illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Here’s the scene for you:
Top of the 8th. Game tied at 3 thanks to a Victor Martinez RBI single in the previous inning. Twenty-one year old Kelvin Herrera comes in to make his big league debut, taking the place of Aaron Crow, who had had some, let us say, issues. Herrera’s first ever big league pitch is a fastball that drills Ryan Raburn.
Miguel Cabrera has the night off. He had been playing a lot lately, and with the playoffs already locked in, Leyland decided that the last road game of the regular season was as good a time as any to get Miggy some well-deserved rest.
So Cabrera is just chilling on the bench, doing whatever it is that he does on the bench– flicking sunflower seeds at Verlander, prank calling Carlos Guillen’s day nurse, saying rude things about the umpires in Spanish, napping in his footy pajamas– generally enjoying his day off. But Leyland has now decided that he does not want to lose this stupid game to the Royals. He’s going all out. He’s using Doug Fister in relief of Max Scherzer. He’s mad that the Rhino got hit by a pitch. He grabs Ramon Santiago by the collar, pulls him away from the on deck circle, and tells Cabrera to grab his bat.
“But coach,” Cabrera protests, “I’m in my footy pajamas! This was my nap day!”
“Who cares?” Leyland says. “Victor’s wearing four different sets of sleeves. Avila’s got a safety razor in his back pocket so he can shave between pitches. Inge is wearing Little Victor’s pants ’cause his’re in the wash. Just get on out there and win us the ****ing game.”
He can hardly argue with that, so Cabrera gets his bat and goes out there and jovially menaces the Royals. Kelvin Herrera throws his second ever big league pitch, a fastball that Miggy smacks for an RBI double. Boom, Tigers lead, 4-3.
Leyland sends Danny Worth out to pinch run for Cabrera, so Miggy can get his footy pajamas off the field. Jim Leyland may believe the uniform code is a load of horses**t, but he wouldn’t want to press his luck any more than he has to.
Don Kelly, of all cats, hit a two-run homer after that to put the game more firmly into the Tigers win column, but the damage was already done. The Tigers head back to Detroit on a winning note, and they even managed to get Mister Fister a relief win. Totally stupid, but since he was so win-deprived in Seattle, it’s a nice gesture.
Sweet dreams, Miguel Cabrera.