Miggy the main attraction, but history waits

Slugger collects his 2,945th hit, but is still two shy of 500 home runs

August 5th, 2021

DETROIT -- One of the quirks about the return of home crowds has been the return of the wave. Each Tigers game at Comerica Park seemingly features at least one inning during which fans revel in having enough people around them to send a wave around the park. That was the intention of two fans who exhorted their neighbors to get on their feet Wednesday night as the bottom of the sixth inning began, only to be reminded that was at the plate.

Cabrera had a single but no home runs in the Tigers’ 4-1 loss to the Red Sox, leaving him at 498 home runs and 2,945 hits. But on a day when his former teammate, J.D. Martinez, homered at Comerica Park for the first time since his Tigers days, Cabrera remained the center of attention on his milestone chase.

It’s a big enough deal that even Wednesday’s opposing starter was into it.

“I feel like he's like an older brother to me,” said Red Sox starter and fellow Venezuelan, Eduardo Rodriguez. “We've been training together for a long time, and talking all the time. Even sometimes I call him and ask him what he thinks about hitters.”

Cabrera struck out swinging on a 93 mph fastball from Rodriguez to strand runners at the corners in the first inning, one of 10 strikeouts Rodriguez compiled over five scoreless innings and 18 Tigers strikeouts for the night -- not counting the whiff on the aforementioned attempt at the wave.

Cabrera made contact with the first pitch he saw from Rodriguez in the third inning, hitting a comebacker to Rodriguez to strand a runner on second. Rodriguez joked that he tried to keep the bat so that he could have Cabrera sign it later.

“It's special that he's getting close to his 500 homers,” Rodriguez said. “I wish I could stay here and see it, but I don't want him to hit it off my teammates. It's something that I want to see. I just want him to get to his 500 and keep working to make it to the Hall of Fame right now.”

Their friendship is slightly ironic, since Rodriguez played a minor role in denying Cabrera one more World Series run from his last playoff team in Detroit. Rodriguez was the prospect the Orioles traded to Boston for Andrew Miller in 2014, the year Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski tried hard to acquire him. Miller went on to throw 3 1/3 hitless innings against the Tigers in the 2014 AL Division Series, Cabrera’s last postseason appearance.

“I was joking with him before we got here,” Rodriguez said. “I called him and he told me, 'Bro, I need three more, and you're going to pitch; [I can] hit them off you. I was like, ‘Bro, you gotta earn it. Even if you're my brother outside those white lines, you're not my brother [during the game]. That's how it is.'”

Cabrera’s 2,945th career hit came on a sixth-inning squibber Wednesday with a 56.9 mph exit velocity off a Hirokazu Sawamura splitter. It wasn’t pretty, but he’ll take it.

According to manager A.J. Hinch, Cabrera will serve as Detroit’s designated hitter Thursday afternoon against Red Sox starter Martín Pérez, off whom he’s 4-for-10 with two doubles and seven walks, but no home runs. Cabrera went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout against Pérez on May 5 at Fenway Park.

The Tigers begin a six-game, two-city road trip on Friday in Cleveland. So unless Cabrera has a two-homer game, his chase for 500 home runs will go on to Progressive Field this weekend and perhaps Camden Yards next week. Hinch said he plans to start Cabrera on Friday and Saturday before likely resting him Sunday afternoon.

“We have an off-day on Monday and then we’ll go to Baltimore,” Hinch said, “but I’m not going to sit him the whole road trip.”

As much as the Tigers would love Cabrera to hit his home run milestone here, his production has also been important in the Tigers winning lately.

Jonathan Schoop’s 18th homer of the season provided the Tigers’ lone run in the seventh. A two-out walk to Robbie Grossman brought Cabrera up with a chance to create a one-run game. On came Adam Ottavino, whose first-pitch slider sent Cabrera swinging. He got under it, but flied out to center.

Tigers starter Casey Mize shook off Martinez’s second-inning solo homer to stay in a duel with Rodriguez before back-to-back two-out homers from Kiké Hernández and Jarren Duran built a comfortable lead in the fifth. Mize suffered his first loss since July 2.