Baltimore — One more.
Miguel Cabrera took the penultimate step toward the hallowed 500 home run plateau Wednesday night and was a catalyst in the Tigers’ 5-2 win over the Orioles.
In an eventful fifth inning at Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Cabrera broke a scoreless tie, turning on a 1-2 hanging curveball from Baltimore starter Matt Harvey and sending over the wall in left field – home run No. 499.
He had singled in his first two at-bats, bringing his career hits total to 2,950.
With one more blast, Cabrera will become the 28th player in major league history to join the 500-Homer Club. And he will be the first to hit No. 500, and the bulk of the others, wearing a Tigers uniform.
Eddie Mathews and Gary Sheffield, two other members of the 500-homer club, played briefly for the Tigers.
“I have no words to describe that,” said fellow Venezuelan Renato Nunez, whom the Tigers brought back from Toledo before the game. “All you guys know, he’s my favorite player. I just hope I get the opportunity to watch him get 500. That would be something special.”
Asked what Cabrera means to his country, Nunez said, perfectly, “The best player Venezuela has born. That’s it. He’s the best guy we got.”
The Tigers had left the bases loaded against Harvey in the first and third innings before Cabrera’s home run broke the seal with one out in the fifth.
The Tigers quickly put runners at second and third after the home run, but a safety squeeze play failed. Harold Castro got the bunt down, but Jeimer Candelario, who had doubled, didn’t get a good break off of third and was thrown out at the plate.
It looked like another threat would be doused, until Niko Goodrum, in his second game back off the injured list, ripped a two-run double down the line in right.
BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, Orioles 2
Goodrum, though, hobbled into second, clearly in pain. He came off the field immediately, favoring his left leg. The Tigers later said he suffered a groin strain. He’d been out since July 10 with a hematoma in his left calf.
Cabrera came to bat with runners at second and third in the sixth and hit a line drive sacrifice fly to right field — a three-hit, two-RBI night. He had gone 26 at-bats without hitting No. 499, but in that span contributed six hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly.
For the second straight start, Tigers rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal was sharp. He blanked the Orioles on five hits (all singles) over six innings, with six strikeouts and just one walk. He’s now pitched 11 shutout innings over his last two starts.
He has 127 strikeouts this season, fourth-most all time for a Tiger in his rookie season.
He bullied the Orioles hitters with his four-seam fastball (which sat at 94 and touched 97 mph) and slider combination. The 16 balls the Orioles put in play against him had an average exit velocity of a mild 82 mph.
Anthony Santander put the Orioles on the board with a long, 413-foot, two-run home run beyond the concourse in right field off Erasmo Ramirez. He’s homered in three straight games, the last two against the Tigers, both of them landing on Eutaw Stree
The Orioles have lost seven straight, but they stopped another streak just before it became a dubious record. They had allowed at least nine runs in their previous six games. The MLB record, last set by the 2000 Mariners, was seven straight.
And, speaking of streaks, this was the fourth straight game in which the Tigers had to endure a rain delay before the first pitch. This one lasted 71 minutes.
Worth the wait, though, for the Tigers and the Cabrera milestone chase.