DETROIT — Houston Astros manager Bo Porter sat in the dugout at Comerica Park prior to Wednesday night’s game. It was raining and there was no batting practice to watch, but he was happy to discuss the two hitters who would end up beating him in a 3-2 game.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run shot to the opposite field in the first inning off starter Brad Peacock, and designated hitter Victor Martinez pulled a solo homer deep into the right field stands for the insurance run that ended up winning the eighth consecutive game for Detroit.
"Miguel," said Porter, "he’s chasing dead people."
That was a reference to the legends Cabrera is chasing, many of whom have gone onto that great ball field in the sky after putting up numbers Cabrera is passing.
His homer was No. 369 for his career, tying him for 74th on the all-time list with recently-departed Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner. Cabrera passed two other Hall of Famers, Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Mize, late last season.
Cabrera now has 1,285 RBIs, good for No. 118 at the age of 31. He passed Tigers RBI-machine Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg recently, and is only 20 behind Roberto Clemente, one of Cabrera’s idols.
"Miggy," said Porter, "he’s special."
Batting behind him is Martinez, who is hitting .318 with six homers and 18 RBIs with only five strikeouts in 119 plate appearances.
"He hits with that kind of power, drives in runs and doesn’t strike out," said Porter, shaking his head. "He uses the whole field. He has great strike zone discipline, and it’s rare that he swings at a pitch that he does not do something with.
"Sounds like a four-hole hitter to me. I’d love for Victor Martinez to take a single the other way on us every at-bat. It means he’s not going to go bridge."
As in over the "bridge" to the seats, which Martinez did on a high fastball on a 0-2 count.
"I thought Peacock did a good job," Porter said after the game, "and I have no idea how Victor Martinez even hit that pitch. That was up in his eyes and he not only got a bat on it, he knocked it out of the park."
Martinez explained how and why he was able to launch the pitch.
"I was expecting a high fastball," Martinez said. "I hit a curveball earlier pretty good and I did not expect to see that. He’d already thrown me two changeups (for strikes) and I didn’t think he’d throw a third there. As soon as I saw it, I made sure I had some pop on it. I make sure I put good swings on balls."
Miguel, he’s chasing dead people.
Tigers radio analyst Jim Price said he thought it was a "set-up pitch" with the Astros planning to come back after the high fastball with a low breaking ball. But Peacock never got the chance.
"You can’t set Victor Martinez up," explained Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "He’s just too good at getting the bat on the ball."
Cabrera got an inside pitch from Peacock, and still had enough power to muscle it out going to right field. That’s a confounding ability. But, then, Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown two years ago, can be puzzling for opponents.
He could not explain it himself.
"No," Cabrera said, "I just hit."
He relaxed after a team function in Detroit on Wednesday by taking batting practice against Ausmus, and continues soaring toward his normal heights. He’s batting .386 with three homers and 18 RBIs in his last 13 games. That has him up to .292 with four homers and back among the league leaders with 25 RBIs.
"Making better contact to the ball," Cabrera said. "That’s what it’s all about."
Peacock would’ve handed the ball to Porter late in the game with a shutout going had it not been for two great hitters taking him deep with pitches he executed.
"I gave up two homers when I made exactly the pitches I wanted to make," said Peacock, who gave up only two other hits. "That’s why those are two of the best players in baseball. I threw Victor two changeups down, and he didn’t chase either of them. So, I figured I’d throw something up and hope he’d chase that. I put it right where I wanted it, and he chased it, and hit it out. There’s not much you can do about that."
Martinez said, "He threw the ball great for seven innings, but he got hurt by two homers — one by me and one by Miggy. We were able to put good swings on those pitches."
The Tigers (20-9) have the best record in baseball, and easily lead the American League with a .285 batting average. They have three of the Top 10 hitters with Rajai Davis (.330), Torii Hunter (.321) and Martinez.
Before the game, when discussing Cabrera and Martinez, Porter said, "Why stop there? Let’s talk about the whole lineup. Torii Hunter, he’s chasing dead people, too."
They left Porter shaking his head before and after the game.