MLB's first HR of '21? Miggy ... in the snow!

April 1st, 2021

DETROIT -- could join baseball’s prestigious 500-homer club this season. On Thursday during Detroit's 3-2 win against the Indians at Comerica Park, he added a Snow-pening Day homer to his career milestones.

It might also be the first home run during which Cabrera slid into second base.

“I was excited to get a double right there,” Cabrera joked.

It set the stage for a memorable Opening Day during which Cabrera, who turns 38 on April 18, began his 19th Major League season by turning back the clock.

Cabrera entered the season needing 13 home runs for 500, and he didn’t need long to begin his march. He did, however, need a minute to figure out if his opposite-field loft off reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber had cleared the right-field fence through the snowfall at Comerica Park.

So did the umpires, who took a brief review before affirming the home run call.

Cabrera has played in plenty of cold weather over his 13 seasons with Detroit, but a first-pitch temperature of 32 degrees and snowfall might have been a first. Still, his first start at first since June 18, 2019, provided plenty of energy to power him through the chill and the intermittent snow showers.

Cabrera was 2-for-12 with no extra-base hits and four strikeouts for his career off Bieber before connecting on a 92.8 mph fastball. The 101.8 mph drive looked headed for the right-field seats, but it wasn’t immediately clear through the weather.

“It was a little fuzzy, man, to be honest,” Bieber said, of tracking fly balls early on. “I was asking the outfielders after the inning. They came back in and they were saying they couldn’t see a thing.”

Cabrera raised his hand at first base, thinking the ball might have gone out, then accelerated into second when he didn’t get a signal, sliding into the bag for what would’ve been his 582nd career double. Cabrera was still looking for a call as he got up, then trotted the rest of the way once second-base umpire Will Little assured him it was a home run.

“When I hit the ball, I didn’t know where the ball was going to be,” he said. “I looked at the right fielder and he went back. When the ball hit the fence, I thought there was going to be a play at second base. That’s why I slid into second. When I saw the umpire, he said [it was a] home run, so I said, 'OK, thank you.'"

“Man, Miggy’s the best,” starter said. “It’s awesome. He’s the straw that stirs the drink. He gets us going.”

The energy from Cabrera's home run carried into the field, where he made a crucial out during Boyd’s scoreless 5 2/3 innings. With a runner on first and one out in the fourth, Cabrera dove into the hole to make a diving stop on Josh Naylor’s ground ball, then threw from his knee to get the forceout on Franmil Reyes at second.

“Saved a run,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “You look at the box score, you’re not going to find it, but when you watch baseball and you talk about winning baseball, it’s plays like that that are appreciated.”

Cabrera’s 488th career homer moves him within five of Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 28th on MLB’s all-time list. It was also his 350th home run as a Tiger, and he joined the late Al Kaline as the only players with 350 homers and 2,000 hits in a Detroit uniform.

Amazingly, Cabrera’s third Opening Day homer was his first since 2008. That was his first game as a Tiger.

As for Bieber, he becomes the 336th pitcher to allow a Cabrera homer, a list that includes fellow former Cleveland Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber (six), CC Sabathia (two) and Cliff Lee (one).

“Miggy’s gonna Miggy, you know? He’s a hell of a hitter,” Bieber said. “It is what it is. A lot more games to be played, a lot more starts to be had.”