Throughout Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera’s glorious MLB career, teams have tried numerous different shifts and alignments to try to slow his offensive game.
But the Royals may have pulled off a first on Monday night at Comerica Park, essentially employing a six-man outfield against Cabrera.
The Royals lined up their three outfielders -- Alex Gordon, Brett Phillips and Jorge Soler -- in their traditional spots. But they also had third baseman Maikel Franco and shortstop Adalberto Mondesi positioned in short left field, well off the infield dirt. And second baseman Whit Merrifield was also set up in the outfield, in short right-center.
The only infielder who still had some of his spikes on the infield dirt was first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, who was still quite a distance from first base.
“Yeah, that was interesting. We hadn't seen that, but I can see that happening because Miggy doesn't run as well as he [used to]," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But honestly, we talked about it, and we were studying this thing out and I'm sure that they've done all their homework on it. But actually when they were spread out like that, playing five, seven, 10 yards deep on the grass, it actually looked like it had way more holes than he normally does, so it would be entertaining to watch him hit one somewhere in the middle of that and then try to throw him out at first base. We were talking about that, definitely talking about it, because we hadn't seen that yet.”
The strategy against Cabrera, whose knee injuries over the years have severely hampered his speed almost to a jog, certainly worked. Cabrera grounded out on slow rollers in both the second and seventh innings -- to "short" and to "second," respectively. The Royals' infielders still had plenty of time to charge the ball and make the throws for the outs.
“A lot of it has to do with our arms. Maikel Franco can throw across the infield and Mondi has the plus arm," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "It’s sort of one of those things where we’ll always look to see how we can gain [an advantage].”