tough loss."
The Blue Jays have now lost three of four since opening a current 10-game road trip with three straight wins over the hapless Baltimore Orioles. They'll try to bounce back tonight behind Shaun Marcum, who had a hand in one of the victories in the Baltimore series.
Making his first start since July 1, Marcum allowed nine hits in five innings but did not walk a batter and managed to limit the Orioles to one run in a 10-1 Blue Jays' rout this past Sunday. The 28-year-old had been shut down for a couple of weeks after experiencing inflammation in his surgically-repaired right elbow.
Marcum missed the entire 2009 season recovering from the procedure but has made a nice comeback, having compiled an 8-4 record with a very solid 3.36 ERA through 18 starts and striking out 92 batters in 112 1/3 innings. He's also held his own on the road, where the righty has gone 5-2 with a 4.14 ERA in 10 outings.
In five career appearances -- two of which have come in a starting role -- against Detroit, Marcum is 1-1 with a 5.28 ERA. Both those starts came during the 2008 campaign, including a Comerica Park assignment in which he tossed six innings of two-run ball to notch a win.
The Tigers counter with youngster Rick Porcello, with the former first-round draft choice aiming to build off an excellent return to the majors last Saturday. The talented right-hander permitted just one run on six hits and did not issue a walk over eight innings against Cleveland, although he wound up with a no-decision in a game that eventually went into extra frames.
A 14-game winner who finished third in voting for the AL's Rookie of the Year Award last season, Porcello experienced a serious sophomore slump during the first half of 2010. The 21-year-old produced a 4-7 record and a substandard 6.14 ERA in 13 starts before being optioned to Triple-A Toledo on June 20, but posted a more-respectable 3.21 ERA in four games with the Mud Hens.
Porcello faced the Blue Jays twice as a rookie in 2009 and split a pair of decisions while recording a 4.91 ERA in 11 innings. The win took place at Comerica Park in September, with the highly-regarded hurler surrendering just two runs and four hits over a sharp six-inning stint.
Thursday's clash was the first 2010 meeting between these teams. Toronto prevailed in five of eight encounters with the Tigers last season, with the clubs splitting a four-game set in the Motor City from September 11-14.