With .300 in sight, Miggy walks it off

May 27th, 2022

DETROIT -- It had been almost three years since July 12, 2019, the last time Miguel Cabrera finished a game with a .300 batting average. But as his line drive up the middle sent Comerica Park into a victory celebration Thursday night, that three-year stretch came to an end.

Cabrera wasn’t watching his average tick up after his ninth-inning RBI single lifted the Tigers to a 4-3 win over the Guardians. As his teammates mobbed him at first base, he really couldn’t see the scoreboard at all. He could certainly tell how important this win was for a team trying to dig its way out of a hole.

“He’s putting up such good at-bats and contributing, obviously. It’s fun to see,” manager A.J. Hinch said.

The 39-year-old Cabrera is, by many measurements, the Tigers’ most productive hitter right now as they try to ignite their offense. He’s batting 80 points above the team’s batting average and 149 points above the team’s OPS. He leads Detroit in hits, total bases and RBIs.

Moreover, he’s spraying line drives all over the field in the right situations, and commanding the strike zone like he did in his prime years, even if he isn’t hitting the ball out of the ballpark at the same rate. At this point, even opponents are amazed.

As Robbie Grossman stood on third base following Cabrera’s second hit of the game, Guardians third baseman Ernie Clement couldn’t help but marvel.

“He said, ‘That guy’s amazing, huh,’” Grossman recalled. “I said, ‘Only for the last 20 years.’

“He has swung the bat so well this year, nothing surprises me at this point.”

Cabrera hit an opposite-field RBI single in the second inning, then added a single to shallow center in the fourth to chase Cleveland starter Konnor Pilkington. After fouling out in the seventh inning, Cabrera came up in the ninth after Jonathan Schoop’s one-out double off Trevor Stephan. He swung and missed at a splitter in the dirt for a 1-2 count, but the ball bounced past catcher Luke Maile to move Schoop to third.

Cabrera knew all he needed was a single, and he knew Stephan couldn’t risk bouncing another ball in the dirt when it could become a game-ending wild pitch. Stephan went to a fastball on the inner half, but Cabrera lined it through the middle.

“That guy has been around doing that for a long time,” Guardians catcher Luke Maile said. “He’s a really smart hitter. It wasn’t a bad pitch, but he had a good idea of what he wanted to do with it.”

Cabrera’s 3,029th career hit was his 14th career walk-off hit. It also completed his third three-hit game of May. He has raised his average 53 points in his last 13 games, batting .404 (19-for-47) in that span. For the season, he’s 42-for-140 – exactly .300.

Time will tell how long he can stay there, but it’s worth enjoying the ride.