By Ashley Dunkak
Going into Saturday’s game, Kansas City Royals reliever Aaron Crow had given up just three home runs in 48 appearances this season. Royals starter Bruce Chen entered Sunday’s game with an ERA of 1.62.
By the time the weekend ended, both Crow and Chen had surrendered first-pitch homers to Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera.
The homer Saturday came walk-off style, helping the Tigers tie the series, and the second one – in his first at bat the following day – gave Detroit an early lead it would never relinquish as it went on to take the series three games to two.
Quite a few pitchers can share the pain of giving up a homer to Cabrera, who has blasted 40 home runs this season. The homers have helped him accrue an MLB-best 120 RBIs to go with his MLB-leading batting average of .360.
Including Cabrera, only five players have hit at least 30 homers in 2013. Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks has 30 home runs, 113 strikeouts and a .295 average. Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates has 30 home runs, 150 strikeouts and a .232 average. The Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis leads the majors with 45 homers and has recorded 149 strikeouts and a .306 average. Edwin Encarnacion of the Toronto Blue Jays has 31 homers, 52 strikeouts and a .278 batting average.
Cabrera’s average is the highest by 25 points, yet he has the second-most homers in the majors. Simply put, Cabrera’s combination of hitting for average and hitting for power is unequaled.
As if that was not enough of an anomaly, he has recorded only 75 strikeouts.
“I think you just have to realize that he’s, right now, he’s the best hitter in baseball, so that’s why he strikes out less than other guys,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said with a laugh. “I don’t know else to answer that. That’s a fact.
“He hits like a little guy and gets results like a big guy,” Leyland added. “You don’t see him out of control very often. Some big power hitters you see out of control. You don’t see Cabrera out of control very often, and that’s why he doesn’t strike out like some of the big pure power hitters.”
Davis’ home run prowess endangers Cabrera’s bid to become the first player in the history of the game to win the Triple Crown in back-to-back years, but if Cabrera continues to hit like he has been hitting, his season might still go down as one of the greatest of all time.