Time is tapping on Miguel Cabrera’s shoulder. Before long, perhaps as soon as this season ends, the Detroit Tigers’ slugger will retire and await certain Hall of Fame enshrinement. And when he leaves the game, the KC Royals will surely breathe a sigh of relief.
For 19 long years, Kansas City has been one of Cabrera’s favorite punching bags, a team upon whose pitching he feasts and whose heart he breaks. Going into Friday night’s KC-Detroit contest at Kauffman Stadium, he owned a career .305/.384/.483 line, 32 home runs, and 143 RBIs against the Royals.
And although there isn’t much left in his tank—he was hitting .184 with two homers when the game began—Cabrera proved before the night ended that he isn’t running on fumes quite yet.
It wasn’t so much the 417-foot homer he tagged Royals’ starter Mike Minor for to lead off the Tiger second, although that was bad enough. What crushed KC was what Cabrera did to Greg Holland in the seventh.
Several minutes before, the Royals had taken a 5-3 lead with three runs in the sixth. But Minor, left in the game an inning too long, surrendered two straight singles to start the seventh. Manager Mike Matheny turned the rapidly developing jam over to Tyler Zuber, who promptly loaded the bases.
A base-running miscalculation cost the Tigers a run when Jacoby Jones was out on an ill-advised attempt to score on a pitch in the dirt that didn’t skitter quite far enough away from catcher Salvador Perez. A Zuber walk and strikeout followed, bringing Cabrera to the plate with the bases again loaded.
Trying to escape with the lead, the KC Royals call on a veteran of their own.
With the lead and game so obviously in jeopardy, Matheny chose experience over Zuber’s relative inexperience, summoning Greg Holland from the bullpen to face Cabrera. (Wade Davis, another veteran Royal accustomed to such high-leverage moments, hasn’t been pitching well enough to draw the assignment).
It was a classic showdown, pitting veteran power hitter against veteran lockdown reliever with the game on the line.
Power won. Cabrera continued his mastery of the Royals by clubbing a full-count Holland slider out to left for a grand slam, an unsurprising result considering the damage he seems to so routinely inflict on Kansas City.
The blow gave Detroit a 7-5 lead and deflated a KC team trying to win its fifth of seven games after losing 11 in a row. The Royals had nothing left—only the first of their last 10 batters reached base and they didn’t score again.
Cabrera finished the evening 3-for-5 and raised his average 20 points to .204. His two homers doubled his total coming into the contest; the five runs he drove in represented almost half of his previous 11. Without him, this was a game the Tigers probably wouldn’t have won. But Cabrera did the Royals in again.
After the 7-5 loss, the KC Royals take on Detroit again this afternoon. Brady Singer (1-3) will face the Tigers’ Matthew Boyd (2-4), with first pitch set for 3:10 p.m. CDT.