Since the beginning of June, Miguel Cabrera has (kind of) turned back the clock.
He isn’t drawing a ton of walks. He still strikes out too much. And his power, for the most part, hasn’t shown up until recently: He cranked two home runs — Nos. 493 and 494 of his 19-year career — to help the Detroit Tigers swipe two of three games from Cleveland at Progressive Field.
However, there is something Cabrera is doing consistently.
“I think he likes hitting,” manager AJ Hinch said Wednesday, after watching Cabrera crush his 494th home run. “And when he gets hits, he’s in a good place. Happy Miggy is a good thing.”
FIRST WINNING MONTH: How the Tigers embraced AJ Hinch’s ‘winning culture’ in May
Cabrera finished June hitting .329 (28-for-85) with five doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs, two walks and 28 strikeouts in 22 games. During this stretch, he boosted his season-long batting average from .184 to .240 and his on-base percentage from .263 to .298.
For the season, Cabrera carries a career-worst 26% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate. His isolated power — .122 ISO — is the second-worst of his career. (He had a .116 ISO across 549 plate appearances in 2019.)
But, again, Cabrera hit .329 in June. He is getting on base.
“I think he’s getting healthier, and he’s starting to lock in his timing,” Hinch said. “He’s starting to stay disciplined to his approach. Even a polished veteran hitter like him, such an accomplished hitter, needs a tweak every now and then. I think he’s settled in nicely.
“Look, I think he knows what he’s trying to do. When he goes up and executes that and gets rewarded with a few hits, like anybody, that breeds confidence. I don’t care how long you’ve been in this league, you need production in order to feel good about yourself.”
It marked Cabrera’s first month hitting at least .300 since June 2019.
Cabrera has played 59 games in 2021. He is hitting .240 with six doubles, seven home runs, 31 RBIs, 16 walks and 63 strikeouts. Grounding into double plays was a problem — with eight from April 1 through May 31 — but he wasn’t doubled up in June.
The Tigers were blown out, 13-5, the first of three games at Progressive Field, but Cabrera left his mark with a solo home run to right-center field in the second inning. In the series finale — and Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader — Cabrera pounded another opposite-field solo homer for a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. The Tigers went on to win, 7-1, for a doubleheader sweep.
Cabrera has launched 50 home runs off Cleveland pitching in his career.
“It’s surreal,” catcher Eric Haase said. “Him going opposite field, especially in Cleveland, it’s just vintage Miggy. Growing up, he always crushed the Tribe. Whatever it is in this ballpark, he just sees the ball really well. Hitting right behind him and watching him do it live, a couple away from 500, we’re all just watching history in the making. It’s awesome to see.”
Facing Cleveland, Cabrera finished 6-for-12 (.500) with one double, two homers and three RBIs. He moved into sole possession of 28th place on MLB’s all-time home runs leaderboard, passing Fred McGriff and Lou Gehrig.
As for Wednesday’s starter, right-hander Wily Peralta, it’s a treat to play alongside Cabrera as he chases 500 home runs and 3,000 hits — something just six players in history have accomplished: Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro and Eddie Murray.
“Miguel is a Hall of Famer,” said Peralta, a nine-year MLB veteran who previously pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers (2012-17) and Kansas City Royals (2018-19). “He’s a really fun guy in the clubhouse and comes to do his job every single day and prepare. Like I said, he’s a Hall of Famer, and I’m really excited to play with him.”
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.