Miggy's 3,095th hit is a 1st for him in Tigers' dramatic W

April 15th, 2023

DETROIT -- had a career first in his 21st Major League season. He still ended up playing second fiddle.

Cabrera’s 3,095th career hit marked his 16th walk-off, completing a six-run Tigers comeback for a 7-6 win over the Giants on Saturday. It was his first walk-off hit as a pinch-hitter, which makes sense considering Cabrera -- an everyday starter for much of his career -- had just 28 career pinch-hit appearances entering the day.

It’s a historic twist on an unfamiliar role for Cabrera, who will turn 40 on Tuesday. But as he sat in the clubhouse afterward, he was in the equally rare role of waiting for a teammate to finish talking. As discussed his 12-pitch at-bat as part of the Tigers’ game-tying rally, Cabrera found himself on the bench again.

“I’m ready,” Cabrera teased as Báez talked a few feet away. 

“I’m leaving."

“Javy, you talk too much.”

No, he didn’t actually leave.

“When you’re on the bench, you have to be ready for anything,” Cabrera said when the time came.

His services didn’t seem needed with a 6-1 deficit after three innings. , just back from the injured list, was roughed up in his Tigers debut. , just called up from Triple-A Toledo, was in from the bullpen to fill innings. 

“I’ll take credit for putting us in a hole early, to show we were able to come back,” Lorenzen joked.

Despite summer-like weather in mid-April, fans at Comerica Park were getting restless, booing Báez for a fourth-inning strikeout on a slider well off the plate from Anthony DeSclafani. It was a rough at-bat following a Riley Greene leadoff single.

Few could have imagined the Tigers rallying on one of the best at-bats of Báez’s career. He had a redemption game Friday with two hits and two walks in a victory after being benched for baserunning mistakes Thursday in Toronto.

“Listen, he’s in a really good place because he’s locked in and doing some fun things,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s not going to be perfect. We don’t expect him to be perfect. But we expect him to lock in and help us. And man, is he playing really good the last two days.”

After singling in the sixth inning off DeSclafani, Báez came back up in the eighth as the potential tying run with runners on first and second and nobody out. He stepped in against Giants reliever John Brebbia, off whom he’d homered in 2019 when Brebbia was a Cardinal and Báez was a Cub.

“Got to be focused,” Báez said. “I know the pitcher, the way he pitches me. Just got to swing at good pitches and make contact.”

Báez fell into an 0-2 count. Unlike his earlier strikeout, he took a slider well off the plate, then ducked away from a fastball up and in. From there, the battle was on.

Báez fouled off five consecutive pitches, each either in the zone or at the edge. He took another slider well off the plate to run the count full, then fouled off a slider in the strike zone again. He saw double-digit pitches in an at-bat for just the eighth time in his career.

On the 12th pitch, Giants catcher Joey Bart lined up on the outside corner. Brebbia went back to the slider, but left it over the plate. Báez lined it over left fielder Blake Sabol’s head and off the fence on a bounce, scoring both runners as the crowd roared.

“I think that at-bat changed the whole game,” Cabrera said.

It matched the longest at-bat of Báez’s career. He went 12 pitches against Chad Kuhl of the Pirates on Sept. 26, 2016. 

“It feels great when I can do that,” he said. “I know who I am and I know what I can do. They can say stuff out there that I don’t control.”

's game-tying single to score Báez was Detroit’s last hit until Cabrera was called upon to hit for Akil Baddoo against lefty Taylor Rogers. All he needed to score Torkelson was a single, a task that became easier when strike two skipped past Bart for a wild pitch that moved Torkelson to third. With the infield forced to play in, Cabrera sent a ground ball through the middle.

“I think a lot of us had a ton of confidence he was going to find a way to make contact,” Hinch said.

“Feels good,” Cabrera said after being doused with water on the field. “Feels nice.”

Feels rare.