DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera launched it high and deep into the twilight sun, and when the baseball came down in the left-field stands there was little doubt remaining.
The Detroit Tigers were headed to the World Series, and Cabrera’s two-run shot in the fourth inning provided a sharp Max Scherzer a four-run lead. It was, for all intents and purposes, over for the New York Yankees.
The Tigers clinched the pennant with an 8-1 win on Thursday to sweep the ALCS, and Cabrera issued the shot that sent the Yankees spinning and reeling.
“To see that ball heading out, I felt mighty happy,” said Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski, who acquired Cabrera before the 2008 season in a blockbuster deal with the Florida Marlins. “Runs were going to be hard to come by with the way Scherzer was pitching.
“But bigger than that, when he does that, everybody just does this…”
Dombrowski took a deep breath and stuck out his chest.
“The big guy has done it,” he continued, “and everybody picks up on it.”
Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run homer later that inning, and added a solo shot in the ninth. Austin Jackson led off the seventh with a homer.
The dogs, or in this case the bats, had been turned loose by Cabrera.
The sellout crowd of 42,477 at Comerica Park waved white rally towels and Cabrera circled the bases with a quicker stride than usual. They chanted: “M-V-P! M-V-P!” Cabrera walked toward the dugout before stopping at the first step. He clapped once, tapped his batting helmet, pointed into the roaring crowd and pounded his heart with his fist.
This one came from the heart.
The Triple Crown winner had gone 40 at-bats without hitting a homer since clubbing No. 44 back on Oct. 1 in Kansas City, and while the hits kept coming, the taters had ceased. Superman isn’t supposed to straddle tall buildings. He is supposed to leap them, and now Cabrera was bounding again.
“For me, that was the crushing blow,” said Justin Verlander, who is 3-0 in the postseason. “With the way Max was throwing, that (four-run) lead seemed like a 10-run lead.”
Cabrera, wearing his cap backward and standing on the outfield platform while being interviewed by TBS with the crowd abuzz, said, “Yeah, we did it. It’s an unbelievable feeling. DEE-TROIT! It’s what we work for all year — try to get to this point. Four more wins, guys. Four more wins.”
Verlander came up from behind and grabbed Cabrera’s head with both hands like a basketball. Then Verlander backed off to wave a fist and exclaim, “M-V-P!”
That award seems to be on everyone’s mind, with the consensus that Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is going to give him a run for his money. Voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America was done before the playoffs began, but will not be announced until next month.
Gregoria Cabrera stood outside the Tigers clubhouse amid the postgame celebration and could not stop smiling about her son’s big game and even bigger season.
“I am so proud of Miguel,” she said. “I am hoping so much for the MVP.”
Ruth, the slugger’s sister, translated from Spanish to English for her mother.
Asked about his homer in Game 4, Gregoria said, “I was so excited by that. I was crying, just crying. It was so big.”
The family posed for a photo moments before, and Cabrera walked to the dugout with son Christopher cradled in his left arm and youngest daughter Isabella holding his right hand. Oldest daughter Rosangel walked behind them with Cabrera’s wife, also named Rosangel. They leaned in together and smiled for a shot they will treasure for years.
Then Cabrera jogged down the dugout steps to the clubhouse to wreak havoc with his teammates. Cabrera, relievers Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke and outfielder Andy Dirks were the prime sprayers of Brut non-alcoholic sparkling wine.
For the slugger who has battled alcohol abuse, it was a nice celebration gesture.
“I do not know whose idea it was,” said catcher Alex Avila, “but I like it a lot.”
Cabrera shook a bottle of the bubbly together with Dotel, and then Cabrera popped the cork and sprayed down reporters and teammates.
“Woooo!” he shouted. “World Series! Woooo!”
Cabrera grabbed another bottle and drained it down Dotel’s back. Dotel shouted and shivered before spraying him back and laughing. Their goggles were caked with the sugary juice, and they occasionally licked their lips for the sweet taste.