Miguel Cabrera channels inner Rickey Henderson to help Tigers snap losing skid

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Kansas City, Mo. — Miguel Cabrera didn't know why reporters were hovering around him after the game Tuesday.

"What?" he said, in mock annoyance. "What do you want?"

You stole a base, he was told.

"Oooh, so what?" he said. 

Well, that hadn't happened since 2020 and it was a pivotal moment in the Tigers' 7-5 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. 

BOX SCORE: Tigers 7, Royals 5

It came in the seventh inning and it helped trigger a four-run inning that snapped a four-game losing streak.

"He saw something, I guess," manager AJ Hinch said. "I guess the athlete in him broke out." 

Actually, as it turned out, Cabrera channeled his inner Rickey Henderson.

"It's like Rickey Henderson said, 'When you go, you gotta go,'" Cabrera said, teammates all around him howling with laughter. "You don't think, you go, you go. That's what was on my mind. Rickey said that so you gotta do it. Why would you do something different?"

Tigers' Miguel Cabrera (24) celebrates scoring against the Royals with teammate Willi Castro (9) during the seventh inning on Tuesday.

Here's what happened:  

Javier Báez started the rally with his second double of the game. He was at third with one out when Cabrera hit a bouncing ball at shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who was playing in on the grass. He whiffed on the ball and Cabrera was safe at first on the error.

He was awarded an RBI, which was the 1,838th of his career, tying Ted Williams for 14th place on the all-time list.

Cabrera went to second on a wild pitch and then, surprise, he got a huge jump and stole third on unsuspecting reliever Jose Cuas.

"They were playing a heavy, heavy shift," said catcher Eric Haase, who was up to bat. "You're kind of blind at third base not expecting Miggy to go. And he didn't hesitate. He just took off. Even with a good throw I don't know if they would've got him."

Catcher MJ Melendez and third baseman Emmanuel Rivera might’ve been a little startled, too, because the late throw to third ended up in left field. Cabrera got up and trotted home.

"We were all laughing and then they threw the ball away and he scored," Haase said. "He had a big smile on his face. He was like a little kid playing a sandlot baseball game. It was hilarious. We all thought it was fun. But that run ended up being huge."

Henderson, the game's all-time stolen base king, would've been proud.

"Like, my mind just said go, it was a good opportunity," Cabrera said. "We were trying to make something happen. Thank God I was safe."

The Tigers ended up scoring twice more with two outs on a double by Jonathan Schoop and a single by Spencer Torkelson. They stole two bases in the inning and were gifted three errors and a wild pitch by the Royals. Three of the runs were unearned.

"(Cabrera's steal) did ignite some fun in the dugout," Hinch said. "And obviously we were able to put some pressure on them and they made some mistakes. We were able to open a lead that we needed at the end."

Schoop had two hits and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Torkelson, after hitting 1,000-feet worth of fly ball outs on Monday, had a three-hit night.

The game also marked the return of left fielder Akil Baddoo, who had two singles and an RBI in his first big-league game since May 8. After a rough start to the season, Baddoo spent the last two months at Triple-A Toledo.

The Royals didn't go quietly. They scored twice in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Joe Jimenez. But Michael Fulmer got the last two outs in the eighth and Gregory Soto, who on Sunday was named to his second straight American League All-Star team, closed it out for his 18th save. 

The game ended on a brilliant play up the middle by Báez, who, with a runner at third and two out, made a backhand pick to snag a tricky hop and threw out Andrew Benintendi on a close play at first. 

"It was a fun game," Hinch said.

The Royals jumped on rookie right-hander Beau Brieske early, scoring three times in the first two innings. Melendez hit Brieske’s first pitch for a triple and scored on a single by Benintendi.

In the second, Brieske hit Edward Olivares then got tagged for back-to-back doubles by Kyle Isbel and Rivera — both left the bats at exit velocities over 100 mph.

But from that point on, Brieske shoved. He allowed just a hit and a walk through six innings. It was his sixth quality start, tying Twins' Joe Ryan and Padres' George Kirby for most among rookies in baseball.

"When you give up three runs in the first two innings, all you can do to salvage that game for yourself is to throw zeros for four or five innings and keep your team in the game," Brieske said. "I feel like I've said this before, but it is satisfying to be able to settle in. Frustrating to give up runs early, but good to be able to settle in." 

Brieske was on the bench when he saw Cabrera bolt for third base in the seventh. 

"That was pretty fun to watch," he said. "That's just a smart baseball play right there. He knew he had the bag. We saw his jump and we were like, 'Holy cow, he's got this easy.' Then the speed kind of kicked in, they tried to rush. It was fun.

"Nice that they threw it away so he could score, too. That was a big insurance run."


Twitter: @cmccosky