Miguel Cabrera is chasing history, but his main concern now: Detroit Tigers are struggling

Detroit Free Press

Miguel Cabrera sat in his chair near his locker.

His elbows rested on his knees.

He didn’t look happy, nor did he sound pleased.

“When you lose, you lose,” Cabrera said Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter.”

The Detroit Tigers star rattled off three hits in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees at Comerica Park. His 3-for-4 performance upped his career hit total to 2,999. The 39-year-old is one hit away from becoming the 33rd player in MLB history to reach 3,000.

“I didn’t hit the ball hard today, and I got three hits,” Cabrera said, following his 193rd career game with three hits. “Baseball is really hard. I was really lucky today. But we lost the game, so (expletive) it.”

Cabrera looks forward to the 3,000 hits milestone, and the 20-year MLB veteran will surely cherish the moment the same way he did when he crushed his 500th career home run last August in Toronto. He unleashed a big smile, celebrated with his teammates and took a curtain call at Rogers Centre.

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On Aug. 22, the Tigers picked up a 5-3 extra-innings win against the Toronto Blue Jays, with Cabrera’s 500th home run — an opposite-field shot off left-hander Steven Matz — tying the game at 1-all in the sixth inning.

“It was a great feeling, but it was nice timing because we tied the game right there in that inning,” Cabrera said Aug. 22. “That was big for us because we came into today trying to win the series, trying to go 2-1 (against the Blue Jays). It was a really good game, and finally we got in extra innings, and we won the game.”

Winning that game made Cabrera’s historic moment extra special. Cabrera, despite his fun-loving personality, is the ultimate competitor. He would prefer to reach 3,000 hits in a victory.

Fast forward to Wednesday.

Cabrera was unhappy with the Tigers’ loss, even though his personal achievements stood out as the highlight of the night.

“Winning is fun,” Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario said Wednesday. “When you’re winning, you got good vibes in the clubhouse and everybody is happy. That’s what we want. We want to be consistently winning ballgames.”

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Cabrera notched his first hit Wednesday — No. 2,997 — in the second inning. He hit a sixth-pitch changeup from Yankees right-handed starter Luis Severino in a 2-2 count. The slow roller to Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu resulted in an infield single. Cabrera was then thrown out trying to run from first base to third base on Victor Reyes’ RBI single.

Cabrera recorded No. 2,998 in the fourth inning. He won an eight-pitch battle with Severino, putting a 3-2 fastball up the middle for a single. That inning, the Tigers stranded the bases loaded.

“He’s in a good place,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday. “He’s handled all of this, even dating back to 500 last year, with a ton of class and dignity and humor and passion and appreciation. You name the word, he’s done it. We love that.

“We’re getting a lot more attention about him because of the milestones, but Miggy is as authentic as they come. It doesn’t surprise me in the least bit that he’s soaking this up and enjoying the at-bats.”

His third hit — No. 2,999 — came in the sixth inning on a first-pitch fastball from Yankees righty reliever Chad Green. Cabrera broke his bat and the ball snuck through the hole between the third baseman and shortstop for a single. He came around to score on Harold Castro’s two-RBI double, tying the game at three runs.

Cabrera stepped to the plate for the eighth inning as the leadoff hitter, with the Tigers trailing by two runs. The 17,268 fans at Comerica Park stood to watch Cabrera, eager to see if he would complete his journey to 3,000 hits.

Meanwhile, Cabrera stood in the on-deck circle. He focused on Yankees righty reliever Clay Holmes; the 29-year-old pitcher warmed up for his second-ever matchup with Cabrera.

Holmes and Cabrera previously faced each other in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s series opener. In that at-bat, Cabrera grounded into a fielder’s choice out with two runners in scoring position. The Tigers lost, 4-2, in the first of three games.

“I know that’s a special moment,” Cabrera said. “But at the same time, I got to do my job and get on base in that situation. I was the leadoff guy that inning, and I struck out. It’s whatever.”

Cabrera struck out swinging on a fourth-pitch 96.8 mph sinker.

“He did a really good job,” Cabrera said of Holmes.

The pursuit of 3,000 hits continues into Thursday, as the Tigers confront the Yankees in the series finale at Comerica Park. Right-hander Michael Pineda is starting for the Tigers, opposed by Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery.

Cabrera — one hit from history — is 1-for-3 with one strikeout in his career against Montgomery, but they haven’t dueled since the 2018 season.

“I love Miggy,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters Wednesday. “I had the great fortune of getting to play with him, and he meant a lot to me. I have a great relationship with him, too. I know he’s going to do it, so if it’s something that he gets and doesn’t hurt us, that’s fine, I guess. But he’ll get it.”

Cabrera, unlike Boone, wants his 3,000th hit in a win for the Tigers.

“I hope we win tomorrow,” Cabrera said.

Detroit has a 4-7 record this season, losing three of the first four series.

“Right now, I’m not focused on numbers, history,” Cabrera added. “I’m focused on: We need to win games.”

Contact Evan Petzold 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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