Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize wanted to make an announcement. He had just pitched six innings for the third straight start, helping his team to a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday at Comerica Park.
The 24-year-old didn’t need the spotlight. Instead, he showed respect toward likely future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera.
“Before we get started and you guys ask a ton of questions about me, I just want to say something about Miguel Cabrera,” Mize said. “What an honor it is to be able to share the field with the greatness that is Miguel Cabrera. It’s just a remarkable feat what he was able to do tonight.”
Cabrera passed Omar Vizquel on Wednesday for most hits in MLB history by a Venezuelan-born player. With two singles — a third-inning RBI shot to left field and a fifth-inning RBI shot to right — the 38-year-old reached 2,878 career hits across his 19-year career.
“Right now, I feel relieved,” Cabrera said. “Many people have been talking to me this offseason, the past year and today about passing this record. I kept that in my head, so I’m a little relieved. I don’t have to worry about that. Hopefully, I can keep getting hits.”
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Cabrera now leads all Venezuelan-born players in hits (2,878), runs (1,461), doubles (582), home runs (489) and RBIs (1,737). With his fifth-inning single, Cabrera moved into 43rd place on the all-time MLB hits list.
He is 122 hits away from his 3,000th and 11 home runs away from his 500th.
“I never thought of this moment,” Cabrera said. “My goal is to go out there and win as many games as we can. After the season, we see our numbers. Right now, we’re focused on trying to win and trying to play better baseball.”
This season, Cabrera is 12-for-75 (.160) with two home runs and eight RBIs. He landed on the 10-day injured list from April 11-24 with a left biceps strain. Upon his return, he went into an 0-for-27 streak, the worst slump in his career.
Since Cabrera snapped his drought Friday, he is 6-for-14 (.429) with three RBIs, four walks and two strikeouts over four games. The Tigers have won three games in a row, and Cabrera is happiest when he does his part.
“It’s really, really special because I’ve really struggled this season,” Cabrera said. “I haven’t got on base too much, so I’m working on that. I’m trying to get on base, make contact and make something happen to help the team win more games and score more runs.”
With multi-hit games in three of his last four contests, Cabrera believes he is making improvements that will stick throughout the remainder of the season. He is unlikely to return to his two-time American League MVP status, or his Triple Crown dominance, but he wants to contribute.
“I feel way more confident,” Cabrera said. “I don’t chase as many pitches as before. I’ve been swinging first pitch a lot, and that’s no good. I got to work my counts, see my pitch and make the pitcher make a mistake. I’m trying to do my best.”
But Cabrera wasn’t solely defined by his two RBIs in a two-run victory to beat the Royals.
Just ask manager AJ Hinch.
“It’s a really big deal for him personally, in his country,” Hinch said. “So many Venezuelans that have played the game had success. The pride that Venezuelan players play with, the energy, the spirit. And Miggy is at the top for the most hits.
“Miggy needs to really enjoy this one. That’s a really big deal in his country.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.