Miguel Cabrera's influence in Tigers' playoff push goes beyond hitting

DETROIT -- Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera held up his phone, shook his head and said: "This? It's dangerous."

It was the culmination of a lengthy lecture -- half-amused but seemingly sincere -- on the importance of the Tigers tuning out negativity.

"We've got to stay positive," Cabrera said following the team's 9-6 win over the Minnesota Twins Wednesday night. "I don't care what people say. I've said it a million times. We've got to worry about what we've got to worry about. We've got to go out and play."

Whether it's avoiding Twitter before the games, which Cabrera seems to be in favor of, or spurning the temptation to give credence to the critics, he doesn't want any unseemly messages penetrating the team's clubhouse.

"Something can change your mind quick. You know, we're humans. You know, someone says something to you on Twitter and you react," Cabrera said.

The 33-year-old slugger, who hit a solo home run in the seventh inning to give the Tigers the go-ahead run, was animated after the club's comeback win -- playful even in bantering about the internet dialogue exchanged among fans, players and the like. But he seemed genuinely concerned about the potential it has to sabotage the club's focus at such a critical time.

Following Wednesday's win, the Tigers pulled one game ahead of the surging New York Yankees, though they trail the Toronto Blue Jays by a game for the second spot in the wild-card standings. There are 17 games remaining in the regular season for the Tigers to secure a playoff spot, and that's the only thing Cabrera feels the club should focus on right now.

"You play for this. You've got a chance to make it to the playoffs. I hope we can do it and hopefully we can finish strong," Cabrera said. "This is fun."

Cabrera was having fun immediately after the Tigers sealed the win, laughing after meeting Francisco Rodriguez near the mound following the veteran closer's 42nd save of the season and executing a choreographed handshake and hug. It was the sort of celebration the Tigers missed out on one night prior following an 8-1 rout by the bottom-dwelling Twins.

But where the Tigers' offense went dormant Tuesday night, it delivered in the third game of the club's four-game set against Minnesota. Veteran bats led the way.

In addition to Cabrera's critical blast, his 33rd of the season and the 441st of his career, second baseman Ian Kinsler was an absolute force, recording his first four-hit game of the season and finishing a home run shy of the cycle.

It was a needed outburst following another bipolar start from starter Anibal Sanchez, who retired the first nine batters he faced, and then went on to surrender five runs in a catastrophic fourth inning that nearly cost the Tigers the game.

Utility man Andrew Romine again showed his value, Jose Iglesias recorded his 25th multi-hit game of the season, and the bullpen -- Alex Wilson, Shane Greene, Bruce Rondon and Rodriguez -- was resolute in combining to pitch five scoreless innings following Sanchez' exit.

"The bullpen did a very good job and the rest of the team did the same," Sanchez said. "That's why we won the game."

That stinginess is a stark contrast from previous seasons, when no lead seemed safe among a porous pitching corps prone to implosion.

"I would say it wasn't the same the last couple of years," Ausmus said, diplomatically.

As of right now, the Tigers may have more questions facing their starting pitchers than their oft-cited bullpen. The staff is comprised of three kids (Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd), two veterans returning from injury (Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey), one more who has a penchant for playing Jekyll and Hyde from inning to inning (Sanchez), and ace Justin Verlander the only one whose performance hasn't provided much reason for scrutiny.

Should starting pitching become an area of concern, the Tigers' offense will be in the same position as Wednesday plenty in the final weeks.

That will be for others to worry about, though. As Cabrera is warning his teammates, don't listen to it. Or read about it, either.

"I've been here a lot of years. I've been through it. But we got a lot of new guys here," Cabrera said. "They think about it and read stuff. But we need to stay positive and go out there and play."