CLEVELAND – Miguel Cabrera got a planned day off in pursuit of his 500th career home run, and the Cleveland Indians, sparked by Bradley Zimmer’s tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning, defeated the Detroit Tigers 7-5 on Sunday.
Cabrera, who has 498 homers, didn’t play as part of Detroit manager A.J. Hinch’s plan to help his slugger get through the season. The Tigers are off Monday and Cabrera will return to the lineup Tuesday in Baltimore.
Derek Hill’s first major league home run in the second inning helped Detroit build a 5-2 lead, but Cleveland rallied and went ahead on Zimmer’s two-run homer off Erasmo Ramírez (1-1).
Myles Straw reached on a one-out single and Zimmer hit a 1-1 pitch to the seats in right for his third homer of the season.
Zimmer, who has dealt with injuries and inconsistency since a strong rookie season in 2017, has raised his batting average 50 points to .247 in the last month. His improvement at the plate and his defensive work in the outfield have led to increased playing time.
"It's been comfortability, relaxation and having fun out there," Zimmer said. “Every day is a new opportunity, I never take that for granted. I'm looking forward to continue to contribute.”
“He’s got the skillset to impact the game, whether it’s an extra-base hit potential, he’s got enough pop to go yard and then his speed plays a factor,” interim manager DeMarlo Hale said.
Owen Miller also homered for the Indians, who scored three unearned runs in the fourth thanks to a throwing error by shortstop Zack Short.
Bryan Shaw (5-5) pitched a scoreless seventh.
Emmanuel Clase pitched the ninth for his second save of the series and 16th of the season. Akil Baddoo reached on an infield hit with two outs, but Jonathan Schoop popped out.
Hill, a rookie center fielder, homered off Zach Plesac as Detroit built the early lead. Hill's drive to left-center barely cleared the 19-foot wall and bounced back on the field. The play was ruled a home run, a call confirmed by replay.
“I got to about halfway between second and third and my third base coach (Ramon Santiago) was saying it was a home run but I was making sure,” Hill said. “I was going to turn it on if I had to.”
The Tigers added two runs in the third on Plesac’s wild pitch and Jeimer Candelario’s RBI double.
Plesac was charged with five runs in four innings.
Short’s wild throw to second on a groundball hit by Miller helped Cleveland’s offense in the fourth. Andrés Giménez’s sacrifice fly, Austin Hedges’ RBI single and Ernie Clement’s double tied the game.
Tigers starter Wily Peralta allowed five runs — two earned — in five innings. Detroit was held scoreless after the third and didn't help itself defensively.
“We didn't do enough on either side of the ball to take control of the game,” Hinch said. “Once we gave them a few extra outs and a few extra bases they took advantage of it.”
Hinch plans out Cabrera's playing time in advance to keep the slugger sharp and healthy.
“I give Miguel a series-by-series plan,” Hinch said. “I’m pretty mapped out, especially for him. He’s easy to do, trying to lengthen his season. Day games after night games, he’s going to have a couple (planned days off). He may play all three games in Baltimore. He might get the last game off.”
Cabrera has homered 50 times against the Indians, his most against any team. He would become the 28th player to hit at least 500 homers.
Manager Terry Francona is recuperating at his Cleveland apartment after hip replacement surgery Monday.
“He’s doing at-home physical therapy,” said Chris Antonetti, Cleveland's president of baseball operations. “At some point that therapy will transfer to the ballpark. He’s doing well. He’s in really good spirits.”
Francona stepped down for the season July 29.
Tigers: INF Niko Goodrum (sore calf) has completed a minor league rehab assignment and is expected to be activated Tuesday. Short was optioned to Triple-A Toledo following Sunday's game to make room for Goodrum on the roster.
Indians: RHP Shane Bieber (strained shoulder) played catch out to 100 feet Saturday. He could throw off the mound later in the week. … RHP Aaron Civale (sprained middle finger) threw a 30-pitch bullpen Saturday and is expected to throw off the mound again Tuesday. … 1B Bobby Bradley (bruised left knee) was out of the lineup for the second straight day.
Tigers: RHP Casey Mize (6-6) will make his 22nd start of the season Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series in Baltimore.
Indians: LHP Sam Hentges (1-4) will start against Cincinnati on Monday in what will amount to a bullpen game for Cleveland. The game is a makeup of a May 9 rainout.
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