Miggy treats everyone to memorable night in opener of final series

September 30th, 2023

DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera slid into second base and laughed.

He’d turned the corner at first base and broke for second, the strain in his face as he pushed for another gear in his 40-year-old legs and aching knees, as Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan drifted onto his back foot fielding Cabrera’s one-hopper off the left-field fence. Kwan’s throw beat him, but Cabrera slid under Andrés Giménez’s high tag as the Guardians second baseman whirled from the other side of the bag.

Cabrera pointed to second-base umpire John Bacon as he called him safe. Then Cabrera pointed to Giménez and laughed. It was his 625th career double, lifting him past Henry Aaron for 13th on the all-time list. It was just the start.

On a weekend that is sure to become emotional as Cabrera wraps up a 21-year career, Cabrera was in his element, tormenting a division rival and having fun. The crowd of 30,053 was all for it, roaring for all three Miggy hits and booing Guardians starter Cal Quantrill for a hit-by-pitch.

“There’s going to be a lot of emotions,” Cabrera said before the game. “I’ll try to focus on what I have to do on the field. It’s going to be hard to focus, but it is what it is. I’m going to enjoy, try to have fun.”

Cabrera’s fifth three-hit effort of the season -- and his second two-double game since 2019 -- came in a 7-5 Detroit defeat, drawing the Guardians and Tigers into a tie for second place in the AL Central. But it was a show for a crowd that just about packed Comerica Park for one more look at a future Hall of Famer.

“It was incredible,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I mean, the fans were incredible, and it was a great boost of energy for everybody. To play in that environment is what everybody talks about with Detroit and the fans and Comerica.”

It looked like a crowd from Cabrera’s chase for his 500th home run and 3,000th hit, cell phones raised and pointed in anticipation of every swing. 

“Just trying to soak it in as much as possible while maintaining focus in the game,” said Spencer Torkelson, whose 31st home run drew Detroit to within two in the ninth. “Because you know they’re going to be talking about him in 80 years, 100 years. So we’re really lucky to be a part of this moment.”

Said Guardians third baseman Tyler Freeman, whose three-run homer off Joey Wentz put Cleveland in command early: “It's a dream just to be on the same field as him. I would’ve never imagined myself doing that. Just to see him going through everything he deserves, it's unbelievable.”

With the Guardians fighting to win their final games for manager Terry Francona, there are no cookies. Cabrera’s first-inning double came on a cutter just below the zone. His second double off Quantrill, leading off the fifth inning, came on another cutter, this time on a 1-0 pitch on the outer half. Cabrera went oppo, sending it to the wall in right-center.

Cabrera improved to 9-for-14 off Quantrill, all since 2021. Miggy also faced his dad, Paul Quantrill, going 0-for-1 as a rookie in 2003.

“I don't know how to get him out,” Quantrill said. “I'm glad he's retiring."

Once Cabrera singled off Enyel De Los Santos in the seventh, sending a line drive into left, he had fun with Giménez again. He got into a sprinter’s stance off first base on one pitch as he looked in his direction. Another pitch, he bounced on the balls of his feet before heading back to first.

"It looked like he was younger,” Francona said. “He's pretty good, man. He might want to rethink. He might want to come back with swings like that."

Said Torkelson: “He always jokes around like he could come back one more year, but he’s retiring. He’s special. Greatest right-handed hitter ever.”

Cabrera was at the plate to slap Torkelson’s hand after his homer. It was a rare ninth-inning appearance for Cabrera, and it ended with a first-pitch groundout. But the ovation from a crowd that stayed to the end was just as loud. 

“Probably the most likely outcome is that's his last ninth-inning at-bat,” Hinch said. “He and I talked about it in the seventh. These are real ... I mean, it's hard for me to talk about, I don't know really the right things to say other than this is an incredible experience.”