ARLINGTON -- A year after becoming the first player to win the Triple Crown in nearly half a century, Miguel Cabrera is on pace to have 42 more RBIs and a batting average 57 points than the one he had last season.
Cabrera, the reigning American League MVP, is hitting .387 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs. He's on pace to hit 38 homers, six fewer than he did in 2012, but is also on pace to have 181 RBIs, which would eclipse the 139 RBIs he had last season.
"It's pretty hard to improve on a Triple Crown," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's the best hitter in the game. He's got a real fluid swing. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark to all fields. He can take a base hit. There's not too many guys that can take a sinker, down and in, and hit a bullet to right field."
In the Tigers' 2-1 victory over the Rangers on Friday, Cabrera doubled home the first run in the fifth inning before scoring the second on a sacrifice fly in the same frame. He then hit three home runs and drove in five runs during Sunday's 11-8 loss. He went 9-for-16 (.563) in the four-game series against the Rangers.
Not to mention that he's batting .509 with runners in scoring position, driving in 40 runs in 55 at-bats during that situation this season.
"You can have some interesting conversations if you get into stats a lot. It doesn't make any difference," Leyland said. "He's one of those special guys that don't come around often and he's been special for a long time."
Smyly showing off versatility in bullpen
ARLINGTON -- If everything works out, Drew Smyly will be a reliable member of the Tigers' rotation soon. But for now, he's helping them every way he can out of the bullpen.
Smyly retired both batters he faced in the seventh inning of Friday's 2-1 win over the Rangers, needing 12 pitches to record those two outs. The next night, Smyly was called on to stop the bleeding after Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez gave up six runs in just 2 2/3 innings. Smyly allowed one run on two hits in 3 1/3 innings, throwing 33 of his 55 pitches for strikes.
"He's answered the bell no matter what we've done with him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's been kind of the mystery of the bullpen because he's done so many good things, no matter where you put him. He's a jewel. He's going to be a good starting Major League pitcher at some point."
The Tigers' seconnd-round choice in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Smyly has gone 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 15 outings, striking out 29 and walking only seven in 28 innings. He won't be available for Sunday's series finale against the Rangers and, after the Tigers get an off-day Monday, may not be available for Tuesday's series opener against the Indians.
"I'm just trying to get innings, trying to get experience and get better," Smyly said. "I've been a starter my whole life, so I'm used to throwing 100 pitches. Whatever [Leyland] needs me to do, I just try to do the job."
Infante slotted in leadoff position for finale
ARLINGTON -- Omar Infante had only served as the Tigers' leadoff hitter once this year but with Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks not playing, he was the first hitter listed in the lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Rangers.
Jackson has been on the disabled list for the past week with a pulled left hamstring, while the left-handed-hitting Dirks got a day off as the Rangers put southpaw Derek Holland on the mound. Of the Tigers' previous 41 games, Jackson led off 33 times and Dirks led off seven times.
"When you lead him off, you're leading him off because he's your only guy in that situation," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Normally I wouldn't have him leading off but, with the situation we're in, if you look at the lineup, who else would you lead off? ... The only other guy you'd think about is [Avisail] Garcia and I don't want to do that.
Garcia made his third start, playing center field and batting ninth. Infante went 1-for-4 with a walk in his only other start as the Tigers' leadoff man, during a 7-5 loss to the Astros on Wednesday. Normally the team's ninth hitter, Infante is hitting .309 with three home runs and 14 RBIs.
"He doesn't walk much, but he is pretty quick," Leyland said. "Omar can hit anyone. Omar just comes ready to play. Whatever we ask him to do, he does."
Infante went 2-for-5 and scored two runs in Sunday's 11-8 loss.
Fielder not fazed by recent slump
ARLINGTON -- For the first time in more than a week, Prince Fielder drove in a run Saturday. The Tigers cleanup hitter is hoping the RBI single that brought Torii Hunter home in the third inning of a 7-2 loss to the Rangers can get him back on track.
"It's definitely not going to hurt," Fielder said. "That's what I'm trying to do, just trying to hit the ball hard. That's the goal, to hit the ball hard and see what happens."
Prior to going 2-for-4 with three RBIs in Sunday's setback, Fielder was hitting .179 with two RBIs in his last 11 games and had as many hits (two) as strikeouts in his last 18 at-bats. He's hitting.242 with two home runs and 10 RBIs this month.
"It's just a week," Fielder said. "I've felt good. I just try to go out there and play hard every night. It doesn't matter how you feel."
Reed optioned to Triple-A; Putkonen to be recalled
ARLINGTON -- Evan Reed was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after the Tigers' loss to the Rangers in Sunday's series finale. That allows the Tigers to call up right-hander Luke Putkonen from Toledo, which they will do Tuesday.
Reed, whom the Tigers acquired from the Marlins on April 3, made his Major League debut in Thursday's series opener against the Rangers, allowing one run on two hits in 2 2/3 innings. He also tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits, in Sunday's 11-8 loss.
"Reed certainly didn't do anything wrong," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It's just that the pecking order says that Putkonen is pitching good and probably deserves it. That's why the move is being made."
The Tigers' third-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Putkonen has pitched 2 2/3 innings in two outings this year without allowing a run or hit. He is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 14 career games.
Putkonen will get called up from Toledo, where he has gone 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 10 appearances, on Tuesday when the Tigers begin a two-game series against the Indians.
Leyland admires Rangers' presence
ARLINGTON -- The Tigers started the week hosting a team from the Lone Star State in the Astros and ended it with a four-game series there. So far, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has liked what he's seen.
"I really like the atmosphere they've created here," Leyland said. "And they've got a really good team. They really have done a nice job over there with the whole program. They've been to the World Series, they've been the American League champs a couple times recently."
Leyland was also amazed at the way the wind has been blowing at the Ballpark in Arlington this week. In the second inning of Saturday's 7-2 loss to the Rangers, Torii Hunter had a hard time tracking down a ball hit by Elvis Andrus to right-center field. The ball ricocheted off the end of Hunter's glove and Andrus ended up with a triple.
"I'm not sure what [the wind] was doing," Leyland said. "It looked like it was holding some up and throwing some down. I've never been in Texas with the wind this high for this long of a period of time. It's not good for my hair."
• Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez each doubled in the Tigers' 7-2 loss to the Rangers on Saturday, extending the team's streak of games with at least one extra-base hit to 35. It's the second-longest streak in the Majors, behind the Pirates (39).
• Jhonny Peralta singled in his first at-bat Saturday, giving him at least one hit in 27 of his last 33 games. Peralta, who leads American League shortstops with a .317 batting average, is hitting .342 with four home runs and 17 RBIs during that stretch.
• Miguel Cabrera has hit .369 in 27 career games at the Ballpark in Arlington and his .374 batting average there since joining the Tigers in 2008 is the second-highest in the Majors.
Christian Corona is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.