September 27, 2022

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Miggy tops in MLB hits for Venezuelan player

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DETROIT — The milestones keep piling up for Miguel Cabrera — his latest being his 3,000th hit against the Rockies on Saturday — but one he achieved last season hits close to home. Cabrera’s fifth-inning RBI single in the Tigers’ 4-2 win on May 12, 2021, was the 2,878th hit of his MLB career, moving him past Omar Vizquel for 43rd on the all-time Major League list and giving him the most by a Venezuelan-born Major Leaguer.

“I feel like I’m relieved right now,” he said after the game, “because too many people had been talking to me in the offseason, in the past year, and today [that] I’m going to pass this record. That kept in my head. So right now I’m a little relieved I don’t have to worry about that.”

Cabrera also leads all Venezuelan-born Major Leaguers in home runs, RBIs, runs scored and doubles. The hits record required him to surpass some incredible contact hitters, including Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio, as well as legendary Venezuelan slugger Andrés Galarraga, a player Cabrera idolized growing up.

Vizquel was different. He coached Cabrera on the Tigers from 2014-17 under then-manager Brad Ausmus. He also played for 24 years, overlapping Cabrera’s career for nearly a decade.

“I don’t think it was so much about the names, although there’s some really big names,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I just think it’s a really big deal for him personally in his country. So many Venezuelans that have played the game and had success, the pride that Venezuelan players play with, the energy, the spirit. And Miggy’s at the top for the most hits.

“I mean, that’s a big deal, and especially in our sport that has become more and more engaged across different cultures and different upbringings. Miggy really needs to enjoy this one. That’s a really big deal in his country.”

As big of a deal as it was, Cabrera’s more immediate concern was Royals lefty Danny Duffy, who had held him to a .224 average (11-for-49) with no home runs and 14 strikeouts entering the game. That includes two strikeouts in as many at-bats in Duffy’s last start against Detroit on April 25.

Duffy retired Cabrera on a popout to begin the second inning, but Cabrera lined a 1-2 pitch into left field for a single that scored Jonathan Schoop in the third, tying the game at 2 and tying Vizquel on the hit list. Two innings later, Cabrera sent a ground ball through the right side of the infield for an opposite-field RBI single and a two-run Tigers lead.

The socially distanced crowd at Comerica Park gave Cabrera a big ovation. So, too, did his dugout, from fellow Venezuelans to a slew of young players who grew up watching him in the States.

“What an honor it is to be able to share the field with the greatness that is Miguel Cabrera,” Casey Mize said. “It’s just remarkable what he was able to do tonight — all-time hits leader for a Venezuelan-born player. It’s something that I’ll be able to look back on and just be amazed by, that I was here for this game and started and got to share the field with him.”

On the all-time Major League list, Cabrera is in a range where seemingly every hit puts him either at, past or near another great.

“It’s incredible,” teammate Tarik Skubal said after Cabrera passed Babe Ruth on the all-time list. “I feel like every time he swings the bat and puts it in play, it’s some record or something. It’s honestly incredible to be able to play with that guy at first base.”

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