Wild night for Miggy: no hits, rare steal, move up RBI list

Future Hall of Fame slugger entertains teammates with first SB since 2020 in key 7th inning

July 13th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- Miguel Cabrera channeled his inner Rickey Henderson on Tuesday night.

When MLB’s all-time stolen base leader would take off, first basemen could sometimes hear him say, “Rickey’s gotta go.”

When asked what he was thinking as he tried to steal third base in a one-run game, Cabrera laughed.

“Like Rickey Henderson said, 'When you gotta go, you go,'” Cabrera said as his Tigers teammates erupted in laughter. “You don't think. When you go, you go. I always got it in my mind: Rickey said that, so I gotta do it.”

It was the exclamation point of the most productive hitless game of Cabrera’s career. Despite going 0-for-3, he produced the tying sacrifice fly and go-ahead ground ball in Detroit’s 7-5 win at Kauffman Stadium. Cabrera passed Ken Griffey Jr. for 15th on the AL/NL all-time RBI list, then tied Ted Williams for 14th.

It marked just the third time in Cabrera’s career, and the first since 2005, that he has driven in multiple runs in a hitless performance. It’s the first time he has done so while also scoring a run, according to research on baseball-reference. He accounted for nearly half of Detroit’s offense without a base hit.

However, Cabrera’s 40th career stolen base -- and his first since 2020 -- was all the Tigers could talk about.

"My mind said go, so I go,” Cabrera said. “It was a good opportunity. We got to make something happen. Thank God I was safe."

A.J. Hinch has been Tigers manager for Cabrera’s 500th career home run and 3,000th career hit. Hinch was never expecting to see that stolen base. So when asked what went through his mind as the 39-year-old designated hitter took off for third, he simply said, “Holy …

“He was something, and I guess the athlete in him broke out.”

Hinch wasn’t the only one shocked.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Royals reliever Jose Cuas said. “That’s the last thing on my mind, is that he was going to steal a base. He got it. And he scored. Beat me. Fooled me.”

Eric Haase, however, could see it come together as he stood at the plate. When Cabrera tagged up from second to third on a fly ball to right field earlier this season, Haase was so startled that he got a late jump from first and was thrown out.

So as he saw Cabrera edging off second base with no reaction from Cuas, third baseman Emmanuel Rivera or catcher MJ Melendez, he saw Cabrera’s instincts at work.

Cabrera took one step, then another, then another. On the sixth step, Cabrera took off running as Cuas went into his delivery.

"Pure speed and athleticism,” Haase joked. “Obviously Miggy's baseball instincts are very good. With the third baseman giving him so much [ground], no one picked him up until he was like three-quarters of the way to the base, so we're all laughing.”

Melendez saw it all coming together.

“He got a really good jump,” Melendez said. “I didn’t get the best grip on it. I tried to force a throw. You live and you learn from it. He’s a vet, he knows what he’s doing, and obviously not the fastest guy, but he picks his time to do stuff like that.”

Melendez still had a chance to throw out Cabrera, but he sailed the ball into left field. Cabrera slid into third, got up, took off for home and scored without a throw, howling as he caught his breath on his way back into the dugout.

“I was as surprised as anyone,” Hinch said, “but he did it. And in true [Miggy] fashion, he was laughing the whole way home.”

“Big smile on his face, just like a little kid playing sandlot baseball again," Haase said. “It’s hilarious. We all think it’s fun, but that run ended up being huge.”

Cabrera advanced as many bases on his Tuesday trek as he had in the entire season until then, according to baseball-reference.

Cabrera hadn’t even attempted to swipe a base since he took third on White Sox ace Lucas Giolito and former Tigers teammate James McCann on Sept. 11, 2020. In that case, there wasn’t even a throw, the pitch bouncing off McCann’s mitt as Cabrera slid into third.