“Guys were saying before the game, ‘MLB’s going to give you a Rolex if you hit a first-pitch home run,’” Baddoo said. “I was like, ‘Are you sure about this? I think it’s a myth or something.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, if it is, ask Miggy. If you actually hit a first-pitch home run, he’ll give you a Rolex.’ …
“Sure enough, I did it, and he ended up getting me a Rolex the next Spring Training, in 2022. He bought me a Rolex.”
His latest first-pitch home run will not be rewarded with another watch. But as he rounded the bases on his go-ahead pinch-hit homer, which sent the Tigers past the Royals for a 6-3 win Tuesday night at Comerica Park, he had Cabrera hanging off the dugout railing, celebrating and sticking his tongue out.
“He’s a friend, a teammate, all of the above,” Baddoo said after the game. “I’ve learned so much from him, so it’s always great to see the ‘GOAT’ on his last homestand cheering me on and still showing that energy in year 21.”
Baddoo and Parker Meadows not only powered the Tigers to a win, but they powered Detroit past Cleveland for second place in the AL Central. And as the Tigers begin Cabrera’s final week as a player, a strong finish might be the best tribute.
“I did tell our team in our last meeting: If you want to honor him, then win as many games as you can,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “That’s what makes him the happiest. None of us really know the right thing to say to Miguel, the right message. We all want to hug on him and learn from him and have him enjoy this week, but kind of also don’t want to talk about it because we don’t want to think it’s real. It’ll be an emotional week for us, but for him in particular.”
The Tigers close out their season with three games against the Guardians at Comerica Park. Beyond Cabrera’s farewell, they could be the final games for Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who has hinted at retirement.
For a while Tuesday, the Royals appeared poised to continue their momentum from sweeping the Astros last weekend. Zack Greinke, his own future uncertain after this season as he nears his 40th birthday, not only shut down the Tigers on one hit over five scoreless innings, facing one batter over the minimum, he retired his longtime foe Cabrera twice. Their seven-pitch battle in the second inning ended with a hard-hit liner into the corner that Drew Waters chased down.
“I’m glad he was in the lineup today,” said Greinke, against whom Cabrera finishes his career 13-for-45 with a home run, six RBIs and 14 strikeouts. “I wanted to face him again. He hit one pretty good. Drew made a nice play. He’s always been tough to face.”
Baddoo, who hit his third Major League homer off Greinke during his incredible start to his career two years ago, didn’t get the start against him this time amid an 0-for-15 stretch and an 8-for-45 September. Hinch kept him on his bench in anticipation of a pinch-hit opportunity later in the game. Once Spencer Torkelson tied it up with a two-out, two-run double in the sixth, Hinch had Baddoo ready for right-hander Taylor Clarke.
“Not just a right-hander, but specifically the guy we wanted him to face,” Hinch said.
Once Clarke warmed up for the eighth, Baddoo pinch-hit for Carson Kelly to lead off the inning. He didn’t step to the plate looking to hack the first pitch, but got the pitch he was seeking.
“My mindset was if I get something in the middle of the plate and it’s a fastball, just stay on that and try to get my swing off,” Baddoo said. “When you’re pinch-hitting, it’s your first AB, so you don’t know where your swing is. That’s being basic. I liked where my swing was at, at that very moment.”
Clarke delivered a first-pitch fastball in the middle of the zone. Baddoo sent it 443 feet to right field, his longest homer of the year and the fourth-longest by any Tiger this season.
“We challenged him,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said, “and he did damage on it.”
Meadows followed by crushing a 2-0 slider to right for an insurance homer.