Thursday, Aug 25, 2016
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Dave Hackenberg

Cabrera took opportunity given him

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Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, right, high-fives relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit after their 6-4 win over the Chicago White Sox. Detroit is 1½ games ahead of Chicago in the AL Central Division.

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DETROIT -- The quote has been credited to different sources, but we know it was a baseball player and it figures to have been a pitcher. So we'll go with Curt Simmons, a lefty and one of the "Whiz Kids" in the Phillies' 1950 rotation.

After watching a ball off the bat of Henry Aaron disappear over the fence -- and just maybe he threw it -- Simmons said, "Trying to sneak a fastball past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak the sun past a rooster."

And that brings us to Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, third inning, the sun already high in the sky, the roosters off somewhere with the hens, and Chicago's Philip Humber gripping the ball with a 3-1 count on Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers.

RELATED ARTICLE: Tigers sweep away White Sox

Humber could not possibly be thinking fastball, could he?

He'd tried it two innings before on a 1-1 offering and Cabrera launched a towering shot that reached the farthest wedge of the bullpen in left-center field, traveling 426 feet. It was the 299th home run of Cabrera's major-league career. After an opposite-field, two-run jack by Quintin Berry, it gave Detroit a 3-1 lead.

Now it was the third inning, same score, one out, nobody on base, and 3-1 on Cabrera. There are a lot of pitches to choose from here and you'd figure the last thing on Humber's mind and the first on Cabrera's would be a fastball.

And there it was; one finger from the catcher, a streak down the middle, letter high. Cabrera didn't miss it.

Home run No. 300 was equally memorable and prodigious. A laser shot, it landed in the camera well which hangs from the wall amid the foliage under the fountain in dead center. The ball's flight was interrupted - it wasn't near ready to stop on its own -- a mere 457 feet from the plate.

Cabrera became the only the second native Venezuelan to reach 300 homers, joining Andres Galarraga, and the 14th of any nationality to do it before celebrating his 30th birthday.

He said later that he wasn't sure about the first one. "It's the biggest part of the park," he said.

Asked if he had any questions about the second one, Cabrera just smiled.

Austin Jackson plays out there in the middle of that cavernous outfield for Detroit. He knows how big those two blows were.

"You don't see many go out where those two did, especially the second one," Jackson said. "But he's done that several times this year. It's awesome to watch."

Cabrera wasn't much in the mood to discuss personal feats, so we'll let Alex Avila do it for him.

"I hope people realize how special Miguel is," the Tigers' catcher said. "As hard as this game is, and it's really, really hard, he makes it look like anyone can do it. But there are a few people who come around and you retire their numbers when they're done. He's one of those."

Before the game, manager Jim Leyland produced a couple mini-rants in his office. The first was about being in first place by one-half game meaning next to nothing on July 22.

He's correct, of course, although after a 6-4 Tiger win and a series sweep of Chicago the margin was 1 1/2 games when the roosters began stirring on July 23.

He also had something to say about Cabrera, who enjoys today's off day before a nine-game roadtrip batting .330 with 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

"He's Michael Jordan, he's Tom Brady, he's Wayne Gretzky," Leyland said. "He's a superstar."

No reason to argue, especially when it's Cabrera and a fastball. That's rarely a fair fight.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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