Kansas City, Mo. Long before Jim Leyland became a big-league manager, and well before Miguel Cabrera was even born, the Tigers’ skipper hit .222 during an often-ugly minor-league playing career.
He knows better than to tell Cabrera how to hit.
Instead, Leyland has preached patience with his slugging third baseman, and it paid off in fine fashion Tuesday night. Cabrera had a pair of hits against the Kansas City Royals, including the go-ahead single in the eighth inning that helped deliver a 3-1 victory.
“I’m not going to talk to him about hitting,” Leyland said. “He knows twice as much about hitting as I do. He’ll be just fine.”
Cabrera was 0-for-22 before his single in the third inning, but it was his RBI single off reliever Greg Holland in the eighth that proved most important. It came on the heels of singles by Andy Dirks and Brennan Boesch, and snapped a 1-all tie.
“Cabrera’s going to hit,” Leyland said. “The guy is a .330 major-league hitter.”
Prince Fielder added an RBI single later in the eighth to make things a bit more comfortable for Octavio Dotel (1-0), who took over for starter Drew Smyly and threw a scoreless seventh.
Joaquin Benoit pitched around a two-out triple by Jeff Francoeur in the eighth, and Jose Valverde took care of the ninth for his second save in three tries.
“They’ve done a tremendous job,” Smyly said of the bullpen. “Anytime they come in, you know they’re going to keep the lead.”
Bruce Chen (0-1) took the tough-luck loss despite pitching into the eighth for Kansas City, which is mired in a six-game losing streak and has yet to win at home this season.
Billy Butler had three hits and Alex Gordon drove in the Royals’ only run. Chen had retired 13 straight before giving up a single to Dirks.