DETROIT — There are players in the Tigers clubhouse who have been with the team for most of the last decade, and others that have barely been around long enough to find their lockers.
All of them, though, agree on one thing.
They’ve never seen anything like Miguel Cabrera.
Friday, Cabrera went 4-for-5, including a line drive over the bullpens for his 2,000th career hit, as the Tigers crushed the Baltimore Orioles 10-4.
"It is fun just to watch him," said Rajai Davis, who was playing his third game as Cabrera’s teammate. "He makes this look so easy."
Cabrera is two weeks from his 31st birthday, and is just the ninth player in major-league history to reach 2,000 hits before that milestone. The other eight — Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, Rogers Hornsby, Hank Aaron, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Robin Yount, Joe Medwick and Alex Rodriguez — are some of the greatest names in the sport. And with the exception of Rodriguez and Cabrera, who are still playing, all of them are in the Hall of Fame.
"I’m not sure what else we can say about him," said Tigers veteran Alex Avila. "All you can do is congratulate him when he does something else that you’ve never seen before. He’s a special baseball player, and I just hope that everyone outside of Detroit realizes how special he is."
Rookie Nick Castellanos, who had the first extra-base hit and RBI of his career during the game, said the day was even more special because of Cabrera’s milestone.
"Someday, I’m going to tell my kids that I got my first RBI in the same game that he got his 2,000th hit," Castellanos said. "They will be impressed."
Cabrera entered the game hitting .143 in Detroit’s first two games, but any thoughts of an early-season slump were erased as he took apart the exhausted Orioles. Because of a flight delay, Baltimore didn’t arrive in town until 4 a.m., and most of their players were going on fewer than four hours of sleep.
"That was a challenging day because when you have to play on that little sleep, it is hard to be sharp," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "But it isn’t like Cabrera is just picking on us because we’re tired. He does that all the time to every team in baseball."
Cabrera had base hits in the first and fourth innings, then gave the Tigers a 8-2 lead with an RBI single in the sixth. Torii Hunter singled to keep the bottom of the eighth alive — Detroit wasn’t likely to bat again, given their 10-2 lead — and Cabrera smacked the next pitch into the seats above the Tigers bullpen.
"I was thinking before the game that I might not hit a home run this year," said Cabrera, who was probably worrying a little too much about two games. "But I don’t play the game by thinking about 2,000 hits or hitting home runs. You can’t worry about those things. You only worry about winning games."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus finished his 18-year career at the age of 41 and managed only 1,579 hits, so he understands the magnitude of Cabrera’s achievement.
"Between us, we’ve got over 3,000 hits, so we’re a combined Hall of Famer," Ausmus joked. "You run out of adjectives to describe how great he is. I’ve been here such a short time, and I’m already running out of ways to describe him."
WINNING WITH SPEED AND POWER: Ausmus and Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski built this year’s roster to be better on the basepaths instead of having to wait around for a home run.
That worked on Friday, but not exactly in the way they must have imagined.
First came Rajai Davis’s three-run homer in the fourth inning. Davis has stolen at least 40 bases four times in a nine-year career, but averages just three home runs per season.
"I’m not even sure what I hit," Davis said, before catching a replay on television. "Oh, I guess it was a cutter."
Later in the inning, though, things got really strange. With two out and no other signs of the apocalypse in sight, Victor Martinez stole second base. Ausmus has made a point of saying that his runners have the green light to steal, but Martinez wasn’t exactly a threat on the bases even before the knee injury that cost him the 2012 season.
How unlikely was the stolen base? Of the 850 players who have come to plate at least 5,000 times in their careers, only two — Cecil Fielder and Bengie Molina — have stolen fewer bases than Martinez’s five.
"I’m hitting homers now and Victor is stealing bases," said Davis, whose locker is next to Martinez’s in the Tigers clubhouse. "I better catch up to him or I’m going to start hearing about it."