Miggy (5 RBIs) leader of Tigers' hit parade

Hinch says 'double/triple' was big swing in series-opening rout of Rangers

July 20th, 2021

DETROIT -- The last time drove in five runs in a game without hitting a homer, he hit a two-run double off a Royals rookie starter and former No. 1 overall Draft pick named Luke Hochevar. Cabrera also drove in Carlos Guillen three different times. That was July 21, 2008, in the midst of Cabrera’s first season as a Tiger.

Cabrera has inflicted a historic amount of damage on teams since then, but every big game has included a long ball. Considering how Detroit is finding different ways to score runs these days -- and the Tigers scored plenty in Monday night’s 14-0 win over the Rangers at Comerica Park -- maybe it’s fitting that their senior hitter does it, too.

After watching teammates slash Comerica Park’s outfield gaps and scamper around the bases in the previous two days, Cabrera got in on the act. His bases-clearing double into the left-field corner in the fifth inning pretty much put this game out of reach off longtime nemesis Kyle Gibson, but when the throw went home, Cabrera kept going. Catcher Jonah Heim’s throw easily beat him to third, but replay review showed that Cabrera’s hook slide contorted him around the tag.

Cabrera’s trek from home to third, timed at 13.42 seconds by Statcast, is about as close as the 38-year-old can get to a triple, which he hasn’t recorded since 2016. The damage helped saddle Gibson, a former American League Central rival with the Twins and current Trade Deadline target by contenders, with eight runs on 10 hits before he was pulled with none out in the sixth.

Cabrera’s hit was the biggest of the bunch.

“His double/triple was a big swing against one of the better pitchers in the American League,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Any time you can pile on a couple runs against a quality pitcher like Gibson, it’s just going to relax the entire dugout and make you feel like you’re in control of the game.”

The Tigers still had no outs in the sixth when Cabrera came up with the bases loaded again. This time, his ground-ball single through the left side plated two runs off reliever Brett Martin. Back-to-back walks let Cabrera trot around to third base before scoring on a Harold Castro sacrifice fly to cap a seven-run sixth inning.

Cabrera hasn’t homered since June 30 at Cleveland, and hasn’t gone deep at Comerica Park since his Opening Day drive through the snow on April 1. Yet as his march towards the 500-homer club has slowed, he has found production in smaller hits. He’s batting .303 (40-for-132) since June 1 with 22 RBIs despite just three homers and nine extra-base hits.

The future Hall of Fame slugger is up to .292 (21-for-72) for the season with runners in scoring position, driving in 31 runs despite just four extra-base hits. He’s 7-for-12 with 16 RBIs with the bases loaded. What age has taken away from his body with his explosiveness, his mind has allowed him to stay aware in big situations and do what he needs to do.

Those smaller hits are also making his chances of joining baseball’s prestigious 3,000-hit club look stronger this year. He's now 38th on the AL/NL hits list at 2,931, having tied and passed Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby and Jake Beckley on the same evening. His next hit will tie him with another Hall of Famer, Willie Keeler.

The first words on Keeler’s Hall of Fame plaque is a phrase he reportedly used to tell young hitters: “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” The phrase is now fitting an older hitter in transition.

“These are big moments for Miggy personally and for our team and our organization, our fan base,” Hinch said. “I mean, he’s given so much to this franchise and continues to remind us in ways that we’re seeing some special names be passed and Miggy’s in with the elite. You know, you can go your whole career and not see things like this that are going on, so you’ve got to soak it up as a team. And we’re certainly very appreciative of the fans that are locked in on the Miggy race.”

The Tigers put up two touchdowns worth of runs on Texas but had only one home run, an Akil Baddoo drive into the right-field seats for the first two tallies. Detroit would’ve had two more runs if not for outfield assists from Joey Gallo.

Only an innings watch kept starter Casey Mize from what would’ve been his sixth win of the season. He allowed only a Brock Holt single over four innings.