KANSAS CITY -- Now that the Tigers have clinched their second straight American League Central title, the race for Miguel Cabrera's potential Triple Crown is going down to the final couple days.
Cabrera's 4-for-5 performance, including a league-leading 44th home run in a five-run sixth inning, helped propel the Tigers to a 6-3 win over the Royals that clinched the division crown. But it also put him on top by himself in all three Triple Crown categories.
Cabrera has been careful in recent days not to let his chase overshadow the team, and he wasn't going to let it happen on what was the Tigers' night to celebrate.
"I'm feeling good. Today, I was going out there and playing my game," he said. "There's a lot of things, a lot of speculation, a lot of talk. I'm not going to be that guy. I'm going to be the guy to go out there and try to win games. Right now, we're excited because we're winning. We've got to be ready for the playoffs, and that's our goal right now."
That being said, when Cabrera made his way back into the clubhouse celebration after a moment outside with his wife and daughter, he was greeted with a huddle around him chanting, "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
He won't know his fate in AL MVP voting until November. He only has a couple days left to finish off what would be the first batting Triple Crown in 45 years.
Monday's home run pushed him past Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton to take the lead all to himself. If they finish in a tie, it still counts as part of a Triple Crown, something Carl Yastrzemski did when he finished even with Harmon Killebrew in home runs.
The homer also stretched Cabrera's total in RBIs to double digits, now 10 over second-place Hamilton.
For at least a couple of hours, his 4-for-5 performance seemed enough to give him a cushion for a second consecutive batting crown, too. His batting average jumped four points to .329, his highest point in six days. But while the Tigers were celebrating their division crown, Mike Trout matched Cabrera's four hits, falling a home run shy of the cycle and beating up on Mariners ace Felix Hernandez while raising his average to .325.
Cabrera's home run was his only extra-base hit of the night, but it was one of three balls he hit hard to the opposite field. His first hit was a fourth-inning line drive just out of the reach of Royals second baseman Irving Falu. He took an 0-2 pitch from Bruce Chen and went with it.
Cabrera had been pulling most of his home runs lately and sending them into left field. This one was a reminder of his opposite-field power, a line drive into the Tigers' bullpen. He followed that up with a seventh-inning bloop single just over Falu and into shallow right-center field.
Cabrera capped his night with a ground ball through the middle off Vin Mazzaro.
Though the Tigers have clinched, Cabrera sounded after Monday's game like someone with every intention of playing on Tuesday. He's 7-for-23 with two home runs off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, but went 0-for-4 against him last week in Detroit.