DETROIT - Miguel Cabrera's bid to become baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years gets stronger by the day, but that doesn't mean the Twins have to pitch to him, manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday.
The Twins' first priority is winning, Gardenhire explained, especially since other teams are fighting with Cabrera's Tigers for a postseason berth.
"We have to do what's right for a baseball game," Gardenhire said. "If that's walking him to get to the next guy ... I'll do it."
Of course, soon after Gardenhire said this, Samuel Deduno put the Twins in such a big hole, Cabrera got chances to hit anyway.
The Tigers third baseman took advantage, going 1-for-4 with his 42nd home run, giving him at least a share of the lead in all three Triple Crown categories, as Detroit pounded the Twins 8-0 at Comerica Park.
Doug Fister (10-9) pitched his first career shutout, and the Tigers pulled within one game of the first-place White Sox, who had a late game against the Angels.
Cabrera leads the American League in batting average (.333) and RBI (131), and he's tied with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the home run lead. Hamilton is out this weekend because of a sinus problem.
According to STATS LLC, this is the latest date a player has led all three Triple Crown categories since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski pulled off the feat in 1967. Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew actually tied Yastzremski for the home run lead that year with 44, but baseball still considers that a Triple Crown.
How badly does Cabrera want it?
"You know, I'll leave that up to God," he said. "If it's going to happen, it will happen, but I've got to keep working. ... It's something special if it happens, but I have to go out there and have fun and try and play my best baseball."
It helps having the Tigers in a pennant race, Cabrera said. Yastrzemski won his Triple Crown in a riveting four-team race, as his Red Sox outlasted the Twins, Tigers and White Sox. Yastrzemski went 7-for-8 with six RBI in the last two games -- both victories over Minnesota -- completing Boston's "Impossible Dream."
"I think it helps you a lot to focus more because it's a different feeling when you're out at this point in the season," Cabrera said. "It's kind of like when you're not working; you go to your house after this. Well, right now we have a shot, man."
Detroit has five games remaining with the Twins and seven with the Royals, two teams whose biggest weaknesses are starting pitching. Cabrera is batting .481 (25-for-52) with five homers and 21 RBI this year against Minnesota. Over his past 10 games overall, he's batting .415 with seven homers and 15 RBI.
With three batting titles, Joe Mauer is lurking in the batting race with Mike Trout and Derek Jeter. Mauer went 2-for-4, raising his average to .323.
Cabrera, 29, grounded out to second and walked in his first two plate appearances. But after home runs by Austin Jackson and Delmon Young helped build Detroit's 7-0 lead against Deduno (6-5), reliever Anthony Swarzak challenged Cabrera with a 3-1 pitch.
"The young man's going to get his hits," Gardenhire said. "He's going to do what he did today. It looked like a golf ball. He's incredible."