Why Miguel Cabrera’s 500th home run could come in Baltimore, not Detroit

Detroit Free Press

BALTIMORE — Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is one home run away from 500.

After Cabrera crushed No. 499 in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles, infielder Jonathan Schoop expressed his anticipation for Cabrera to complete his 19-year journey to 500 — becoming the 28th player in MLB history to do so — at Comerica Park in Detroit.

But Cabrera will start at designated hitter in Thursday’s series finale at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Tigers (56-60) have a chance to sweep the three-game series before returning home for a six-game homestand against Cleveland (Friday-Sunday) and the Los Angeles Angels (Tuesday-Thursday).

“He’s playing tomorrow?” Schoop said. “It’s all about winning. We hope he does it tomorrow then.”

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Manager AJ Hinch had already spoken with Cabrera about the situation.

Sitting Cabrera for Thursday’s game would provide the 38-year-old an opportunity to avoid the worst of the heat — the temperature in Baltimore is expected to reach 100 degrees when the finale begins at 4:05 p.m. — and offer him a better chance at hitting the historic No. 500 in his home ballpark, where a “Miggy Milestones” tracker is stationed in left field.

Still, Cabrera asked to play Thursday.

“He wants to win tomorrow, and that’s what he let me know,” Hinch said. “He gives us the best chance to win when he’s at DH.”

The Tigers promise to celebrate with their fans at Comerica Park, even if Cabrera accomplishes the feat at Camden Yards, where he has hit .293 (44-for-150) with 12 homers over 40 games in his career.

Cabrera is 1-for-8 (.125) in lifetime matchups with Orioles left-hander John Means, who starts Thursday against Tigers rookie Matt Manning. That lone hit — a line-drive single to deep center field — came in the second inning July 31 at Comerica Park.

“We’re not going to test baseball fate,” Hinch said. “We really want him to hit it whenever he’s supposed to hit it. Maybe it’s tomorrow, maybe it’s not. It’s not easy to walk up there and say, ‘Today’s the day I’m going to hit a homer,’ even for Miguel Cabrera. It’s so hard to predict.”

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From the moment Hinch was hired, he has put the focus on winning every game. 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.

Based on his production, the Tigers need him in the lineup to beat the Orioles.

After all, Cabrera was key to Wednesday’s victory, finishing 3-for-4 with two singles, a home run and a sacrifice fly, giving him 2,950 career hits. His fifth-inning solo home run to left-center put the Tigers on the scoreboard against starter Matt Harvey.

The Tigers plated three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth for a 5-2 win.

“He gave us a nice lead, and we continued to tack on runs,” Hinch said. “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.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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