DETROIT — What a strange way it was for such a wild ride to end.
Miguel Cabrera taking a called third-strike fastball down the pipe for the final out of the World Series was the last thing the Triple Crown winner or anyone else expected.
It was a long walk back to the clubhouse on a cold, rainy Sunday night, and I asked Cabrera what he felt at that instant.
“Embarrassed,” Cabrera said.
“Yeah,” he said. “I struck out. I made the last out of the World Series.”
Cabrera put the Tigers ahead in the third inning of Game 4 with a two-run homer, but Giants closer Sergio Romo put him away in the 10th inning to sew up a 4-3 victory and complete a World Series sweep.
“I was looking for a slider,” Cabrera said. “He throws a lot of sliders, but he threw a fastball and got me.”
Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago, Cabrera’s close friend, said there’s no need for Cabrera to feel such remorse.
“He put us on the board with that two-run homer,” Santiago said. “But you can’t do it every time. He should be proud of himself.”
What Romo did against a hitter with 10 postseason homers and the game one swing away from being tied required the steady nerves of a cat burglar.
“He just knew that Cabrera was probably looking for a slider,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “And he commands his fastball so well, and he located it.
“He’s never wavered and he enjoys being out there. So we had the right guy, and I couldn’t be prouder of Sergio — how he emerged as such a great closer.”
Cabrera had been pretty much missing in action during this World Series, but he got the Tigers going with a two-run homer off starter Matt Cain that broke a 29-inning scoreless streak against Giants pitching. Austin Jackson, scoring ahead of him, clapped and pumped his fist while running toward home.
“We were looking for that the whole Series — to make something happen,” said Cabrera, who batted .222 with one RBI in the first three games.
It had been nine years since Cabrera, then a 20-year-old rookie with the Florida Marlins, hit his first World Series homer, against New York Yankees legend Roger Clemens.
That long ball and this one had one important thing in common. Both went to the opposite field.
It that takes great power to consistently hit homers the other way, and it also requires a disciplined approach most power hitters lack.
It was something his father, a professional player in Venezuela, stressed to him from a young age while coaching him in their hometown of Maracay.
“It’s about pointing his body to right field to hit there,” Miguel Cabrera Sr. said through a translator while watching a World Series batting practice. “He then worked a lot in the minors on hitting the ball to right field, and it’s paid off for him.”
Cabrera has hit 72 of his 321 regular-season homers (22 percent) to either right-center or right field.
This season, he had career-highs of 44 homers and 139 RBI, and hit .330. He won the Hank Aaron Award as the American League’s top hitter and might win the MVP award.
He did not win the World Series, though, like he did as a rookie in 2003.
Having both won and lost the Fall Classic, Cabrera was asked to describe the different emotions he was feeling this time.
“You feel like you did nothing,” he said. “You want to feel like a champion.
“This is very hard. We did not expect something like this to happen. It was tough.”
Cabrera said the five-day layoff between sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS and getting swept by the Giants had a big impact. He said it made it both difficult to relax and regain timing.
“It was both of those things,” he said. “They had the timing and the speed of the game down.
“My hitting was no good. Nothing happened for me and they pitched great. They worked both sides of the plate and mixed up pitches well.”
The Giants had one day off between clinching the NLCS and opening the Series in San Francisco.
Cabrera mentioned wanting very much to win the Series for Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and general manager Dave Dombrowski, who brought him to Detroit in a blockbuster trade five years ago.
“We tried to win a ring for Mr. Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski,” Cabrera said. “They pull everything together. I am very disappointed.
“We did not play our best baseball, and we wanted to bring the Series win to Detroit.”
Cabrera, who did not talk to reporters after the Game 3 loss, stood in front of his locker for more than 30 minutes to answer questions in both Spanish and English. He spoke in quiet, even tones.
He also allowed himself some joy when asked to describe what the whole season meant to him.
“It was awesome,” he said. “We learned we’ve got to prepare and work harder next year to do better.