Noticeably thinner Cabrera continues to battle physically and mentally

Miguel Cabrera celebrates his two-run double Sunday.
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera is playing hurt — again.

Cabrera is enduring a season that for him is painful both physically and mentally.

Thirteen home runs, 56 RBIs and a .259 batting average might qualify for quality for some players, but for Cabrera, the power numbers would represent a good six to eight weeks of work.

The veteran will hope to get on track as Detroit hosts the New York Yankees for a three-game series beginning Tuesday (6 p.m. Tigers LIVE, 7:10 first pitch on FOX Sports Detroit). The Yankees have their own problems, as they are 4 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, though they still hold the top AL wild-card spot.

The hip and lower left back area are both giving Cabrera problems, forcing him to cut off his swing. Like the two-run double he hit to right-center field Sunday. Normally that would have been a pitch he would have pulled into the left-center-field seats. Not this season.

“It was a good swing,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He hit it 400 feet out to right-center. In a lot of parks, that’s a home run.”

Cabrera acknowledged to The Sports Xchange he has dropped 25 pounds in recent weeks. He pointed to his back and hip as the reason why.

Check him out at first base. He is noticeably thinner.

Cabrera has played through injuries much of the last three to four seasons, but not with his production suffering like this.

Recently he has begun to sting the ball more. Not like a pain-free Cabrera, but better.

After his double Sunday, he took third on a short wild pitch that skipped toward the third base side of the plate.

“Miggy still plays the game the way you’re supposed to,” Ausmus said. “He wants to get to third. He sees the ball get away from the catcher and thinks he has the opportunity to move up 90 feet, and he did.”

A slugger in the other dugout Tuesday is also going through a tough stretch.

Yankees No. 3 hitter Aaron Judge may be the overpowering choice to succeed Detroit’s Michael Fulmer as AL Rookie of the Year, but since the All-Star break, he has scuffled.

Judge struck out for a 37th consecutive game on Sunday, tying a major league record set by Expos pitcher Bill Stoneman across the 1971-72 seasons. Since the break, Judge is batting .169 with seven home runs and 14 RBIs in 35 games.

“I’m not getting the job done. I want to be there,” Judge said. “I’m a three hitter, I’m the middle of the order. I’ve got to be that guy for the team. …

“It’s a little disappointing not to get the job done, but nothing you can do about it. You can’t pout, you can’t cry. You’ve just got to keep working and move on.”

The Yankees activated Masahiro Tanaka (8-10, 4.92 ERA) from the disabled list on Tuesday morning to start the opener against Detroit. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his only start against the Tigers this season and has yet to defeat Detroit in his career, going 0-3 with a 4.56 ERA in four starts.

He has been out since Aug. 10 due to right shoulder inflammation.

“I feel good,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “All I can say is that I’m able to do what I just did, as far as flat grounds and bullpens, because the arm is feeling better. I feel like there have been more exercises that I’ve gone through this time around, so I feel like I am coming back at a faster pace.”

The Tigers counter with lefty Matt Boyd (5-6, 5.70 ERA). He hasn’t pitched against New York this season and only faced the Yankees once in his career, losing on June 2, 2016, after giving up four runs and six hits over 6 1/3 innings.

Detroit is going through another stretch of dismal baseball (3-12 over its last 15 games), but changes are not in the near future and may not go beyond tinkering in September.

“We’re trying to win,” Ausmus said. “That is the goal in every sport. There are other things, for sure. There is a possibility of Nick (Castellanos) playing some right field (toward the final week of the season). There will be some September call-ups that may get playing time here and there.

“But there’s not going to be a lot of changes. Miggy (Cabrera) is still going to play first base. Ian Kinsler is going to play second base. Iggy (Jose Iglesias) will play shortstop, and J-Up (Justin Upton) is going to play left field.”

Detroit will see a New York team that has manager Joe Girardi using Dellin Betances and David Robertson as closers with Aroldis Chapman, going through some tough times, pitching earlier.