With No. 509, vintage Miggy moves up all-time HR list

Detroit Tigers

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins brought out some old familiar faces to celebrate Miguel Cabrera’s career before Tuesday’s series opener at Target Field, from Glen Perkins to Justin Morneau to Joe Mauer. Then Miggy turned back the clock.

The look on Cabrera’s face after he crossed home plate showed even his amazement at his second-inning drive to the second deck in left-center field. The 438-foot home run — just his second homer of the season — was his longest in two years, and his fifth longest since 2017, according to Statcast. He’d hit balls solidly in recent weeks after spraying singles and doubles around the field for much of the summer, but this was the kind of majestic homer that looked like a highlight from his younger days.

“I mean, it obviously looked like it was his prime swing right there, back to 2013, 2014 stuff,” said Twins pitcher Bailey Ober, who allowed the milestone long ball. “One of the best players of all time.”

Cabrera’s 509th career home run powered him further in history, tying him with former Tigers teammate Gary Sheffield for 26th on the AL/NL all-time list. The two-run drive also powered Detroit and starter Alex Faedo in front for much of the evening before Matt Wallner’s grand slam punctuated a five-run sixth inning off Detroit’s bullpen in a 5-3 loss.

The Twins presented Cabrera with a bevy of gifts to celebrate his career. Perkins handed him a check for his charitable foundation, a gesture many teams have made on this farewell tour. Cabrera bowed in respect as Mauer and Morneau emerged with a fishing pole, fishing hat and tackle box — the latter decorated with his career accomplishments. Current Twin and fellow Venezuelan Pablo López presented him with a silver hockey stick.

“That was nice,” Cabrera said. “It means a lot.”

After all that, the 92 mph fastball over the plate after a first-pitch slider in the dirt from the 6-foot-9 Ober — off whom Cabrera had three singles in nine at-bats entering Tuesday — was unintentionally the biggest gift of all.

“I was aggressive,” Cabrera said. “I stayed aggressive and got a good pitch to hit. Keep it simple.”

It was simple enough to surprise Ober, who became the 355th Major League pitcher on Cabrera’s home run list.

“When I’ve been up here the last two or three years, I haven’t seen a whole lot of heaters get turned around from him,” Ober said. “A lot of the times, he’s been shooting home runs the opposite way on fastballs from right-handers. I think that was the first one I’ve seen him really drive. …

“We praised him before the game, and his first at-bat is a home run.”

The drive got everyone’s attention in the Tigers’ dugout. Jake Rogers pounded the railing as Cabrera made his way around the bases. Others hollered as Cabrera did his trademark shuffle-step on his way around third base.

“Every time he homers, it’s crazy to see with your own eyes,” Faedo said. “I feel like when I’m pitching, I don’t really lock in on what’s going on there. But that ball was hit by a special hitter.”

Ober joins a group of Twins pitchers on Miggy’s list that includes Phil Hughes — who leads all MLB pitchers with seven Cabrera homers — Perkins, Scott Baker (three), Pat Neshek, Matt Capps, former Marlins teammate Carl Pavano (two), former Tigers teammate Casey Fien (three) and eventual Tigers teammates Francisco Liriano (two) and Michael Pineda.

“If I see him [Wednesday], I’ll try to say something to him,” Ober said. “Just one of those pitches.”

Cabrera has had a few of those here: He used to pummel Target Field in his prime. He batted .378 (14-for-37) with three homers and 13 RBIs in Minneapolis in his Triple Crown season of 2012. Cabrera batted just .200 at Target Field the following season, but he rebounded to hit .417 (15-for-36) with four doubles, a homer and six RBIs in ’14. He batted .325 (13-for-40) with six doubles and three homers in ’16 to help keep the Tigers in their last playoff chase.

According to baseball-reference, Cabrera’s 16 home runs at Target Field rank fourth most among players who were never Twins, behind just Salvador Perez (21), Edwin Encarnacion (17) and Carlos Santana (17).

In the ideal script, the home run would have been a lift for a Tigers offense that put up 21 runs over four games against the Twins last week at Comerica Park. Instead, it was all the support Faedo received over his five scoreless innings. Spencer Torkelson’s ninth-inning homer off closer Jhoan Duran was Detroit’s only other tally.

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