TORONTO — The man whose home run power has made Comerica Park look small for well over a decade just hit his biggest milestone at Rogers Centre. Miguel Cabrera became the 28th member of Major League Baseball’s 500-homer club with his sixth-inning drive to right-center Sunday against the Blue Jays.
Cabrera became the first player to reach 500 homers since David Ortiz in 2015, and the first player ever to reach the mark as a Tiger. He’s the first Venezuelan-born player to get there, and the sixth player born outside the United States. The latter list includes Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez.
What looked not that long ago like a milestone that would take close to a full season for Cabrera to reach ended up falling with six weeks to spare. The chase for that last home run had been the story of the Tigers’ last homestand, drawing some of their largest crowds of the season and packing the right-field seats with fans hoping to catch one of Cabrera’s classic opposite-field homers. He just missed hitting it Wednesday night, sending a fly ball to the warning track off Angels closer Raisel Iglesias.
“Obviously he’s a great hitter and one of the greatest of all-time,” Shohei Ohtani said after that game. “And he’s a wonderful person when I’ve dealt with him. He’s so respected in the baseball world, it would’ve been OK if I gave up his 500th homer. Personally, I want to see it happen soon.”
Cabrera went eight homerless games after hitting his 499th career homer in Baltimore, and was 4-for-31 since that drive when he stepped to the plate with one out in the sixth against Blue Jays lefty Steven Matz. After a pair of 94 mph sinkers, Matz tried to change speeds but left a ball right where Cabrera could put one of his famous opposite-field swings on it.
The 400-foot drive just cleared the wall landed in the underbelly of Rogers Centre, where it was quickly retrieved by members of the Tigers bullpen. It was Cabrera’s first home run in Toronto since Sept. 9, 2017.
Just as big as the milestone was for Cabrera, the homer also tied up Sunday’s game.
If Cabrera couldn’t hit his milestone homer at Comerica Park, or close to his home in Miami, he couldn’t have done it in a more friendly place than Toronto. Not even an open roof could quiet the loud ovation he received, followed by a curtain call. Cabrera, grateful as much for the reception as for the pressure of the pursuit being over, bowed to the fans in return.
The homer was also his 2,955th career hit, leading into his next milestone chase. With 36 games left in the Tigers’ season, he would need to go on a tear to become the first player in Major League history to record his 500th home run and 3,000th hit in the same season.