Tigers' Cabrera endures nightmarish slump

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Tigers' Miguel Cabrera grounds out in the first inning Wednesday.

Detroit – These are not numbers commonly tied to Miguel Cabrera.

July, particularly, has been a nightmare for a man for years regarded as one of baseball’s elite hitters: .208 batting average in 14 games, .229 slugging percentage, .551 OPS. 

His overall 2016 season has been strong, but hardly remarkable, at least compared with his gaudy past: .287 batting average, 18 home runs, a mere 17 doubles, and an .859 OPS.

“He’s just not swinging the bat well,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, when asked about Cabrera during a morning briefing ahead of Wednesday’s 1:07 game against the Twins at Comerica Park.

“It’s nothing that doesn’t happen to other hitters. It just happens a little less to Miguel Cabrera.”

When he hit back-to-back home runs June 28 and June 29 it looked as if Cabrera, who also had seven hits in his final five June games, was settling into his typical fifth-gear pace as midseason arrived.

But he has not had a homer since his back-to-back blasts against the Marlins at Comerica. He has had a lone extra-base hit in July, a double.

He is three months past 33. It is too early, way too early, to believe age has had any dramatic effects on a man so skilled. Which leaves another theory: Some form of health issue must be troubling him.

“There’s no injury,” Ausmus assured, apart from “aches and pains” common to all players. “He’s just not hitting.

“We’re not hitting.”

Ausmus said he pondered giving Cabrera a day of rest and relaxation Wednesday until Cabrera’s final at-bat Tuesday produced a line-drive single that was part of the Tigers’ only sustained offense in a 6-2 loss to the Twins.

He had contemplated doing the same with another languishing hitter, Victor Martinez, who has had a worse stretch than Cabrera: .161 in June, with a .556 OPS, although Martinez has hit three home runs as part of his astonishingly low nine-hit month. 

Martinez also had a single in the Tigers’ ninth-inning, two-run rally Tuesday.

“Maybe this is the jumping-off point,” Ausmus said, “and we’ll start rolling.”

The Tigers were to head for Chicago following Wednesday’s game and a four-game series against the White Sox before moving to Boston for a three-game set against the Red Sox.