Energized Miggy (2 HRs) closing in on 500 

July 30th, 2021

DETROIT -- can see the milestones ahead now. Literally. So can everybody else.

“As I was walking out to the bullpen today, I saw the numbers and the milestones he’s chasing. They are unreal,” said Orioles starter Alexander Wells, the 343rd pitcher to give up a home run to Cabrera, after Thursday’s 6-2 Tigers win.

Cabrera is close enough now to the 3,000-hit and 500-homer clubs that his totals are on full display on a board on the left-field concourse, just behind the bullpens, near the statues of Tigers greats. Even with Comerica Park’s big outfield, the numbers are impossible to miss.

Those numbers stared over his shoulder when he stepped into the batter’s box. Twice, he was able to take a home run trot, look out there as he rounded first base and smile as Tigers personnel hurriedly changed cards and updated numbers.

As big as his 496th and 497th career homers were, both in his career and the Tigers’ third consecutive win, his reaction was nearly as important. He has always been more about team success than individual milestones. When he won the Triple Crown in 2012, he needed teammate Prince Fielder to tell him to enjoy it amidst a playoff race.

The smile on his face, the bounce in his step Thursday made it clear he was enjoying this, in part because his teammates are enjoying it with him.

“He’s playing with a lot of young guys, guys who want to have fun,” said Jeimer Candelario, his teammate since 2017. “He wants us to be able to be confident, to do you. Like MLB says, let the kids play. He’s like a kid for us. He’s enjoying it. And for us, it’s a huge opportunity to play with Miguel Cabrera and see what he’s done in his career.”

As impressive as Cabrera’s two-homer, three-RBI game was, it was just part of his night. The 38-year-old first baseman made a leaping grab on a chopper from Domingo Leyba to start a 3-6-3 double play to end the second inning, then went to ground an inning later to corral ’s throw on a Cedric Mullins bunt. Another ball from Mullins sent Cabrera diving to stop and throw to Mize covering first, the two laughing on their way back to the dugout at the end of the fifth inning.

“I took off late,” Mize said, “and I told him, ‘Miggy, I didn’t think I needed to go.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m glad you did, papa. We got him.’”

If the leaps and the dives were reminders of Miggy’s younger years, so were the opposite-field homers. He’d been working on that swing for days, trying to poke fastballs to right. He homered Monday at Target Field in the same direction off Michael Pineda, his first home run in nearly a month.

Now Cabrera has three homers in four days.

“He's a sparkplug for our team,” Mize said. “Whenever he gets rolling, I don't know if you can stop us, because everybody's like, 'Oh my gosh, Miggy's doing his thing.'”

The respect for Cabrera crosses dugouts. As the Australian-born Wells saw Cabrera step to the plate in the first inning, he didn’t need an introduction.

“I grew up watching him play,” Wells said. “I got a bit starstruck when he got into the box and the crowd was cheering. I knew my job was to stay locked in and attack him like any other hitter in the box, but it’s pretty cool to face a guy like that.”

Cabrera singled off Wells in the first inning, advancing Jonathan Schoop to third for Eric Haase’s sacrifice fly. Cabrera’s two-out walk his next time up extended the third inning for Haase’s RBI single. Then came the homers.

Cabrera’s fifth-inning line drive off Wells found the right-field corner, a Statcast-projected 363-foot shot that landed in the tunnel beyond the fence. Two innings later, he sent an Adam Plutko fastball just to the left of that area, a 380-foot drive into the seats on a 3-1 pitch.

“When you see him doing that, you know he feels good,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “When he gets in these streaks where he’s hitting the ball hard that way, he’s taking some pitches that are close that are balls, he’s commanding the count a little bit, and he’s still a threat. Regardless of what the overarching numbers speak to over the last few years, he’s a threat every time he swings the bat. He’s still Miguel Cabrera.”

Cabrera posted a two-homer, three-hit game for the second time this season -- the other coming May 21 at Kansas City. He hadn’t done it at Comerica Park in nearly five full years, the last time coming July 31, 2016.

“It's pretty cool for me to see it in person,” Mize said, “because it's not something that I thought I would be able to do as a kid, but it's cool that I'm here experiencing.”