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Miguel Cabrera hits 500th home run as Tigers defeat Blue Jays in Toronto

In the sixth inning of Sunday’s game at Toronto, Miguel Cabrera hit the 500th home run of his MLB career.

It wasn’t just a historic home run, but a much needed run for Detroit as they were scoreless in 15 innings prior to Cabrera’s milestone. This sparked a come-from-behind win for the Tigers as they received help from Marcus Semien and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the ninth inning.

Detroit was behind by a score of 2-1, with two outs in the top of the ninth and nobody on base. Willi Castro hit a ground-rule double in the deep left-centerfield gap that bounced over the wall. For the next batter, A.J. Hinch decided to use Harold Castro as a pinch-hitter for Dustin Garneau to repeat Friday’s magic. But, when Castro hit a routine groundball to second base, it seemed like the game was over. The ball was fielded cleanly by Semien, and then the baseball gods intervened as the throw ended up short while Guerrero Jr. could not corral the in-between hop that ricocheted off his glove. Harold Castro was safe at first on the error, and Willi Castro raced home to tie the game, 2-2. Ironically, the first run of the game for the Blue Jays was scored because of an error by Jeimer Candelario.

Guerrero Jr. was not in a set position to stretch out for the ball as Semien rushed the throw.

In the 10th inning, both teams used the “runner placed at 2nd base to start extra-innings” rule to their advantage. Derek Hill had a productive out with his fly ball to deep right field, while Zack Short was able to tag and move to third. Jonathan Schoop then hit a sacrifice fly to center field, as Short scored to give the Tigers the first lead of the game.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, the Blue Jays would also advance the runner to third on the first out when Teoscar Hernandez hit a ground ball to shortstop with Guerrero Jr. running on contact. Gregory Soto, who came in to pitch the 9th inning, would do his best Jose Valverde impression as he would take his time getting the next two outs. After walking Santiago Espinal in a seven pitch at-bat, Alejandro Kirk would hit a sacrifice fly to left field on a full count pitch that scored Guerrero Jr.

The next batter, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a single to shallow right field on a 1-2 pitch, and Espinal advanced to third base with two outs. With runners on the corners, Randal Grichuk would work the count full and draw a walk. This would set the stage for Kevin Smith, who made his Major League debut four days ago. Earlier in the game, Smith made this great defensive play:

However, Soto buckled down and struck out Smith to strand the bases loaded, and end the 10th inning with the game tied, 3-3. All together, the bottom of the 10th inning lasted just under 19 minutes.

Flashbacks to Valverde kept dancing in my head as Bally Sports Detroit showed highlights during Saturday’s broadcast of Austin Jackson’s game saving throw 10 years ago. Jackson threw out Kosuke Fukudome at the plate on a game-ending double play as the Tigers beat the Indians 8-7 on August 21, 2011.

Valverde was known for taking his time in the last inning to try to get the save. Soto doesn’t quite take that long, but when he is struggling with his command, it can feel like the pitch clock would be at zero for every pitch. When the bottom of the 10th inning started, I picked up dinner, took out the garbage and still saw the end of the inning.

Detroit Fans From 8 to 10 Years Ago Will Understand This Meme.

Cabrera would lead off the top of the 11th inning. Before this at-bat, there was a spectator in the outfield stands who wrote “501” on the back of his “500” sign. That would have made for a great ending to this script, but that didn’t happen. Cabrera struck out to lead off the inning, which wasn’t good considering the runner at second base did not advance. Jeimer Candelario hit a fly ball to right field for the second out as the runner stayed on second base.

Daz Cameron would bail them out as he hit a double to left field on a 3-1 pitch that scored Robbie Grossman, putting the Tigers ahead, 4-3. Cameron’s hustle put him in scoring position, which proved to be important as Willi Castro hit his second double of the game in the next at-bat to score Cameron.

With the Tigers in the lead, 5-3, Joe Jimenez came in for the save. He would face the top of the order as Bo Bichette swung at the first pitch to ground out to shortstop for the first out. Marcus Semien, who made the error that put the game into extra-innings, was the next batter. Jimenez would settle down after throwing the first two pitches way outside the strike zone, and ended up striking out Semien on five pitches.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the final hope for the Blue Jays. With 36 home runs so far in the 2021 season, it was the last player you want to see come to bat representing the tying run. Jimenez didn’t flinch as he came after Guerrero Jr. throwing strikes, and would get the strikeout looking to end the game.

If you are a Detroit Tigers fan, this is halfway how you would want Cabrera’s historic home run to play out. It had meaning, as it was needed to help get the win.

On the flip side, It would’ve been nice if Cabrera hit the home run at Detroit with the home crowd going wild…but it wasn’t meant to be. However, the 3,000 hit milestone is still on the horizon.

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