Tigers, Cabrera, Gear Up for Stretch Run

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As the calendar page flips to September, the leaves start to change colors and there is the familiar smell of fall tailgates for football season, sports fans begin to drift towards America’s favorite sport, football.

However, for the baseball fanatic, the lingering potential of an October playoff berth is now so unavoidably in their face, a blind man would be able to read the writing on the wall.

This is it. For all the marbles. Where push comes to shove. The loser goes home and the winner goes on to the World Series.

Whoa, sorry, had a “Rookie of the Year” moment. But on a serious note, this is the month where money is made.

September is where the All-Stars of the team become more than just that. Where every decision the skipper makes gets so scrutinized by the media, it is as if they have never made a correct decision. And most importantly, this is when a season-long grind comes to a head.

The Detroit Tigers were a major league best 27-12 once upon a time and were on a pace where the regular season seemed merely like a formality, and Detroit was on a collision course with the Commissioner’s Trophy.

The Tigers boast one of the best offenses in the game, as they are first in the major leagues in runs scored, batting average and on-base percentage. In addition to this, their starting staff has thrown 78 quality starts, which is good for ninth in the majors.

Sounds as if they would still be one of the top teams in baseball.

So how, in the 98 games since, has Detroit compiled a 48-50 record? That is not the record of a playoff baseball team. Not even close.

That is the handy work of the bullpen, that has been exactly that — the pen of a bull. Not just a bull, but many bulls, that stew in their own feces. And in this pen, only the bulls with the smelliest and most malodorous of manure can stake its claim to be in this Detroit Kitties pen.

However, there is one superman who can save them. Someone whose only kryptonite is their own injury potential. A person who is the only human on the planet to hit for a Triple Crown since 1967.

Cabby. Miggy. The Big Fella. Miguel Cabrera.

However, Cabrera has not been his usual dominant self. Yes he is third in the A.L. in RBIs. Yes he is still hitting above .300 and yes he started the All-Star game at first base, but this year has been slower.

Cabrera, the back-to-back reigning MVP, is not leading the league in home runs or batting average. Not even his team. With the previous Most Valuable Player in the league looking more along the lines of just a regular All-Star, Detroit has been in more trouble than they ever anticipated.

Which is exactly why they will be just fine.

On Monday, Sept. 1, Cabrera broke his 27 consecutive game homerless drought, with a home run in the first inning. Then he sent out another one to the opposite field in the seventh for good measure.

Yes, it is just one game, that could not possibly mean he is back? Or could it? Yes, yes it can.

Monday was his first multi-home run game of the year, first four-hit game in over a month and most importantly it came from the designated hitter position. That is what Detroit needs out of Cabrera. Not to be a defensive superstar at first, not to be a base-running machine, but to be healthy and produce in the batting order.

Don Kelly can play first base, but his bat frequently resembles those little minty picks I use after I get some apple core stuck in my teeth. Victor Martinez can play first, is the best switch hitter in the game and is leading the team in every statistical hitting category except RBIs.

All of that is true, but there is no replacing a Miguel Cabrera. The ability he has with his bat is unparalleled and uncomparable to any player.

Past. Present. Future. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the game of baseball, and now that it is September, he will remind everyone why.

The playoffs are around the corner and the beast has awoken. If the Tigers are going to win the division, it will be thanks to said beast, Cabrera.


Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.