DETROIT – No, Miguel Cabrera hasn’t gotten any closer to the 3,000 hit or 500 homer clubs. However, it brought the Tigers one step closer to .500.
In the end, this team success is still more important to him than individual milestones.
“Forget the milestones, forget the numbers and try to play better. That’s the bottom line, ”he said a few days ago.
While Cabrera gave the number changers a day off for his home run (still at 497) and countered on the left field hall (still 2,942), he gave Orioles pitcher fits in a 6-2 win at Comerica Park. Splitting the series into four games brings the Tigers back to six games in .500 before a big six-game week against the Red Sox and Cleveland begins in a four-week stretch against under 500 teams, missing some opportunities but taking advantage of others.
The Tigers must be productive at all stages of their game to continue their swing from three consecutive months of winning. A productive Cabrera is an important factor in this.
Cabrera saw 23 fields on Sunday and does not swing on any of them, just as he did on Saturday against 14 fields and on Friday against 16 fields. He hasn’t swung and missed a ball in his last 62 pitches since his second O’s series record appearance, a third inning walk against Alexander Wells on Thursday, which preceded his two home runs. He hasn’t slammed, swung or searched since his first at-bat last Monday night against Michael Pineda at Target Field. His five consecutive games without a strikeout mark his longest run in seven consecutive games without a strikeout to close last August. By then, his longest streak this season was three games.
“At the moment I am not surprised by anything he does,” said team-mate Robbie Grossman. “He’s just an amazing player.”
That his current streak is under pressure from home runs and milestones, two events that understandably can lead to aggressive swings, says a lot about Cabrera, who said he’ll get what Olympic gymnast Simone Biles feels under pressure on Friday.
“I understand what she’s going through,” said Cabrera. “That mental part is a big part of the game. You’re trying to do something to prove who you are or what you’ve been doing all your career and you lose focus. You’re losing something because that’s not how you play. You go out there and do it. You don’t try. You go out there and play hard and try to see something happen. “
Manager AJ Hinch said: “He’s a really focused hitter at this point. He doesn’t necessarily chase numbers. And we all want it to happen. We all want it to happen at home. But Miggy of all people will be able to keep the noise out of his head and go out and take part in competitions. “
On a day when the Tigers didn’t mind much against longtime farm laborer Spenser Watkins, Cabrera had a couple of critical thugs. His first inning walk helped build a two-out rally that culminated in Eric Haase’s two-run double off the midfield wall. The three-run inning answered two RBI doubles from the O’s in the top half of the inning, allowing Detroit starter Tyler Alexander to take the mound with a 3-2 lead for the second inning.
Three of Cabrera’s four record appearances went to three-ball counts. The other was a six pitch fight with Watkins that ended in a popout to end the third. He hit the plate in the sixth inning with Grossman on the third after a one-out triple.
Watkins, not a strikeout pitcher, was apparently trying to get a ball on the ground. After Cabrera fouled a fastball over the plate in the first pitch, he turned down the chase and worked a 3-1 count. With the choice of putting Cabrera on base to double play or pursuing him, Watkins threw a cutter straight out of the corner. It was off the record, but close enough for the opposing field swing that Cabrera has been working on in the past few weeks and with which he’s been producing in the past few days.
Cabrera’s fly-ball to the right on Watkins’ last pitch wouldn’t work, but it was deep enough to put Grossman in third place for a 4-2 lead when Watkins yelled into his glove. It was a pragmatic piece of hitting by a hitter with milestones literally looming over the ballpark.
Cabrera stepped down an inning later with runners in first and second place and saw a large dose of sliders from Shaun Anderson. He stayed in the strike zone again, fouling three and refusing to pursue four, and took his second step.
Cabrera, raised for pinch runner Victor Reyes, received a lot of applause on the way back to the dugout.
“He was really good on this show,” said Hinch. “The sack flies down the line, the good gait, there was definitely quality in bats here.”