Miggy hits 498th HR after praise from J.D.

11-time All-Star also passes HOF'er Frank Robinson in hits

August 4th, 2021

DETROIT -- J.D. Martinez was a Tiger for 89 of Miguel Cabrera’s career home runs. He had a front-row seat in the Red Sox dugout for number 498.

Akil Baddoo doubled home Derek Hill in the fifth inning for the go-ahead run in Tuesday’s 4-2 Tigers win over the Red Sox at Comerica Park, but the lingering memory for most of the 15,724 fans in attendance will be the second-inning home run from Cabrera that opened Detroit’s scoring. As his opposite-field drive carried over the right-field fence and bounced down the tunnel beyond it, the crowd went wild, as did the Tigers dugout. 

“I grew up watching him and playing with him on my video games,” said Baddoo. “So to be his teammate and witness it in real time, it’s amazing.”

Martinez has seen that oppo swing live so many times over the years. Still, seeing those numbers in bold along the left-field concourse put it all in perspective.

“It's unbelievable,” Martinez marveled during batting practice before the game. “You hope he can stay healthy as long as he can to hit this milestone. I think he's earned that.”

Cabrera’s 11th home run of the season was his third in five games this homestand. His past seven have been opposite-field shots as he continues to work on that swing of old.

“I saw him early in the season, and he seemed like he was going to struggle throughout,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, whose team last faced the Tigers at Fenway Park in early May. “And like every Hall of Famer, he made adjustments and started swinging the bat well. He's one of the most dangerous hitters I've ever seen. The fact that he can go the other way at will to get base hits and obviously hit the ball for power is eye-opening.”

The buzz around Cabrera’s chase has been attracting fans ever since his two-homer game last Thursday to begin the homestand. Fans began to applaud as soon as he stepped out of the dugout to take his warmup swings on deck before the bottom of the second inning began.

Cabrera took a first-pitch fastball high from Richards before getting a 95 mph heater high in the strike zone. Cabrera laced it towards right field at 103.6 mph, to cut the Tigers' deficit to 2-1.

“I don’t want to downplay the numbers changing by any means,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “but the homer actually got us back in the game.”

Cabrera did more than homer. He hit a ground-ball single through the left side of the infield his next time up for his 2,944th career hit, pushing him past Hall of Famer Frank Robinson for 36th on the AL/NL all-time list, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Martinez can appreciate the massive home runs Cabrera has produced here, because Martinez homered to some of the same depths of Comerica Park. Tuesday marked the five-year anniversary of Martinez’s pinch-hit go-ahead home run off future Red Sox teammate Chris Sale. Martinez not only stepped off the bench to crush a ball to center that night, he stepped off the injured list.

Martinez learned about the value of playing through injuries from Cabrera. He hopes fans appreciate what Cabrera played through during his prime as they watch him battle aches and pains to make this run at history.

“When I was here, I was always scared. I couldn't ever take a day off,” Martinez said. “Miggy's going out there with a broken foot. How am I supposed to take a day off? Are you kidding me? I remember when we were in Minnesota and Nick [Castellanos] fouled a ball off his foot and the next day he didn't play. Miggy was ticked. And Nick's like, 'I don't get it.' I'm like, 'The guy's out there playing with a broken foot. He's got bone spurs everywhere. You foul a ball off your foot and you can't play? It better be broken.'”

That’s different these days, of course. Players are closely monitored, and many get scheduled days off. The 38-year-old Cabrera gets his share too, but with history so close, his swing so well-timed, and fans so enthusiastic, he’s playing through.

“The fans have to kind of understand,” Martinez said. “This guy grinded out a lot of years in his prime when he probably shouldn't have been playing just because the team had to win. He can't move [as well] now but he gave you his all then. I feel for him, because I understand it. You just hope that all the fan base understands it too.”

The reception Cabrera receives every time he steps on deck, let alone in the box, suggests yes.

“When he comes up to bat, I mean, everybody’s on their feet,” Hinch said. “They’re looking for the number to change, either the hit total or the homer total, and Miggy’s delivering with really good at-bats. You can feel the energy surrounding that, and it bleeds more and more energy throughout the game.”