The Tigers came home off back-to-back one-run losses that cost them three games in the standings and broke out the bats in a 12-2 pasting of the A's on Tuesday night.
They faced a rookie hurler with a 6-0 record who hadn't given up more than three runs in a start all year and had surrendered just two runs over 20 1/3 September innings.
They lost their co-ace after two innings with a shoulder injury and had to hand a potential pitching duel to a reliever who hadn't pitched in two weeks.
And they won by double digits.
If you want to quantify the value of Miguel Cabrera, who drove in half of Detroit's runs and scored another in drubbing the American League Wild Card-leading A's at Comerica Park, that's a pretty good place to start.
"When we see [Max Scherzer] was out, we put more pressure on their pitching to get on base, swing the bat, and see if we can have a big lead," Cabrera said.
If you want to quantify the caliber of hitter Cabrera is, there's plenty of evidence. Add this to the list: He got a 68-mph curveball and sent it 446 feet down the left-field line. Then he got a fastball from the same pitcher two innings later and lined it to the fence in right-center field.
"The stuff that he does with the bat is remarkable," catcher Gerald Laird said. "He never ceases to amaze me."
Cabrera can't beat the White Sox to make up ground in the AL Central standings, but that's the schedule's fault. Shortly after the Tigers finished off their largest margin of victory since April 7, Chicago held its ground with a 3-2 win in Kansas City to stay three games up on Detroit with 15 games to play.
The Tigers are in the same predicament they faced going into the day, and they have to wait and see whether they'll have Scherzer for his next scheduled start Sunday against the Twins. Yet after struggling to pull out close games in Cleveland and Chicago the previous couple days, Tuesday's win still put a different feel on their chances.
While the past couple losses reminded everyone what hitting can't do, Tuesday showed what the Tigers can overcome when they're on. What they can do, they can do very, very well.
"It shows you what we're capable of doing," manager Jim Leyland said, "but I didn't go into the season thinking that we'd be taking out Scherzer in the second inning and expect these guys to come in and do that. So this is a little bit of an odd night, so to speak."
When Cabrera put a Jesse Chavez pitch into the left-field seats in the eighth inning, he not only put the Tigers into double digits -- he joined the 40-homer club for the first time in his career while tying his career best with a six-RBI night. He also gave the Tigers their first grand slam of the season.
Not since Cecil Fielder in 1991 had a Tigers hitter posted a 40-homer season, and that came during the days of homer-friendly Tiger Stadium. Fielder's son, Prince, plated Cabrera with his 27th homer of the fifth inning to complete the damage on A's rookie sensation A.J. Griffin, whose first Major League loss was also the roughest start in his brief big league career.
"I just wasn't executing pitches the way I usually do," Griffin said. "I wasn't pounding the zone. I was leaving pitches up, and they capitalized. It happens sometimes, and they didn't miss them today."
Cabrera, on the other hand, praised Griffin.
"It's tough, because he throws that very slow curveball, and he locates his fastball good," he said. "You don't want him to catch you in between because it's when he gets you out. So you have to stay aggressive and try to get lucky like me and catch that curveball."
Cabrera now stands two home runs shy of leading all three Triple Crown categories. His three-hit, two-homer effort boosted his AL-leading average to .333, while he jumped out of a tie with Josh Hamilton in RBIs to jump to 129. That's also a career high.
It made for an easier night for Detroit's bullpen, which delivered seven innings of one-run ball after Scherzer left with what the Tigers described as right shoulder fatigue. An MRI exam showed no structural damage, and the Tigers will rest Scherzer for a couple days before analyzing him further.
Scherzer threw 44 pitches over two innings, including several fastballs a tick or two below his usual velocity.
No sooner had Scherzer gone into the clubhouse after the second inning than Darin Downs began warming for his first appearance in two weeks. He tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings on two hits for his first win since Aug. 5.
"The first [win] was special, but I threw better this time," Downs said. "Most importantly, it's a big win. I kept the team in the game. That's my job in that situation."