Miggy climbs higher on hits list, passing Rickey

Detroit Tigers

SAN FRANCISCO — Miguel Cabrera is no Man of Steal. But he did his best to invoke Rickey Henderson on Tuesday night.

No, he didn’t swipe a base in the Tigers’ 4-3 loss to the Giants. Cabrera emulated Henderson the best way he knows how: hitting. Cabrera notched career hits Nos. 3,055 and 3,056 on Tuesday night, passing Henderson to take sole possession of 26th place in all-time hits in AL/NL history. He is now four away from tying Craig Biggio for 25th place (3,060).

“We’ve watched Miguel pass so many big names and icons, Hall of Famers, just names that are unfathomable in our sport,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “and it’s because Miguel should be right up there with them. Nothing surprises me because we’ve been doing this for a year and a half now, but it’s pretty amazing, the names he’s among.”

Here’s how Cabrera reached his newest milestone:

The first time Cabrera stepped in the batter’s box against Giants starter Carlos Rodón, he absolutely scorched the ball — but it didn’t make it out of the infield. Perhaps Cabrera had a little something extra in the tank: He hustled down the line at 26.2 feet per second — up from his season average of 23.4 feet per second — and beat shortstop Thairo Estrada’s throw.

OK, so maybe Henderson would have beat that pace without breaking a sweat. But this hit, fittingly, brought Cabrera even with Henderson at 3,055 career hits.

“I just didn’t want him to hurt himself,” Hinch quipped. “But obviously Miggy plays hard, and a lot of good things have to happen for Miggy to get an infield single, so that was one of them.”

(Cabrera may not be known for his speed — his average sprint speed ranks 445th in the Majors, per Statcast — but Tuesday’s infield single was his fourth in 2022. And maybe he’s not slowing down completely: He recorded 12 infield singles in 2021, his most in a season since 2009.)

Cabrera’s second knock of the night was much more typical for him, but it was also timely. He came to the plate with two outs in the sixth inning. Left fielder Robbie Grossman was in scoring position, having doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch from Rodón. And of course, Cabrera delivered: He singled to get the Tigers on the board for the first time that night.

It was a big moment, but Cabrera didn’t let himself get too excited.

“Rickey is one of the greatest to ever play this game, and passing him is surreal to me,” Cabrera said. “At the same time, we lost the game today, so it’s hard to celebrate. When you lose, it’s hard to celebrate.”

One of Detroit’s best chances to seize the lead on Tuesday came in the eighth inning. The Tigers leveraged three walks and a base hit to pull within one run of the Giants and load the bases with two outs. Jonathan Schoop then struck out to end the threat, but that’s not what stuck with Cabrera after the game.

Before any of the Tigers reached base that inning, Cabrera stepped up to face San Francisco’s Dominic Leone. Cabrera took a pitch, then lined the next one sharply to right field. It seemed like a sure thing, but Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski made an unreal leaping snag to rob him of a hit.

It could have been a three-hit night for Cabrera, but he didn’t care about his own numbers. All he cared about was the game.

“That play changed the whole game,” Cabrera said. “After that, we got a good rally, two walks, base hit. If he didn’t catch that, I think we were going to take the game there.”

Most would argue that Cabrera’s illustrious 20-year career has left him with nothing to prove. He’s won a Triple Crown, notched 3,000 hits and remained a fearsome presence in the Tigers’ lineup through his age-39 season.

But Cabrera cares about more than his own personal accomplishments. And perhaps being at Oracle Park — a ballpark he hadn’t stepped foot in since the 2012 World Series — weighed heavily on his mind.

“Win in Detroit,” Cabrera said without hesitation. “That’s our goal here. We’re trying to win a championship.”

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