Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera is one hit away from another historic milestone.
The 39-year-old tallied three singles in the Tigers’ 5-3 loss against the New York Yankees on Wednesday at Comerica Park, leaving him at 2,999 career hits entering Thursday’s series finale.
“I didn’t hit the ball hard today, and I got three hits,” Cabrera said. “Baseball is really hard. I was really lucky today. But we lost the game, so (expletive) it. … When you lose, you lose. It doesn’t matter.”
JEFF SEIDEL:Miguel Cabrera’s teammates share what makes him so special as he chases 3,000
Manager AJ Hinch said Cabrera will play Thursday and might bat in the first inning.
“I hope we win tomorrow,” Cabrera said.
The Tigers (4-7) then play three home games against the Colorado Rockies from Friday through Sunday. With one more hit, Cabrera will become the 33rd player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits.
Doing so will make the 20-year MLB veteran the seventh player in history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. And Cabrera, boasting 599 doubles, could soon be one of three players with 500 homers, 3,000 hits and 600 doubles.
“He’s been in a good place,” Hinch said. “He’s handled all of this, even dating back to 500 last year, with a ton of class and dignity and humor and passion and appreciation. You name the word, he’s done it. And we love that. … Miggy is as authentic as they come. “
The hits from Cabrera weren’t entirely wasted Wednesday night, but the Tigers managed only three runs on 11 hits and three walks. The team had eight strikeouts. Cabrera finished 3-for-4 with one strikeout, the 193rd three-hit game of his career.
Facing Yankees right-handed reliever Chad Green, Cabrera followed Jeimer Candelario’s sixth-inning leadoff single with a broken-bat single – No. 2,999 – on a grounder that snuck through the infield hole and into the left field.
After consecutive outs, Harold Castro plated Candelario and Cabrera with a double to the left-center gap. He hammered a first-pitch fastball from Green, and his two RBIs tied the game at 3-all.
Tigers righty reliever Drew Hutchison allowed one unearned run in the seventh, and fellow right-hander Joe Jimenez gave up an earned run in the eighth inning. Righty Michael Fulmer, who took over for Hutchison, logged the final two outs in the seventh.
Righty Jason Foley pitched a scoreless top of the ninth on 11 pitches. For the second straight night, Aroldis Chapman slammed the door on the Tigers’ offense in the bottom of the ninth.
[ Jeimer Candelario puts slow start into perspective: ‘152 more games’ ]
Three’s a crowd
Cabrera also recorded singles in the second and fourth innings off Yankees right-handed starter Luis Severino.
His first hit, an infield single to third base, occurred on Severino’s sixth-pitch changeup in a 2-2 count. His second hit, a single up the middle, came on an eight-pitch fastball in a 3-2 count.
“He’s swinging the bat really well,” Hinch said. “He’s pitching good pitches. The last at-bat, where he’s right on the line – at 2,999 – it’s a cool atmosphere. We’re all rooting for him. It’ll be a big moment when it comes.”
In the second, Victor Reyes pushed an RBI single to right field for a 1-0 lead. Cabrera, though, was thrown out – for the first out – trying to go from first to third on the play.
Cabrera’s fourth-inning hit, with the Tigers trailing 2-1, sparked a bases-loaded situation, as Reyes (single) and Spencer Torkelson (walk) followed the former two-time MVP by reaching safely with one out. But Castro lined out and Tucker Barnhart struck out swinging, stranding the bases juiced.
“I was very encouraged by our at-bats,” Hinch said. “I thought the at-bats got better and better. We pieced together a few hits, and we’re one Harold Castro line drive from extending it even further with the bases loaded.
“There’s obviously areas for us to get better offensively, but I was very encouraged by what I saw putting some good at-bats together one after another. Hopefully, that’s us waking up a little bit offensively. The runs will follow the good at- bats. “
An opportunity for No. 3,000 appeared in the eighth, as Cabrera stepped into the batter’s box as the inning’s leadoff hitter against New York right-handed reliever Clay Holmes.
Cabrera struck out swinging on a fourth-pitch 96.8 mph sinker.
“I know that’s a special moment,” Cabrera said. “But at the same time, I got to do my job and get on base in that situation. I was the leadoff guy that inning, and I struck out. It’s whatever.”
E-Rod rock solid
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez labored through the first three innings, but he retired 11 of his final 12 opponents to conclude his outing. The 29-year-old allowed a one-out solo home run to Anthony Rizzo in the sixth inning but picked up the final two outs.
Rodriguez, in his third start this season, allowed three runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts in six innings.
“He did a really good job,” Cabrera said. “He stopped a really big offense like the Yankees. Hopefully, we can do the same tomorrow and score more runs.”
The Yankees scored two runs off him in the third on an RBI double from Aaron Judge and RBI groundout from Rizzo, taking a 2-1 lead with a runner on third base. Rodriguez escaped further damage by striking out Giancarlo Stanton looking on a fastball that painted the inside edge.
“I thought he threw the ball great,” Hinch said. The 0-2 hit, the double (to Isiah Kiner-Falefa), started a little bit of a spiral (in the third inning), and he was able to control the inning. He gave up a couple of runs. I thought he kept it together pretty well and threw the ball as well as he has in any of his strarts. “
[ Why Miguel Cabrera’s march to 3,000 hits is special for Eduardo Rodriguez ]
In the fourth, Rodriguez relied on his changeup.
He pitched a perfect inning.
Rodriguez retired nine batters in a row until Rizzo’s one-out home run in the sixth. Rizzo drilled Rodriguez’s third-pitch changeup. His changeup was effective for most of his start.
“After that third inning, I knew I had to go as deep as I could in the game,” Rodriguez said, referring to the Tigers used seven relievers in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss. “I tried my best to get that inning, and at least I was able to go six. … After that third inning, I feel like I really found my changeup.”
For his 98 pitches (58 strikes), Rodriguez used 39 four-seam fastballs, 24 cutters, 21 changeups, 11 sinkers and three sliders. He racked up seven swings and misses – including four with his changeup – and 17 called strikes.
His fastball averaged 91.7 mph.
Contact Evan Petzold at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter VanEvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.