In an odd way, it’s tough to find an excuse to write about Miguel Cabrera in a season series like this one, because he’s so consistently good that, within his own context, his day-to-day achievements don’t stand out. If, from a coverage perspective, the greats miss out on talent-correlated attention during the season, though, they tend to make up for it during the big moments, like playoff races and the postseason.
The Detroit Tigers are in the final countdown for the 2016 season. Monday was their last off-day until the season ends on October 2. Their playoff odds have tumbled, but they’ve managed to keep pace at about two games back of the second AL wild card spot, meaning that their postseason hopes remain very much alive. The reason those playoff odds are low, though, is because they’re running out of time. Every remaining game is of critical importance, and while the Tigers really need to win each of these games (or, at least, a vast majority of them), even doing that won’t guarantee a playoff berth unless the teams ahead of them falter.
Cabrera knew the stakes last night, during the team’s first game of this crucial final stretch. Detroit already was missing two of its biggest bats– Cabrera’s Venezuelan countryman Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler, also an important vocal leader– due to a brutal triple HBP run by Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer (Cabrera also was a victim) in a costly win on Sunday, which meant Cabrera would need to shoulder even more of the offensive load than usual.
In the fourth inning, leading by a slim 1-0 margin, Cabrera decided to manufacture a run essentially all by himself, and not by way of a snappy home run blast. First, he stretched his single into a double; then advanced to third on a dangerously shallow fly-out; and, finally and amazingly, scored from there on an infield hit to the third baseman. Cabrera’s Billy Hamilton impression is one of the most impressive baseball moments I’ve seen this year (here’s the video), and he delivered it for the benefit of his teammates at the perfect moment. While it’s impossible to say whether the team’s subsequent offensive breakout– they ended up winning 8-1, with Cabrera also contributing a two-run homer– came as a result of this moment or the team simply (finally) catching up to bad Minnesota pitching, Cabrera’s baserunning in the fourth, which resulted in what ultimately proved to be the winning run, sent an unmistakable message to his teammates.
Team Playoff Odds
Heading into tonight’s game, the Tigers remain seven games behind Cleveland in the AL Central, and they are 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot. Their playoff odds are as follows:
That’s up from where they’ve been in recent days, when they dipped into the twenties, but down about fifteen points since we last checked here two weeks ago, and roughly thirty points lower than they were just days before then.
As I wrote then, this isn’t going to be easy. Twelve games remain: two more in Minnesota, then three at home against the Royals, four more at home against Cleveland, and three in Atlanta against the Braves.
It Don’t Come Easy – 9/8
Mike Drop – 8/16
Checking in on Justin Upton – 8/11
The Tigers are not Utilitarians – 7/27
Is Brad Ausmus Evolving? – 7/26
Tigers offered another opportunity tonight against Pomeranz – 7/25
Brad Ausmus is not saying, he’s just saying – 7/8
Ian Kinsler is the San Francisco Giants of the MLB All Star Game – 7/6
Night of a thousand feet of home runs – 6/21
Pelf on the shelf – 6/16
When is it okay to stop short? – 6/15
Heading for the exit velocity – 5/17
Boy, the starters need to carry that weight a longer time – 5/3
Who’s Number Two? – 5/2
Statements both obvious and only slightly less obvious about the Detroit Tigers’ finances
Shift the shift: Victor Martinez and counter-strategies
Feel like they never tell you the story of the Gose?
Getting to know Jordan Zimmermann in context
Highlights from MLB Network’s visit to Detroit Tigers spring training
2016 Detroit Tigers Season Preview: They’re Not Dead Yet