HOUSTON — Detroit Tigers veteran Miguel Cabrera is a member of an exclusive club joining the ranks of Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols.
They are the only players in MLB history with at least 3,000 hits, 500 homers and 600 doubles. At some point, Cabrera will reflect on his milestones and achievements over his 20-year career.
But that’s not his priority now.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Cabrera said before Sunday’s series finale against the Houston Astros. “It was nice to see my name next to hers but at the same time my focus right now is on winning games. We’ve lost too many games and it doesn’t matter right now.”
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Cabrera hit his 600th double in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Astros, becoming the 18th player in MLB history to do so. The 39-year-old drilled a six-pitch curveball from Astros left-hander Framber Valdez into the left corner of Minute Maid Park at Minute Maid Park.
The historic double went over two runs for a 2-0 lead for the Tigers.
But the Tigers lost the advantage in the eighth inning and a dominant start from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. The Tigers finished 1:16 with runners in goal position and pinned nine runners on bases.
“If we start hitting with two outs,” Cabrera said, “if we start hitting more with men in scoring position, the pressure will be off and we’ll be able to get more runs and do better to play.”
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The Tigers (8-18) started Sunday with the worst record in the American League and a miserable .308 win ratio. Without the 4-23 Cincinnati Reds, the Tigers would be the worst team in baseball.
Detroit is eight games behind the Chicago White Sox for first place in the AL Central. To reach 90 wins, which would likely be a postseason ticket, the Tigers need to finish their last 136 games with an 82-54 record.
“We need to focus more,” said Cabrera. “It’s about winning games. It doesn’t matter what happened last night. We suffered another loss. It’s hard to think about milestones now when we’ve lost a lot of games.”
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Tigers manager AJ Hinch is not surprised by Cabrera’s reaction. The former two-time MVP offered similar answers during his 3,000-hit chase. He was determined to make his 3,000th to score in a Tigers win at Comerica Park.
That happened on April 23 when the Tigers defeated the Colorado Rockies 13-0 in front of 37,566 fans at Comerica Park. But his 600th double came in the Tigers’ third straight loss to the Astros and 11th loss in 13 games.
“He hates losing,” Hinch said on Sunday. “If he’s willing to talk about the team at the height of his personal accomplishments, that tells me everything I need to know about Miguel Cabrera. He wants to win tonight’s game. He wants to get better results. He wants to go home happy .” And I believe him.”
Cabrera leads Aaron and Pujols with a .310 batting average. Aaron hit a .305 in his 23-year MLB career; Pujols, who is still active with the St. Louis Cardinals, has hit a .297 in his 22-year career.
In 2022, Cabrera has a .268 batting average with three doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, six walks, and 25 strikeouts in 23 games.
His 93 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) make him one of the Tigers’ most consistent hitters this season, ranking fourth out of nine players with at least 50 plate appearances.
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The Tigers’ offense ranks 25th in MLB with an 83 wRC+ (100 is the league average). They’re bottom in the MLB with 11 home runs and a .087 isolated power percentage, and they’re 27th with a .609 on-base percentage plus slugging.
Averaging three runs per game, the Tigers are the worst offensive line in baseball — behind the Kansas City Royals (3.04). The league average for run rating is 4.08 per game.
Cabrera knows the Tigers need to improve before it’s too late.
“Everyone is on the same page right now,” Cabrera said. “Everyone is focused. We have to win more games, we have to play better. That’s the bottom line at the moment. We have to go out today, play aggressively and try to win the game.”
Pitching Plan vs. A’s
After Sunday’s series finals against the Astros, the Tigers return to Comerica Park for a Monday-Thursday five-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
The Tigers and A’s play a doubleheader on Tuesday.
“We’ve got some roster stuff coming up,” Hinch said.
Right-hander Michael Pineda is scheduled to start Monday, while left-hander Tarik Skubal is scheduled for Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader. The starters for game 2 of the double header on Tuesday and the game on Wednesday have not yet been determined. Right-hander Beau Brieske is scheduled for Thursday’s series finale.
The starter for Tuesday’s Game 2, while not official, will almost certainly be right-hander Alex Faedo, who was in Houston with the Tigers as a member of the Taxi team. He should be the 27th player for Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Wednesday’s starter is expected to be a pitcher from Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers are considering right-hander Chase Anderson, left-hander Joey Wentz and right-hander Nivaldo Rodriguez.
The Tigers have an opening in the 40-man roster.
Waiting for Austin Meadows
Outfielder Austin Meadows missed his third straight start on Sunday due to a non-COVID illness. The 27-year-old has not played since Thursday’s opener against the Astros.
Meadows has a .284 batting average with five extra base hits, 11 RBIs, 10 walks and 13 strikeouts in 22 games this season.
He could be available until Sunday.
“He just still doesn’t feel good,” Hinch said. “It kind of increased. It’s just a general malaise the way he’s feeling. He’s got a little problem with his sinuses now, his breathing. He is sick.”
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