Countdown to history: Tigers, Cabrera buckle up as milestone chase hits home stretch
Minneapolis — You want some fast perspective on the magnitude of Miguel Cabrera’s milestone chase?
“When Jonathan Schoop got his 900th hit the other day (last Wednesday), it’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re only like 2,000 behind Miggy. Keep working kid,’” manager AJ Hinch said with a chuckle.
Cabrera, who knocked in the game-winning run with an 11th inning single Tuesday night and passed Barry Bonds on the all-time hits list (2,936), has moved into the top 20 all-time in RBIs and total bases during this road trip.
And when he gets back to Comerica Park on Thursday, he will see the countdown to 500 home runs and 3,000 hits in big block letters next to the big scoreboard. The stadium crew has erected a countdown counter.
“We’re going to enjoy it,” Hinch said. “I’ve never been a part of it on the home side. I’ve watched the Albert Pujols countdown and the Barry countdown when I was a player. But this is going to be fun for our fans and for our organization.
“And even if Miggy doesn’t admit it, he’s got to think it’s pretty cool to show up to work every day and see his accomplishments right there in the stadium.”
Actually, he’s kind of torn on that.
“I’ve been trying to keep it out of my mind,” he said before the game on Tuesday. “But now I’m going to see it every time I go up to the plate. I just have to block it out of my mind. Bottom line, I have to play nine innings and try to do my job.”
Cabrera, who was given the day off Wednesday, hit home run No. 495 on Monday and is riding a four-game hitting streak (5 for 14 with a double, homer and five RBIs).
“I'm hitting the ball better right now,” he said. “I'm starting to get the ball in the air a little more. My body has been feeling good all weekend.”
Cabrera celebrated his home run Monday a little more demonstrably than usual, and he wasn’t apologizing for it.
“I mean, I hit like one home run for the month, I’ve got to celebrate,” he said, laughing. “So I say, ‘Yeah, great home run.’”
Cabrera is frustrated about his overall lack of production to this point. His .239 average, .348 slugging percentage and .643 OPS are career lows.
“My swing is like, coming back, coming back, but too much inconsistency the last few years,” he said. “That's why I'm hitting so low right now. You don't see too many home runs because of that. My swing isn't consistent enough to do that right now. I've been working. I've been working with my swing and trying to be more consistent.”
He was asked how his body was holding up. It was the wrong question.
“My body's good,” he said. “My knee's like (bleeped) up, man. That's the only thing. But there's nothing I can do. I go out there and play. No excuse. I'm going to be up there and battle. I'm going to be that guy with good at-bats. Doesn't matter what happens. That's what I think.
“I go up there and get good at-bats and try to swing at a good pitch.”
True to that, he showed Monday and Tuesday that he can still impact a game.
“We’re seeing some really good swings,” Hinch said. “The game is not always going to give you those heroic moments. Miggy just needs to keep having good at-bats and keep being a presence in our lineup.”
A celebration is coming, though.
“Miggy will enjoy it,” Hinch said. “It will feel like every single accomplishment at home is going to be noted. You’re going to see the numbers start to change. We’ve been wowed through this entire process by him. You start to see the names and numbers — just some really big numbers.”
Cabrera understands that. But he’s trying to temper his excitement and anticipation, trying to keep his focus on contributing to wins.
“The position we have is good; it's a good position,” he said of the approaching milestones. “I think every player wants to be in that position. But it’s mental. It’s the pressure I put on myself. Like every at-bat, I want to get a hit. I want to hit a home run. I want to make something happen.
“It's like mental pressure.”
He was asked, just five home runs short of 500, if he is starting to get excited.
“When I hit it, yes,” he said. “Right now, no. Right now, I want to keep battling and try to do my job.”