With the American League Central title locked up, eyes are on Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and whether he can become the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski with the Red Sox in 1967.
With one game remaining in the regular season, Cabrera appears to be on a mission to end that 45-year drought, leading the American League in all three Triple Crown categories — batting average, home runs and RBIs.
Each of his at-bats, as well as those of Angels rookie Mike Trout and Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, will be streamed live on MLB.com.
Cabrera played third base in Tuesday’s contest — a 4-2 loss — starting off against Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie with a two-out bloop single to center field in the first inning. In the top of the third, he came through with a clutch hit, a two-run line-drive single that put the Tigers on top, 2-1.
A fly ball to right field in the fifth was caught by Jeff Francoeur, and it was the only out Cabrera made, as manager Jim Leyland elected to remove him after the inning.
“Oh, he got me right there. He got me good,” Cabrera said of Guthrie’s pitch. “He threw a first pitch offspeed. I didn’t think he was going to throw it again
Cabrera wasn’t upset about being pulled.
“That’s the plan Skip had,” he said.
Pulling Cabrera was an interesting move given what’s at stake. But he’s still nursing a sore ankle and hasn’t had a day off since Aug. 26.
Still, he finished Tuesday night’s game 2-for-3 and is 6-for-8 in his past two games. Through two games at Kauffman Stadium, the Tigers slugger raised his average to .331, still ahead of Trout (.324), who went 1-for-5 in a 6-1 loss to Seattle.
If Trout goes 6-for-6 on Wednesday, he would get to .3309, passing Cabrera’s .3306. Twins catcher Joe Mauer is third in the batting race with a .320 average, but he would have to go 9-for-9 to surpass Cabrera.
Despite not going yard on Tuesday, Cabrera remains the Major League leader with 44 home runs, one ahead of Hamilton, who has been stuck on 43 since Sept. 24. Hamilton (1-for-4) had an RBI double in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss in Oakland but did not clear the fence.
Cabrera also padded his lengthy lead in RBIs, raising his total to a Major League-best 139. Hamilton is second with 128, while the third-highest total in the AL is shared between Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Minnesota’s Josh Willingham, each with 110.
Even if Cabrera doesn’t drive in any runs Wednesday, Hamilton would need 12 to pass him. The AL record for RBIs in a game is 11. The Major League record is 12.
If Cabrera finishes tied in any category, the Triple Crown will still be his. Yastrzemski was tied with Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew, each with 44 homers, during his magical run in ’67.
However, it’s possible Cabrera will be given the night off, according to Leyland. With the Rangers starting at 3:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Hamilton’s game will likely be over before the Tigers take the field for an 8:10 start against the Royals.
If the Texas outfielder doesn’t homer, Detroit’s skipper might rest Cabrera.
“I’m not really sure about it,” Leyland said Wednesday morning on the Dan Patrick Show. “Of course you monitor it, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to monitor it.”
Leyland said a decision won’t be made about Cabrera’s status until after the team gets to the ballpark. The Detroit skipper would like to rest Cabrera, who has played in all but one game this season, but that’s not the only consideration.
“Well, I think it’ll ultimately probably be his decision, but at the same time I think I’d certainly have a lot of input as far as what I’d like to see him to do,” Leyland told Patrick. “But at the end of the day I’d probably leave it up to him.”
Regardless of whether Cabrera is in the lineup, Leyland isn’t worried about his slugger’s awards prospects — or what anyone else thinks.
“Why worry about it?” he said. “I’m not gonna worry about it.
“It’s such an interesting story, and I think everyone should just be enjoying it.”