Yanks intentionally walk Miggy to spoil shot at 3,000

Cabrera not put out by IBB: 'To walk me intentionally, that’s part of the game'

April 21st, 2022

DETROIT -- Hours before Miguel Cabrera’s chase for his 3,000th hit resumed Thursday afternoon, the 2012 American League Triple Crown winner sat at his locker in a distant corner of the Tigers’ clubhouse and tried to explain why it was secondary for him.

“I know history is very important,” Cabrera said before the Tigers’ 3-0 win at Comerica Park, “but we need to win first. It's not about me. It's about the team.”

As boos echoed through Comerica Park for the intentional walk Cabrera received in his final plate appearance, and as fans chanted how they felt about the Yankees, Cabrera motioned for fans to calm down and pointed to the scoreboard.

“We're winning, 3-0, so it's OK,” Cabrera said he tried to explain. “It's 3-0 in the [eighth]. We have the lead.”

This is Cabrera at his core. He has fun playing baseball, loves the game and appreciates its history. But more than anything, he wants to win.

“He wanted to make sure everybody was perfectly clear that winning the game was the priority,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Miggy has handled it like this, for the 500 [home run] chase, for the 3,000 [hit] chase. Miggy’s about winning today. We needed to win.”

Cabrera wasn’t in the best of moods after his three-hit game Wednesday brought him within a hit of No. 3,000, because the Tigers lost. Thursday was the opposite. Cabrera was an 0-for-3 cleanup batter whose chase for his 3,000th career hit ended instead with his 236th career intentional walk and -- thanks in part to Austin Meadows’ ensuing two-run double -- an end to Detroit’s three-game losing streak.

“This is baseball, you know? It was a lefty behind me at the plate,” Cabrera said. “To walk me intentionally, that’s part of the game. I went 0-for-3, but we got a chance to win. Beautiful.”

For four plate appearances, fans packed the lower bowl, hoping for a glimpse at history. Cabrera received a standing ovation from fans behind home plate when he emerged from the dugout to step on deck in the first inning. He walked to the netting between the dugout and home plate, waved hello to fans and posed for a photo with his son, who was seated with the rest of his family nearby.

“I was very emotional the first at-bat,” Cabrera said. “That’s why I wore sunglasses.”

They’d been talking about the milestone the day before. Cabrera told him that he would bunt for his 3,000th hit, a joke he had shared with reporters in Spring Training.

“I told my kid Christopher yesterday,” Cabrera said before Thursday’s game. “He said, 'You're going to bunt? Dad, come on.' But we bunt today.”

In the end, Cabrera did not bunt. He swung and missed at a first-pitch sinker from Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery before flying out to left to end the opening inning.

Cabrera struck out vs. Montgomery in his next two at-bats, swinging and missing at a curveball leading off the fourth before a checked-swing strike on a 3-2 fastball in the sixth.

That could have been it, but the Tigers’ eighth-inning rally off Miguel Castro earned Cabrera one more trip to the plate, this time facing lefty Lucas Luetge. When Jeimer Candelario hit into a 1-2-3 double play in front of Cabrera, Yankees manager Aaron Boone went to the mound to discuss walking Cabrera with first base open and the left-handed hitter Meadows due up.

“It's a baseball call all the way,” Boone said, “but there's no doubt that there's a little more feeling to it, understanding the situation. In the end, you have to do what you think is right within the context of the game."

Hinch had “zero doubt” the walk was coming.

“Boonie’s obligation is to his own team and their chances of winning,” Hinch said, “and they had the matchup behind Miggy that he wanted. So you could see it coming. I know our fans responded accordingly, but I totally get it.”

The noise -- not just at the walk, but with all of Cabrera’s at-bats -- reminded catcher Eric Haase of the Tigers games he went to when he was growing up.

“Growing up, it’s hard to really convey what this stadium was like, the atmosphere,” Haase said. “The last couple years -- COVID, the rebuild and stuff -- it’s really tough. But today was awesome. It kind of brings back childhood memories.”

Up came Meadows, a .198 hitter off lefties last season and 0-for-5 with three strikeouts for his career against Luetge. His blooper had a .190 expected batting average, according to Statcast, but bounced between center fielder Aaron Hicks and left fielder Joey Gallo.

“We scored two runs. That’s big,” Cabrera said. “That’s the beauty of baseball.”

The history can wait another day. Cabrera’s next chance will come Friday against the Rockies and fellow Venezuelan Antonio Senzatela, who’s set to start.