"He's on fire," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of the shortstop in his first year with Tampa Bay. "He's swinging the bat well. When we were playing well, he was a big factor in that, and he continues to have really good at-bats. He hit the home run today and he had the at-bat where he lined out against Lewis. Fifteen pitches. Wow."
Cash referenced Cabrera's at-bat in the sixth when he fought Rangers starter Colby Lewis for 14 pitches before lining out to right on the 15th pitch.
Cash's work as the bullpen coach at Cleveland prior to taking the reins as Rays manager allowed him to observe Cabrera when he was with the Indians. Thus, Cash explained that he has "not really" been surprised by Cabrera's recent hot stretch.
"I saw him in Cleveland catch some of these hot streaks," Cash said. "And it's very similar. He's the type of guy who has the ability to carry the load offensively for three weeks, a month at a time. And that's kind of what he's been doing as of late here.
"I think Cabby got off to a rough start offensively. Very uncharacteristic, and now it's starting to even out to the player that we knew he was going to be."
Cabrera hit .212 in April and .209 in May. He began to do better in June and July, hitting .253 and .261, respectively, before reaching warp speed in August with a .500 average (23-for-46).
Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton also worked at Cleveland, so, like Cash, he was familiar with Cabrera before he arrived to the Rays.
"I think early in the year, the pitches he should have hit and he's hitting now, he was fouling off," Shelton said. "I think his timing is better. One of the things, when you get in the flow like that, you find the barrel. And when he finds the barrel, he's really good at maintaining it."
Shelton pointed out that the "really impressive thing" is that Cabrera is a switch-hitter and he can maintain his swing from both sides of the plate.
"That's unusual," Shelton said.
Shelton added that Cabrera's contribution to this year's team has not been limited to his work at the plate.
"The guy's a pro," Shelton said. "He's not yet 30. He's got nine years in the Major Leagues. Just in terms of the way he is in the clubhouse, the way he is on the field. The guy's a pro. It really goes underrated what a great teammate he is. What a good guy he is. How much of a pro he is."
Shelton cited how Cabrera's early offensive struggles never affected his defense.
"He went through the struggles early in the year and he played as good of a defense as he's ever played," Shelton said. "He didn't let that bother him. Like I said, that's a pro."