Miguel Cabrera’s 19 seasons have been filled with home runs, from No. 1 (June 20, 2003) as a 20-year-old in Marlins gear, to No. 499 (Aug. 11, 2021) as a wizened veteran in Detroit Tigers gear. And while we know those milestones — as well as Nos. 200, 300 and 400, which arrived in 2006, 2009 and 2015, respectively — there are plenty of other games with big homers from Cabrera. Here are a few of our favorites as we wait for No. 500 to arrive, perhaps in Toronto or St. Louis:
May 28, 2010: Athletics 5, Tigers 4
Nos. 220, 221, 222: After missing two games for the birth of his daughter, Cabrera launched the first pitch he saw from right-hander Ben Sheets in the first inning into right-center. In the fourth, Cabrera took Sheets’ second pitch down the left-field line for a tie game. Even Oakland manager Bob Geren was impressed: “The pitch was inside and might not even have been a strike,” Geren told the Freep’s John Lowe. “He got the bat head out.” Finally, in the bottom of the ninth, Cabrera sent righty reliever Andrew Bailey’s third pitch over the bullpens in left to make it a one-run game, though that was it for the Tigers.
Aug. 5, 2012: Tigers 10, Cleveland 8
No. 304: After Cleveland scored three runs in the 10th inning on a Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, and the Tigers had a three-run rally to tie it in the bottom of the 10th, Cabrera delivered his lone extra-inning walk-off homer. The blast came on the fifth pitch he saw from Cleveland reliever Chris Perez and left the field as a moonshot to left-center with Omar Infante (who had singled) on first. “It was a little scary,” Cabrera said afterward, as reported by the Freep’s Carlos Monarrez. “It was high. I was not sure if I hit it out, but I’m glad it go out.”
May 19, 2013: Rangers 11, Tigers 8
Nos. 330, 331, 332: Cabrera singled in the first inning, then homered in each of his next three at-bats: Two off of future teammate Derek Holland, in the third and fifth innings, followed by a solo shot in the eighth off reliever Tanner Scheppers. The final blast moved Cabrera past a Tigers great on the all-time home run list: Hank Greenberg (331). But he was focused on the result, rather than the leaderboard: “I would feel better if we won,” Cabrera said to Lowe.
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Still, Cabrera already was drawing comparisons in his sixth season as a Tiger to greats like Greenberg, albeit ones he rejected: “There a lot of great players who have played this game. I respect that they did a lot for baseball. They got 3,000 hits and more than 500 home runs. They already did it. My career is short right now. There is a long way to go to say that.”
Aug. 9-11, 2013: Cabrera 2, Rivera 0
Nos. 355, 356, 357: To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best — woo! — and that’s what Cabrera did in the front and back ends of a three-game series against the Yankees. In Friday night’s opener, Cabrera came to the plate with two outs in the ninth, Austin Jackson on second, the Tigers down 3-1 and Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Cabrera launched a bomb to tie things up. (The Tigers lost in the 11th; if only Cabrera could pitch.)
The next day, Cabrera succeeded as well against Phil Hughes (decidedly not the best), taking a Hughes fastball “so far inside it might have missed the catcher’s mitt,” wrote the Freep’s Shawn Windsor, hard to left field to open a 9-3 rout of the Yankees. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers’ starter that day.
For an encore, Cabrera came up against Rivera in the ninth on Sunday afternoon, trailing again by two. This time, there were no runners on, but Cabrera still launched the fifth pitch he saw out of the park, deep to right field. Three games, three homers, three fields. Even more impressive: Rivera faced 827 batters while ahead the ninth inning, over 3,022 plate appearances, and of those, 38 homered. Only one homered twice: Cabrera.
May 13, 2014: Tigers 4, Orioles 1
No. 371: Yes, there was a time when the Tigers and Orioles — who have since combined to pick No. 1 overall in 2018, ’19 and ’20 — were both good, as they were in this matchup of AL Central and East leaders in Baltimore. This time, Cabrera came to bat in the ninth inning with two on, two outs and right-hander Tommy Hunter on the mound trying to protect a 1-0 lead. On a 1-0 count, Cabrera launched Hunter’s 95.2 mph four-seam fastball into the Orioles’ bullpen in left-center for a 3-1 lead. (Victor Martinez followed with a solo shot to right onto Eutaw Street for the final score.)
Cabrera had a simple view of the pivotal at-bat after the game, telling the Freep’s George Sipple, “We win or we’re going to lose. You don’t gotta think too much or be afraid to fail. You gotta go out there and try and see what happens.” Once again, Cabrera was focused on the big picture, too: “It means a lot. We’re playing away. Any win we can get on the road is very important. We gotta keep going.” Cabrera, who had nine go-ahead home runs in 2014, but only one after the fourth inning, had no idea: The Tigers would go on to win the Central by a single game over the Royals (though they were swept by the O’s in October’s ALDS rematch).