Denver — Never has it made sense. Never has there been an explanation for how Miguel Cabrera could possibly have dropped so far, so fast, as a hitter during a 2017 ordeal.
But the evidence, all season, has pointed to the very culprit that knocked him out of Monday’s game, which became a 4-3 victory for the Tigers against the Rockies at Coors Field.
It’s his back. A stiff lower back sent him to the training room after he struck out to end the Tigers’ half of the fifth.
“You guys know I’ve been dealing with this all year,” Cabrera said in the Tigers clubhouse afterward.
In fact, he hurt his back during the World Baseball Classic in March. And while there have been semi-assurances from him that there is nothing serious, and doctors’ exams that have determined there is nothing detectable in terms of back damage, there appears to be no other explanation for a superstar’s .253 batting average, 14 home runs, and shockingly low .745 OPS.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after Monday’s game that he believed Cabrera’s back stiffened during two interminable innings, the first and second, which lasted nearly 90 minutes.
Cabrera confirmed afterward that standing around, not taking typically timed turns getting loose in the infield, contributed.
What it invites are thoughts that have lingered for months. Namely, that postseason evaluations and assessments will confirm either rest, therapy, or perhaps something invasive, will be required to restore Cabrera’s health and comfort and return him to the hitter he has always been, and stood to be, even at age 34.
Oh, that DJ LeMahieu. If he hadn’t played big-league baseball, he might have had a career in Cirque du Soleil, given his acrobatic skills at second base.
He single-handedly — make that double-handedly — destroyed what might have been a gainful Tigers inning in the seventh Monday when he began and extended a double-play that awed more than 30,000 fans, as well as Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.
After Ian Kinsler led off with a single, Alex Presley ripped a ground ball that was surely headed for center field.
But, ah, LeMahieu, who played high school baseball at Birmingham Brother Rice, streaked toward the ball, gloved it, and with his other hand flipped an over-the-head relay to shortstop Trevor Story, who riveted a relay to first to double Presley.
“I haven’t seen a ton of LeMahieu,” Ausmus said, “but those two plays he made tonight (including a near-put-out on Nick Castellanos’ infield single in the fifth) were Gold Glove plays.”
LeMahieu, of course, already owns a Gold Glove as the National League’s best-fielding second baseman.
He also had a single Monday and is batting .314 on the year.
Around the horn
Castellanos was 3-for-4 Monday, including his 10th triple of the season, which leads the American League. He is the first AL third baseman with 10 or more triples since George Brett had 20 for the Royals in 1979. And he’s the first Tigers third baseman with 10 or more triples since Ossie Vitt had 12 in 1916.
... Presley joined Castellanos in the triples column when he banged a three-bagger against the right-field façade in the first. The Tigers lead the league in triples with 29.
... The Tigers have won six consecutive games against the Rockies.