DETROIT – JD Martinez has been a Tiger for Miguel Cabrera’s 89 career homers. He had a front row seat in the Red Sox dugout for number 498.
Akil Baddoo passed Derek Hill at home in the fifth inning for the go-ahead in Tuesday’s Tigers 4-2 win over the Red Sox at Comerica Park, but the lingering memory of most of the 15,724 fans in attendance will be the second Cabrera’s home run run that opened the scoring for Detroit. As his opposing field training cleared the fence in the right field and bounced into the tunnel beyond, the crowd went wild, as did the Tigers’ dugout canoe.
“I grew up watching him and playing with him on my video games,” Baddoo said. “So being his teammate and witnessing it in real time is amazing. ”
Martinez has seen this oppo swing come to life so many times over the years. Still, seeing those bold numbers along the left lobby puts everything in perspective.
“It’s amazing,” Martinez marveled during batting practice before the game. “You hope he can stay healthy for as long as he can to take this step. I think he deserved it.
Cabrera’s 11th home run of the season was his third in five home games. His last seven have been opposing field shots as he continues to work on that old-fashioned swing.
“I saw him at the start of the season, and it looked like he was going to struggle all along,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, whose team last faced the Tigers at Fenway Park in early May. “And like every Hall of Fame member, he made adjustments and started swinging the bat well. He’s one of the most dangerous hitters I’ve ever seen. The fact that he can go the other way at will to get hits and obviously hit the ball for power is a revelation. ”
The buzz surrounding Cabrera’s chase has been drawing fans in since his two-homer game last Thursday to start the homestand. The fans started to cheer as soon as he got out of the canoe to do his warm-ups on the deck before the start of the second round.
Cabrera took a fastball on Richards’ first pitch before getting a 95 mph warmer in the strike zone. Cabrera laced him to right field at 103.6 mph, to reduce the Tigers’ deficit to 2-1.
“I don’t want to minimize the number changes in any way,” said manager AJ Hinch, “but the home circuit actually got us back into the game. ”
Cabrera did more than a homer. He hit a ground single through the left side of the infield his next time for his 2,944th career shot, pushing him past Hall of Famer Frank Robinson for 36th on the AL / NL all-time roster, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Martinez can appreciate the huge home runs Cabrera produced here, as Martinez touched some of the same depths of Comerica Park. Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary of Martinez’s tee shot against future Red Sox teammate Chris Sale. Martinez didn’t just come off the bench to smash a ball in the middle that night, he got off the injured list.
Martinez learned the importance of playing thanks to Cabrera’s injuries. He hopes fans will enjoy what Cabrera played in his prime as they watch him battle the aches and pains to make this history race.
“When I was here I was always scared. I could never take a day off, ”Martinez said. “Miggy goes over there with a broken foot. How am I supposed to take a day off? Are you kidding me? I remember when we were in Minnesota and Nick [Castellanos] fouled his foot and the next day he did not play. Miggy was checked. And Nick says, ‘I don’t understand.’ I’m like, ‘The guy is outside playing with a broken foot. He’s got bone spurs everywhere. Do you foul your foot and can’t play? Better it to be broken.
It’s different nowadays, of course. Players are closely watched and many have scheduled days off. Cabrera, 38, has his share too, but with a history so close, his swing so well timed and fans so enthusiastic, he plays to the end.
“The fans have to sort of understand,” Martinez said. “This guy spent many years in his prime when he probably shouldn’t have played just because the team had to win. He can’t move [as well] now but he gave you everything then. I feel for him, because I understand him. You just hope all the fans get that too.
The reception Cabrera receives every time he steps on deck, let alone in the box, suggests so.
“When it comes to batting, I mean, everyone’s on their feet,” Hinch said. “They’re looking to change the numbers, whether it’s total hits or total homers, and Miggy delivers with some really good hitters. You can feel the energy around it, and it bleeds more and more energy throughout the game. ”