Miguel Cabrera would have liked another opportunity to take a swing.
But he isn’t mad.
Not like Detroit Tigers fans were in the eighth inning Thursday, when New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone made what he called a “gut-wrenching” decision by intentionally walking Cabrera – sitting on 2,999 career hits – in his final plate appearance of the game.
“Yankees suck!The 21,529 fans at Comerica Park chanted.
“It came down to a baseball call for me there,” Boone said. “Tough decision. … Tough call, but one I had to make. Certainly understand (the crowd’s reaction). You don’t necessarily like being in that position, but that’s part of it.
“Look, it’s a baseball call all the way. There’s no doubt that there’s a little more feeling to it, understanding the situation. But in the end, you got to go with what you think is right within the context of the game.”
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The eighth inning began with the Tigers’ first three batters reaching safely: Victor Reyes (double), Robbie Grossman (single) and Jonathan Schoop (walk). Boone called for a pitching change, bringing in left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge with the bases loaded.
Jeimer Candelario grounded into a double play, leaving runners on second and third base with two outs. With first base open, Boone intentionally walked Cabrera, a right-handed hitter, so Luetge could face Austin Meadows, a left-handed hitter.
“This is baseball,” Cabrera said. “There was a lefty behind me, so they preferred to walk me intentionally. That’s part of the game. I got three chances to get a hit, and I went 0-for-3. But we got a chance to win. That’s beautiful. . “
Some other reactions from the Tigers’ clubhouse:
Manager AJ Hinch: “Boonie’s obligation is to his own team and their chances of winning. He had the matchup behind Miggy that he wanted, so you could see it coming. Our fans responded accordingly. But I totally get it.”
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Catcher Eric Haase: “It’s the right baseball move, I just understand the bad taste that’s left in everybody’s mouth. It’s a double-edged sword. Obviously, you want to see him hit there, you want to see him get it. But at the same time, This crowd coming alive and really giving it to him after that. I think that was a huge momentum shift in that game. That momentum, going into that ninth inning, I felt like we were winning that game regardless. “
Closer Gregory Soto: “I didn’t feel very good, because I wanted him to have the base hit on that at-bat. But there was a left-hander behind him, so it was meant to be. I liked (the crowd).”
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario: “I don’t care about the booing and all that. I just want the fans to support us, and if they support us like they’re doing, it’s going to be special this year. You got a lefty coming up and a lefty The guy is throwing, so I can understand. It is what it is. For sure, I wanted them to pitch to him. It was a good situation for him, and he was locked in. “
The decision from Boone didn’t pay off, as Meadows followed Cabrera’s intentional walk with a two-run double to left field, pushing the Tigers’ lead to 3-0.
Soto recorded a five-out save to secure the win.
After the eighth inning, Cabrera pointed at the scoreboard and signaled to the crowd to quiet their negative reaction, and while most fans listened to the Tigers great, some continued to Taunt Boone and the Yankees.
“I loved it,” Cabrera said. “But they have to understand, OK, they want to see 3,000, but we want to win first.”
Hinch and Cabrera spoke on the top step of the dugout.
“He was saying, ‘Let’s win,'” Hinch said. “He wants to win the game. All that matters is that we win. He wanted to make sure everybody was perfectly clear that winning the game was a priority.”
“My on-base percentage is going up,” said Cabrera, who has a .378 OBP in 12 games this season. “That’s really good. And we scored two runs. That’s big. That’s the beauty of baseball.”
Before the eighth, Cabrera had three opportunities to notch his 3,000th hit. All three at-bats came against Yankees left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery. Cabrera went 3-for-4 in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss, setting the stage for Thursday’s drama.
Cabrera flied out to left field in the first inning on a second-pitch 91.4 mph four-seam fastball in an 0-1 count. The 20-year MLB veteran struck out swinging in the fourth inning on a fourth-pitch 80.7 mph curveball in a 1-2 count.
“He went aggressive in the first at-bat – fastball, fastball,” Cabrera said. “In the other at-bats, he worked in changeups, fastballs, off-speed. My approach was to swing at everything today. It wasn’t a good approach.”
In the sixth, Cabrera struck out swinging on a sixth-pitch 93.2 mph sinker in a 3-2 count. He checked his swing, but home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt deemed he swung too far. First-base umpire Adam Hamari didn’t need to confirm.
The fans stood in silence before each pitch, similar to what Cabrera experienced during his chase for 500 home runs – he’s currently at 502 – last season.
The atmosphere made Cabrera cry.
“I was very emotional in the first couple at-bats,” Cabrera said. “I don’t want to say that. But that’s why I hit with sunglasses today. My eyes were (tearing up). It was very emotional for me today.
“It was a dream come true. I was dreaming about this moment. When I was in the dugout, getting ready for my at-bat, I was thinking about that.”
The quest for 3,000 hits continues at 7:10 pm Friday for the three-game series’ opener against the Colorado Rockies at Comerica Park. The Tigers are scheduled to face right-hander Antonio Senzatela on Friday, left-hander Austin Gomber on Saturday and righty Chad Kuhl on Sunday.
Cabrera plans to take care of business as soon as possible, and he wants his big hit to help push the Tigers (5-7) to their second consecutive victory as the team aims to inch closer to a winning record.
“Hopefully, I can get it tomorrow in front of my hometown Detroit,” Cabrera said.
Contact Evan Petzold at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter VanEvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.