After two-homer performance, Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera promises to 'keep fighting'

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For the first time in a long time, Miguel Cabrera carried the Detroit Tigers to a victory.

When the Tigers needed a big hit, Cabrera delivered. He acknowledges his struggles this season, with a .206 batting average through 28 games. But the past didn't matter in Friday night's 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals in the series opener at Kauffman Stadium.

Cabrera, 38, finished 3-for-5 with five RBIs. He crushed a solo home run in the second inning to put the Tigers, now 18-26, on the board for a 1-0 lead. Then, he smashed a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning off Greg Holland, pummeling a slider in a full count with two outs.

"It means a lot," Cabrera said Friday. "I'm like really struggling this season. Getting that big home run right there gives me positivity to go out there and keep fighting. Keep fighting, try to play hard the next day and try to help our team win more games."

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Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) celebrates with third baseman Jeimer Candelario (46) after hitting a grand slam in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday, May 21, 2021.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) celebrates with third baseman Jeimer Candelario (46) after hitting a grand slam in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday, May 21, 2021.

The Tigers got additional help from Robbie Grossman, who paired up with Cabrera for three-hit performances. Eric Haase and Jake Rogers each chipped in two hits, while Niko Goodrum and Wilson Ramos drove in two runs with RBI singles.

But Cabrera took the spotlight, and the Tigers couldn't be happier — considering the organization is paying him $30 million this season. Poor results early on, and a stint on the injured list with a left biceps strain, sent Cabrera back to the drawing board. He focused on hitting singles and working deeper into counts.

Entering Friday, Cabrera hadn't produced an extra-base hit since April 27.

"That's the way I can get going," Cabrera said. "Get my hits, work counts. When they make mistakes, try to hit into the gap like today. I'm going to keep it simple. I don't want to put a lot of pressure (on myself). I want to take it step by step. When I'm getting hot, hopefully we can win more games."

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Boosted by Cabrera's efforts, the Tigers have won four games in a row and nine of their past 11 contests. Detroit sits in the fourth place in the American League Central, ahead of the Minnesota Twins and 8½ games back of the first-place Chicago White Sox.

Across the past 15 games, the offense is producing: 150-for-530 (.283) with 55 walks and 150 strikeouts. The Tigers have pounded 12 home runs during this span, chipping in 21 doubles, four triples and 14 stolen bases. In Cabrera's past 11 games, he is hitting .357 with six walks and seven strikeouts.

"Everybody does a really good job late in the game and focuses for the whole game," Cabrera said. "We don't give anything away. We're always fighting and trying to compete. That's the most important thing, keep competing to have a chance to win in the ninth inning."

The offense looks more like what the Tigers envisioned when they finished adding free agents to the roster this winter. The team is finally putting up consistent competitive at-bats, unlike the 17-game stretch from April 15 through May 2. During that span, the Tigers hit .173 with a 2-15 record.

It also helps that the starting pitching has been electric, with a 3.92 ERA — the 12th-best mark in baseball. Adding success from the offense, however, has made the difference in the team's record during the past two weeks.

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When Cabrera is getting on base, the entire team feeds off his presence. On Friday, he logged his 42nd multi-homer game and his sixth grand slam. With 491 long balls in his career, he is two home runs away from tying Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 28th place in MLB history.

"Miggy's as prepared as any of the guys we have," Hinch said. "Given all his work, he and we want to see results. He's starting to see some. ... He had a big night. He's had some really good nights in a row, where he's had quality at-bats.

"I don't care if you're young or in the middle of your career or an older veteran, you need to see results when you have a good process. And he's doing that right now."

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In 28 games this season, Cabrera is hitting .206 with four home runs, 16 RBIs, 12 walks and 28 strikeouts. He is nine home runs away from No. 500 and 113 hits away from No. 3,000 in his 19-year MLB career.

And Cabrera seems to have an idea for how to reach those historic milestones.

"I don't want to put pressure on myself," Cabrera said. "I did that early in the season, and it didn't work out for me. What works for me is to go out and play. Don't think about the numbers. That's the way I have played my whole career. I want to keep it simple, go out and do my job. Trying to get better every day."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera hits 2 HRs, promises to 'keep fighting'