Tribe figuring out how to face slugger Miggy
Francona says approach against Tigers hitter can't be 'etched in stone'
DETROIT -- There is no instruction manual for facing Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. It sounds easy enough to just walk Cabrera as often as possible, but Indians manager Terry Francona said the solution is hardly ever that simple.
"There's all kind of things," Francona said prior to Saturday's 5-4 win over Detroit. "It's not just one thing ever. It can't just be etched in stone: 'You're going to do this.' There's too many other variables. There's just flat-out times when you've got to get a good hitter out. ... If you just cut-and-dry walk him, you're going to give up runs."
Cleveland's more aggressive approach against Cabrera this season has also led to a pile of runs.
Cabrera's latest assault on the Tribe's pitching staff came on Saturday, when he went 2-for-4 with an RBI single and a walk. On Friday night, the first baseman went 2-for-3 with a walk, a three-run home run and an RBI double to account for all of Detroit's offense in a 4-0 loss for Cleveland. Cabrera is now batting .633 (19-for-30) against the Indians and .286 (54-for-189) against all other teams this year.
Following Friday's defeat, Indians starter Danny Salazar said he likes to "attack" Cabrera, who struck out on a 97-mph full-count fastball in the fourth inning against the righty. In the sixth inning, though, Salazar uncharacteristically threw a first-pitch cutter that registered at 93 mph and stayed over the heart of the plate, resulting in the homer.
"When Danny uses the word 'attack,' I thought he attacked him the first two at-bats," Francona said. "It's so easy to second-guess, because the guy hits a home run. And I don't ever want to do that, but I just thought by maybe throwing the cutter, it wasn't really the attack."
Hall-of-Fame slugger Babe Ruth and Cabrera, who entered Saturday batting .360 with 39 home runs and a 1.074 OPS in his career against Cleveland, are the only two batters in history to have 30-plus homers and an average of .350 or better against the Indians. Cabrera is currently one of five hitters (Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Edgar Martinez and Ruth being the others) with 30 or more homers and an OPS of 1.000 or greater in a career against Cleveland.
"Miggy is one of the most special hitters in the game," Francona said. "There's no way to get around it." Whether Cabrera has Yoenis Cespedes, Victor Martinez or J.D Martinez behind him in Detroit's lineup, Francona said it creates a problematic matchup.
"Getting through the bulk of that lineup is really tough," Francona said. "So many times, we haven't done that. You get nicked up. [If] there's an open base and we've elected to walk Miggy, you have to end up pitching to somebody. That's part of why they're good."