Minneapolis — Miguel Cabrera's baserunning instincts are as sharp and sound as any stolen base leader in the game. His wheels, however, have a fair bit of mileage on them.
But in the fourth inning Tuesday, in a 1-0 game, his instincts and his will triumphed over any worn tread.
“I wanted to stay aggressive on the base and try to make something happen,” he said. “You don’t have to be 100-percent sure you're going to be safe. If you think you got a chance, you’ve got to do it.”
He led off the inning with a line drive over right fielder Max Kepler’s head. It was hit so hard and bounced right to Kepler, on most nights Cabrera would be content with a long single. But there is a playoff race afoot and against left-handed pitcher Hector Santiago, who has already beaten them twice this season, it was time to be aggressive and force the action.
He never hesitated around first and barely beat Kepler’s throw.
Cabrera then tagged up at second on J.D. Martinez’s fly ball to medium-depth center. The Tigers have been running on center fielder Byron Buxton a lot in the last two series, even though he has an above average throwing arm.
“I was going, like 100 percent,” Cabrera said. “No matter what.”
Not only did Cabrera beat the throw, he did it with a flourish — capping it with a nifty pop-up slide that Rickey Henderson would have been proud of.
“When I was backing up third, I said to him, ‘What are you doing?’” Santiago told reporters afterward. “He called timeout and laughed it off.”
Justin Upton followed, hitting a bounding ball to third. Cabrera went back to the bag and waited until Eduardo Escobar threw to first. Then he took off for home, trying to catch first baseman Kennys Vargas napping.
“I forgot Escobar’s got a good arm,” Cabrera said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ Because I thought it was going to be a tough play for him. After he seen me go, I think I’m going to be a little more aggressive again — he may throw wild or something like that.
“But he made an impressive throw.”
Escobar threw a seed to first and Vargas’ throw to the plate beat Cabrera easily, but he slid around the tag of catcher John Ryan Murphy. He was initially called out, but it was overturned after replay.
The Tigers’ dugout erupted.
“I've said it before, he has great instincts on the bases,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He's not 21 anymore, but he still has a pretty good idea of what he is and isn't capable of.”
It may seem like a small moment in an 8-1 win, but don’t try telling the Tigers that.
“Those are the things, if he's doing it, then everybody needs to be ready to come and do the little things,” Cameron Maybin said. “Everybody knows we can hit and sometimes we sit around and wait on the home run ball. But doing the little things, that's how you win big games.”