DETROIT -- When the Tigers were struggling earlier this season, one of the main issues was the club's inability to produce big hits in clutch situations. It wasn't the only issue, but one manager Jim Leyland noted many times.
But the Tigers finished Saturday's 7-1 win over the White Sox having won 12 of their last 14 games, standing a half-game above Chicago in the American League Central and seven games above .500 for the first time this season. And it's those big hits -- as well as some very good pitching -- that have resulted in the recent success.
Take both Friday night's 4-2 win and Saturday's victory as examples.
After ace Justin Verlander spotted the White Sox a two-run lead Friday on a second-inning home run from Alejandro De Aza, the Tigers' offense immediately provided some support. Off Jake Peavy, Detroit plated three runs to take the lead. All three runs came with two outs in the third.
Add in Austin Jackson's RBI knock for an insurance run in the seventh, and all four of the Tigers' runs came amid two-out rallies.
"Two-out hits the last couple weeks really are huge," said Verlander, who of course enjoyed receiving the run support. "They're a backbreaker for a pitcher. You hate to give up two-out RBIs, especially. We've been really good at that recently -- just guys not giving in."
The Tigers handed White Sox lefty Chris Sale his third loss of the season on Saturday, dinging him for five runs. All five -- plus two more in the eighth inning off Dylan Axelrod -- came with two outs.
In total, 35 of the 48 runs Detroit has scored since the All-Star break have come with two outs.
"There's a lot of things that come into play when things like that happen," Leyland said. "Sometimes it's just contagious. Guys get hot. The team gets hot. Guys are getting that big hit. That's the difference between winning and losing a lot of times."
Leyland not shy in admiration for Dunn
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland and closer Jose Valverde couldn't have been happier with the first out of the ninth inning during Friday night's 4-2 win over the White Sox. A flyout by Kevin Youkilis meant the bases would be empty for Adam Dunn, which in turn meant even a home run couldn't tie the game.
Both the manager and closer have seen what Dunn is capable of. The last time Valverde squared off against the White Sox designated hitter at Comerica Park, it resulted in a 438-foot homer -- according to ESPN -- that sailed over the right-field bleachers and onto the concourse.
It was a two-run shot that also resulted in Valverde's first loss and second blown save of the season.
Despite batting .205 entering Saturday, Dunn was tied for the Major League lead in home runs with 28. And putting aside last season, the worst of the slugger's career, Leyland has the utmost respect for the 32-year-old Dunn.
"He's one of the best power hitters in the game," Leyland said of Dunn. "After that first-year initiation over there -- new team, new contract and everything -- he's really settled back in. He's one of the best power hitters I've been around. He can strike at any time."
Dunn can also strike out at any time, as he paces the league with 142 K's.
However, even with Dunn's strikeouts, Leyland said the DH knows the strike zone and rarely swings at a bad pitch. That has led Dunn to lead the Majors in another category: walks.
"He doesn't swing at balls very often," Leyland said. "He's had a lot of walks in his career. That's what makes him so dangerous. If he's just a free-swinging guy who swings at everything, that's different. But when you know the strike zone with that kind of power, that's dangerous."
Dunn entered Saturday with eight hits against Detroit this season, three of which were home runs. But Tigers pitchers hadn't issued a walk, and he had struck out 17 times.
Dunn is the prime example of a three-result player, as most of his at-bats result in a homer, a walk or a strikeout. Of his 66 hits, 28 have gone out of the park, good for 42 percent.
There might be only a few facets to Dunn's game, but it doesn't make him any less of a threat in Leyland's mind.
"He's one of the most dangerous power hitters in baseball, and he has been for a long time, in my opinion," Leyland said.
And that's coming from someone who watches Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder daily.
Tigers patient as Coke enjoys birth of daughter
DETROIT -- When the media met with Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Saturday morning, it was unknown if left-handed reliever Phil Coke would be available for Saturday's game against the White Sox, but the skipper was hoping he would be.
The lefty, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Friday, was in the hospital all day and night on Friday celebrating the birth of his first child, a baby girl, with his wife, Bobbie.
"I hope he's here today, but of course he didn't get much sleep because they were at the hospital all day yesterday and evidently it must've taken longer than they thought because I think she delivered at 2 a.m," Leyland said.
Leyland said he had seen a texted picture of Coke with his newborn but had not seen Coke in person at that point -- around 12:30 p.m. ET -- and Coke understandably wasn't yet in the clubhouse for the game, which started at 4:10 p.m.
But Coke normally pitches in the seventh or eighth inning, so he wouldn't be needed until later in the day, anyway.
"I'm hoping by the time he pitches, it will be about 6:30 or so," Leyland said. "I'm hoping he makes it, but I'm not sure if he would or not, to be honest with you."
Miggy back at third a day after tweaking ankle
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera certainly gave the Tigers and their fans a scare on Friday night. The All-Star third baseman advanced to third base on a single from Prince Fielder in the eighth inning of a 4-2 win over the White Sox and started holding his right ankle.
Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and manager Jim Leyland immediately went out to check on Cabrera, who took a minute to walk it off. He remained in the game but was thrown out and tagged on the feet while sliding into home and walked back to the dugout gingerly.
The cause of the injury wasn't evident, as Cabrera didn't slide into third or stumble on his way to the base. But he finished the game and said he was fine afterward.
That was the case before Saturday's game as well.
"He's fine," Leyland said. "I'm not really sure what he did. He just twisted it a little bit or something. But he's fine."
Beyond the assurances of Leyland and Cabrera, the biggest indicator of the third baseman's health was that he was penciled into the starting lineup at third base instead of serving as the designated hitter.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.