BALTIMORE — Miguel Cabrera crossed home plate.
He pointed to his family in the stands, completed his personal handshakes with Jeimer Candelario, Eric Haase, Harold Castro and Jonathan Schoop and then entered a roaring dugout. The fans at Camden Yards — supporting the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles — stood on their feet to celebrate.
Cabrera drove the 499th home run of his 19-year MLB career to left-center field in the fifth inning, putting the Tigers (56-60) on the scoreboard in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Orioles. He finished 3-for-4 with two singles, a long ball and a sacrifice fly, giving him 2,950 career hits.
“We were pumped, for him and for us,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We need him in a good place. He was swinging the bat pretty well. We all know what’s going on. We’re not really talking about it as much as you probably think, but it’s cool to experience it. Everybody’s really excited.
“He gave us a nice lead, and we continued to tack on runs. It’s complicated focusing on 500 when we’re trying to win the game. Miggy won’t let guys stray too far away from the competition in the game, but it’s nice for us and nice for him.”
Detroit is 47-36 since May 8 and 16-9 since the All-Star break. Before first pitch, the game was delayed 1 hour, 11 minutes due to rain.
Before reaching No. 499, Cabrera’s last homer occurred Aug. 3 against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. After Wednesday’s game, Hinch said Cabrera would play in Thursday’s series finale with the Orioles, before the Tigers travel back to Detroit for a six-game homestand against Cleveland and the Los Angeles Angels.
“He’s playing tomorrow?” Schoop said. “It’s all about winning. We hope he does it tomorrow then.”
Since June 1, Cabrera is hitting .306 (59-for-193) with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 53 games. He has 12 home runs in 2021.
In the sixth inning, Cabrera drilled a sacrifice fly to right for a 4-0 lead. Against Orioles right-handed reliever Dillon Tate in the ninth, he grounded out to second base on the first pitch.
He singled to right field in the first inning and singled to left in the third.
“He keeps everything loose, especially in the clubhouse,” Schoop said. “Miggy takes some pressure away from the young guys and puts it on him. That’s impressive about him. I’ve been here for two years now, and it’s fun to play with him.”
The Orioles scored two runs in the eighth inning. Anthony Santander demolished righty reliever Erasmo Ramirez’s sinker for a 413-foot two-run blast, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 5-2. Hinch went to left-hander Gregory Soto for the ninth. He earned his 14th save.
Skubal deals, climbs history books
Had it not been for Cabrera’s 499th homer, left-hander Tarik Skubal would have taken all the attention for his performance. The 24-year-old posted his second consecutive scoreless outing, after blanking the Red Sox for five innings in an 8-1 win Aug. 5.
“I want to continue to pitch really well and continue to develop at this level,” Skubal said. “That’s what this year has been about for me, just trying to get better each and every day. If I can continue to develop and get better the rest of the season, I’ll be very excited about it.”
Skubal allowed just five hits and one walk in his six innings, recording six strikeouts. He threw 58 of 84 pitches for strikes and earned seven swings and misses: four from his four-seam fastball and one each from his slider, changeup and curveball.
In his dominance, Skubal passed Justin Verlander for the fifth-most strikeouts in a single season by a rookie Tiger by striking out Richie Martin in the third inning, giving him 125.
Then, Skubal passed Armando Galarraga (126 in 2008).
With 127 strikeouts this season, Skubal trails only leader Les Cain (156 in 1970), Nate Robertson (155 in 2004), Spencer Turnbull (146 in 2019) and Michael Fulmer (132 in 2016).
“I had all four (pitches) going tonight,” Skubal said. “I lost my curveball a little bit late, but I had my changeup going, my slider going. I was consistently back-dooring my slider, which kind of expands the zone horizontally. I felt like I did a good job commanding my fastball in and out and especially up and in to these guys.”
Baltimore’s biggest threat with Skubal on the mound came in the sixth inning, when Trey Mancini and Santander delivered two-out singles. After a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter, Skubal got Ramon Urias to ground out on a first-pitch two-seam fastball to end his outing.
The Orioles recorded a 81.8 mph average exit velocity against him, meaning they were limited to soft contact.
After Miggy’s HR
The home run from Cabrera set the tone, but the rest of the Tigers also delivered to score three runs off Matt Harvey in the fifth inning.
Candelario hit his 31st double this season to keep the pressure on, and a passed ball advanced him to third. Haase drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on the corners. Harold Castro and Candelario failed to execute a safety squeeze, though, with Candelario called out at home plate on Mancini’s throw.
Still, Niko Goodrum salvaged the inning by smacking a two-out, two-run double down the first-base line. While running the bases, Goodrum sustained a left groin strain and walked off the field with athletic trainer Doug Teter.
“When he rounded first, he said he felt it one step after first base,” Hinch said. “When he pulled up, you could see it right away. My attention was down the right-field line. I turned to Niko, and he was limping into second. We went out there, and he met us on the field. That tells me all I need to know about how much pain he was in.”
Cabrera’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning put the Tigers ahead by four runs, and Schoop scoring on a wild pitch from reliever Dusten Knight made it 5-0.
In the first and third innings, the Tigers stranded the bases loaded. Both opportunities were killed by Harold Castro, who grounded out to second base in the first and struck out swinging in the third. He finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and Willi Castro also went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.