DETROIT -- The last time Miguel Cabrera had a two-homer game in the regular season, the Tigers were in the middle of a playoff race in the final weekend of the 2016 season. If they’re going to convert their encouraging start into a race in this 60-game season, they’re going
DETROIT -- The last time Miguel Cabrera had a two-homer game in the regular season, the Tigers were in the middle of a playoff race in the final weekend of the 2016 season. If they’re going to convert their encouraging start into a race in this 60-game season, they’re going to need Cabrera to find more of that prime form.
In that sense, though Cabera’s two home runs -- the 479th and 480th of his career -- weren’t enough to lift the Tigers in a 5-3 loss to the Royals on Thursday night at Comerica Park, they were a sign of hope that he could give them a boost.
• Box score
“Miggy's gonna be Miggy, man,” said teammate Iván Nova, who gave up a homer to Cabrera as a Yankee in 2012. “I know throughout the years we got a little older or whatever, but the guy's still hungry out there, and the guy’s a professional. Today was a good day for him.”
Or as manager Ron Gardenhire put it, “I worry about a lot of things. I don’t worry about him. I tell you that all the time.”
• Notes: Candelario key to defensive shift
Cabrera’s home runs on Thursday weren’t necessarily majestic, but they were products of an effective swing. His first-inning home run was an opposite-field loft off a slider on the outer half of the plate from Royals rookie Brady Singer, the 331st Major League pitcher to allow a Cabrera homer. Singer had just drawn a called first strike on a fastball off the plate, but he left a slider up. Cabrera not only connected, but he produced velocity, sending it toward the right-field corner at 99.2 mph.
Cabrera’s eighth-inning line drive to the back of the Tigers' bullpen was more impressive, with a 104.3 mph exit velocity off of an Ian Kennedy curveball. It merely cut Kansas City’s lead to two runs, but it provided a bit of a spark.
“He was working off the curveball machine today,” Gardenhire said, “and that got him to keep his hands back a little bit. And then he whacks one in the game.”
Cabrera is 4-for-26 with eight strikeouts this season, but three of his hits are home runs. His hard-hit rate and exit velocity rank in the top one-third of Major League hitters, while his whiff percentage ranks in the bottom 16 percent.
“He’s been hitting balls right at people and all those things,” Gardenhire said. “He’s been working on it.”
Nova said he and Cabrera had talked about Cabrera's struggles on Wednesday.
“He told me, ‘I don’t know. I feel good, but I’m not hitting the ball the way I want to,’” Nova said. “I just told him he’s better than the day before, so continue to progress and the ball’s going to start jumping off the bat.
“He’s a smarter hitter, no question about it. There’s a lot of guys that have tremendous talent, but at some point in his career, he has it all -- the talent, intelligence; everything. He’s still getting a little older, but he’s still smart.”
Between Cabrera's strikes, Schoop sent a fourth-inning drive into the Royals' bullpen to tie the game at 2. Schoop became the first Tiger to homer on three consecutive days at Comerica Park since Ian Kinsler did it May 16-18, 2016.
The Tigers, who finished last in the American League in home runs last season, now lead the Majors with 15. All three of their home runs Thursday were solo shots. The Royals had just five extra-base hits Thursday, all doubles, but put their offense in motion to salvage a four-game series split.
Both starters allowed two runs -- Nova over 5 2/3 innings, Singer over five. That put the game in the hands of the bullpen. Detroit relievers had recorded 27 consecutive outs without a hit until Jorge Soler doubled with one out in the seventh off Jose Cisnero. Whit Merrifield, who was hit by a Cisnero pitch one batter prior, moved to third base before scoring on a Salvador Perez fielder’s choice.
Bubba Starling’s two-run double off of Carson Fulmer in the eighth provided the final margin.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.