MIAMI — Miguel Cabrera happily settled for a single crown.
The Detroit Tigers slugger fell short in his bid to become the first player to win the Triple Crown in successive seasons. But Cabrera clinched his third batting title in a row, finishing with a .348 average after sitting out Sunday’s regular-season finale at Miami — a no-hitter by the Marlins’ Henderson Alvarez.
Now Cabrera’s headed for the playoffs with the AL Central champion Tigers. And he denied any disappointment about not winning another Triple Crown.
“I still had a good season,” he said. “I have the same numbers I had last year, and we won the division.”
Actually, his statistics are better than they were in 2012, when he was the AL MVP. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all higher than a year ago.
Last year he batted .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs. This year he had 44 home runs and 137 RBIs.
In 2012 Cabrera became the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. He failed to repeat for two reasons: injuries and Chris Davis.
A number of nagging injuries over the past couple months limited Cabrera to 148 games this season, down from 161 last year. That prevented him from keeping up with Davis, who had 53 homers and 138 RBIs for the Baltimore Orioles.
Cabrera easily won the batting title. His average was a career high, as was his slugging percentage of .636.
“It’s great,” he said. “Last year was hard. I think this year I was more consistent. I kept my average up. It’s nice.”
Cabrera is the first player to win three consecutive AL batting titles since Wade Boggs won four in a row in 1985-88. He had two hits in each of his two games against Miami and appears to be fully healthy again.
“I’m really happy with where Cabrera is right now,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He looks really good.”
Cabrera has hit .324 or higher each of the past five years, hiking his career average to .321. He has 365 home runs, hitting more than 25 each of the past 10 years.
“He’s the best hitter in baseball,” Leyland said. “There’s no question about it. Just stop the conversation. He gets no infield hits, because he’s not able to leg anything out. But he hits the ball over the fence to all fields and drives in big runs, and he hits .350.”
The Tigers’ final regular-season series was a homecoming for Cabrera, who played in Miami for the first time since the Marlins dealt him in a 2007 trade that ranks with baseball’s most lopsided in recent years. He received a warm ovation each time he batted during the weekend.
Coincidentally, the Marlins personnel boss who traded Cabrera — Larry Beinfest — was fired Friday. Cabrera laughed when told Marlins fans are still unhappy about the trade.
“Detroit was happy,” Cabrera said.