Miggy nears history with No. 499, sparks win

August 12th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- After moved within touching distance of MLB's 500-homer club on Wednesday night, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch will let him go for the milestone in Thursday’s series finale. Doing otherwise, after Cabrera clubbed No. 499 in the 5-2 win over the Orioles, would be bad baseball karma.

“He’s playing,” Hinch said, before a reporter could complete the question. “I’ve talked to him. We’re not going to test baseball fate. We really want him to hit it whenever he’s supposed to hit it.”

Whenever that happens, Cabrera will become the 28th player in Major League history -- and the first from Venezuela or to play for the Tigers -- to reach the benchmark.

But if it doesn’t happen on Thursday in Baltimore -- where he clubbed a fifth-inning solo shot off O’s starter Matt Harvey -- then the next six chances come in a homestand the Tigers begin on Friday.

“Maybe it’s tomorrow, maybe it’s not,” Hinch said. “It’s not easy to walk up there and say, ‘Today is the day I’m going to hit a homer.’ Even for Miguel Cabrera.”

The future Hall of Famer also lined a sacrifice fly to right in the sixth to complete a three-hit, two-RBI game at a ballpark that has often felt like a second home. Cabrera now has 12 homers and 41 RBIs in 40 games in Baltimore after taking a 1-2 curveball from Harvey (6-11) and pulling it over the left-center-field wall into the Orioles' bullpen.

That 12th round-tripper may have barely carried beyond the field of play, but former Oriole and current Tigers teammate Jonathan Schoop said it wasn’t a typical Camden Yards home run.

“The ball didn’t fly that well today,” Schoop said. “It didn’t fly like it used to here. ... But as soon as Miggy hit it, I thought it had a chance.”

Tarik Skubal (8-10) struck out six over six innings, posting back-to-back scoreless outings after working five clean frames in an 8-1 win against Boston on Thursday.

The last two innings were a little easier after Cabrera’s shot sparked a three-run fifth for the Tigers.

“I thought Miggy sort of decompressed our entire group in the dugout, because we got to play with the lead,” Hinch said.

Before a crowd of 8,990 on a muggy night that began with a one-hour, 11-minute rain delay, Cabrera slapped a single through the right side of the infield in the first inning and the left side in the third. Each time, Harvey worked out of a resulting bases-loaded jam.

Cabrera’s blast in the fifth was greeted with relatively little fanfare. Most of the Tigers' dugout stood at the top rail and applauded, and two men draped a Venezuelan flag out the lower level of the press box.

Otherwise, it felt like a normal, steamy August road game in Baltimore for a team that moved within four games of .500 (56-60) for just the second time since April.

“He keeps everything loose, especially in the clubhouse,” Schoop said of Cabrera. “Those things you guys don’t see. Miggy takes some pressure off the young guys and puts it on him. And that’s impressive.”

Said Hinch: “We all know what’s going on. We’re not really talking about it as much as you probably think.”

Another outfield injury

Infielder/outfielder Niko Goodrum is heading back to the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain two games after his previous IL stint came to an end. Goodrum followed Cabrera’s homer with a two-run double to complete Detroit’s fifth-inning scoring, then immediately exited.

Goodrum had played most of his 65 games this season at shortstop, but he was in left field as a result of Tuesday’s outfield collision between Akil Baddoo and Derek Hill. That scary moment sent both players to the IL on Wednesday.

Goodrum will rejoin them there after previously missing nearly a month with a bruised left calf.

“It’s awful for him. He’d worked his way back and got the big hit for us,” Hinch said. “He said he felt it on one step after first base and he pulled up. You could see it right away.”

The Tigers plan to recall outfielder Jacob Robson from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move, Hinch said.