By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – He cannot run, so all hits inside the park will likely be singles. He cannot move easily side to side, so balls in the gap between second and third may escape him. He cannot shift too quickly unless he wants to aggravate his lingering injuries even more.
Despite all he cannot do, those who know still say Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is the most dangerous hitter in baseball, even hampered by groin and abdominal issues that have plagued him throughout the season.
Even more frightening for opposing pitchers, Cabrera seems to be regaining his feel at the plate after a rough month of September.
Between Aug. 27 and Sept. 28, a span encompassing 96 plate appearances, Cabrera hit just one home run. In the last three postseason games, he has pounded two.
Players always say what makes Cabrera such a good hitter is his ability to make adjustments mid-at bat to combat what pitchers are doing to him. Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter attributes Cabrera’s recent resurgence at the plate to his adjustments to what his own body has thrown at him.
“He’s swinging with two hands now,” Hunter said. “You usually see him with one, but I think with two he has more bat control, and I think that’s what he’s feeling right now – not power. It’s more of a bat control with two hands. He looks good. He’s doing whatever he can to help this ball club win. You’ve got to commend Miggy on that. That’s awesome.
“He’s making adjustments with the injury and altering his swing,” Hunter said. “It’s awesome.”
While Cabrera had not been himself entering the postseason, he seems to have found that groove again, and his teammates have the utmost confidence.
“He’s still the best hitter in the world even at not 100 percent,” Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander said. “At 80 percent I think he’s that much better. And I know I’m kind of biased in saying that, but it seems to me every time somebody new comes to this ballclub, Torii [Hunter] this year, guys last year, they always have the same reaction about Miggy.
“Anytime anybody comes over, there’s not a question in their mind after three or four weeks that he’s the best hitter on the planet,” Verlander continued. “They had questions before, you’d see him three or four games at a time, he might not do anything to blow your mind. When you see him and get to watch him for a stretch, it’s that impressive.”
That Cabrera remained in the third spot in the lineup even at what Verlander estimates as 50 percent healthy speaks volumes, the pitcher said.
Hitting a pedestrian .259 in the 2013 postseason so far, Cabrera has been far from perfect, but his big hits have come in the biggest moments. Opposing pitchers recognize the threat, and they prepare accordingly.
Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, pitching Game 3 on Tuesday, would not divulge whatever plans he had to combat Cabrera.
“I’d be kind of dumb to tell you how I’m going to do that right now, I think,” Lackey said with a laugh. “He’s like David [Ortiz]. There’s not one way I can go about it. I’m going to have to make a lot of good pitches in a lot of different spots. He’s really good.”