Detroit — Tigers fans, and souvenir ball-hawkers, they don’t miss a trick.
With Miguel Cabrera shooting for career home run No. 500 Friday night, the stands in left field and right field were jam-packed. The rest of Comerica Park, less than (announced crowd of 22,107).
They didn’t get their golden-ticket souvenir on this night, but they sure did fill the yard with energy. Big ovations every time Cabrera came to the plate, even after he punched out in the first.
“I loved our fans tonight,” manager AJ Hinch said after the Tigers were beaten 7-4 by the Cleveland Indians. “It was a great atmosphere. The buzz, standing through the Miggy at-bats — really cool. I’m glad they brought it tonight.
“I hope they bring it tomorrow and I hope we give them a better performance. We didn’t play our best.”
The place nearly exploded in the fourth when Cabrera hit a towering fly ball to center, 70 feet short of the wall. They did so again in the eighth when he lined out to center after a gritty, seven-pitch battle.
“Miggy is living proof that legends exist, they’re not just in your mind,” Hinch said. “This is in front of us every day. This matters.”
It does matter. Only 27 players in the long history of this game have achieved 500 home runs. And Cabrera, with his Triple Crown, two Most Valuable Player awards and four batting titles, matters to this city and to Major League Baseball.
But what matters to Cabrera, as he has repeatedly said, is winning baseball games, and the Tigers’ didn’t do that.
“I know these numbers are big and I know he appreciates his place in history and how cool this is for him,” Hinch said. “But he’s all about winning. And this has brought Miggy’s spirits back in a couple of different ways.
“The personal accolades are always great, but it’s playing in these important games. We’re trying to reestablish the English D as a winning franchise.”
BOX SCORE: Indians 7, Tigers 4
If the chase is starting to play on Cabrera’s anxiety, as he admitted it as earlier in the season, he’s not showing it.
“Miggy is in a good place,” Hinch said. “You can’t just walk up and will it to go out of the ballpark. He hasn’t taken any of his at-bats that way I’d hate to think he is now. It’s counterproductive to think you can hit it when you want to.
“I know everyone is rooting for it. But we can’t allow ourselves to be disappointed if it’s an at-bat that doesn’t end in a homer.”
The loss knocked the Tigers back into third place behind the Indians, who got some punch from two unlikely sources.
Second baseman Ernie Clement hit two solo home runs — one off starter Tyler Alexander (five innings, four runs allowed) in the third and another off reliever Derek Holland in the seventh.
They were the first two homers of his big-league career.
Then there was third baseman Yu Chang. He came into the game hitting .185. He accounted for three of the Indians runs. He tripled in a run and scored against Alexander in the fourth and he homered off Joe Jimenez in the sixth.
“Tyler did a good job controlling the top of their order,” Hinch said. “But the bottom of their order beat us.”
Jimenez, victimized by his own throwing error, gave up two unearned runs in the sixth, after the Tigers had cut a 4-0 deficit in half.
“Not keeping them off the scoreboard after we answered back and crawled our way back into the game — that was a tough inning,” Hinch said.
Catcher Eric Haase came to bat against Indians starter Zach Plesac in the fifth inning in a 0-for-16 drought. He was 6 for 38 with 16 strikeouts in August. But he locked onto a change-up from Plesac and hit it 440 feet into the shrubs in center field. It would have been over the center field fence at old Tiger Stadium, that’s how far he hit it. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 110 mph.
“I had gotten off the fastball a little bit,” Haase said. “I knew going into Cleveland I would see a lot of spin and breaking ball. So coming off the fastball, I kind of got stuck in between.”
And then, just like that, he got unstuck. It was his 19th home run of the season, in 246 at-bats. The 12.9 at-bats per homer rate is 12th in baseball, per Stats by Stats.
A two-out RBI double by Robbie Grossman was the only other damage inflicted on Plesac in 7.2 innings.
Renato Nunez hit his second home run in two days, a two-run shot in the ninth inning off a 95-mph fastball from reliever James Karinchak. Of his seven hits as a Tigers, four of them are homers and two are doubles.
“He’s just being who he is,” Hinch said. “He hits for power. He hits homers. He puts up long at-bats and there’s a lot of swing-and-miss at times, but it comes with intent to do damage.”
Indians slugger Franmil Reyes was ejected in the third inning for arguing a called third strike with home plate umpire Ryan Blakney. Reyes, with bat still in hand, had to be restrained by third base coach Kyle Hudson from going after Blakney.