By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – The look on Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona’s face told the story almost before it played out in Wednesday night’s game.
He nervously chomped on tobacco, bubblegum, sunflower seeds or some combination, his eyes glued on the field, and watched 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera walk to the plate for the fourth time of the game against the Indians’ rookie pitcher. Francona exhaled.
He had enough reason to keep 23-year-old Danny Salazar on the mound to finish the eighth inning, even if it was just Salazar’s second big-league start and, with 102 pitches thrown, Salazar was nearing the end of his outing.
There were two outs, and Salazar had already struck out Cabrera three times that game. In 104 games this season, it was only the fourth game Cabrera had whiffed three times. Even with those, he had only recorded 71 strikeouts all year.
Cleveland was clinging to a 3-2 lead, trying to win its first game of the series after the Tigers took the first two.
Cabrera got into his batting stance, and Salazar eyed him from the mound.
“All it takes is one swing,” an announcer on the radio broadcast cautioned.
One swing indeed. Salazar’s fastball stayed high over the middle of the plate, and Cabrera walloped it for a two-run homer to center field. On the hit, Salazar pointed up like he thought it was a pop fly. No such luck. Cabrera’s blast went 429 feet and gave the Tigers the lead.
As Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander watched from the dugout, he grabbed the bill of his cap with both hands, watching the ball fly, then thrust both arms into the air when the ball left the yard. Infielder Ramon Santiago jumped right out of the dugout. Catcher Brayan Pena grinned from ear to ear.
Detroit fans at the game chanted, “MVP, MVP, MVP,” as Cabrera rounded the bases. As he stepped on home plate, he took off his batting helmet and nodded to the dugout.
Cabrera had missed seven of the last 15 games trying to rest and heal a hip flexor injury, but that did not seem to matter. The home run was his 33rd of the season, and he now has 102 RBIs to go with a .359 batting average.
“Miguel Cabrera at 70 to 75 percent is still the best player on the field on most nights,” an announcer on the television broadcast said after the homer, quoting a longtime scout he had talked with recently.
For Cabrera, Wednesday was another day at work- one that would continue through 14 innings.
For everyone else, it was watching a memorable moment of a player who will go down as one of the most memorable in history.