A soft-spoken Miguel Cabrera joked Tuesday night that he prefers to stay out of the national spotlight.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Good luck with that.
A day later at Kauffman Stadium, Cabrera, the Tigers’ third baseman became the first player in 45 years to win the long-coveted Triple Crown — he finished the regular season as the American League leader in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
All eyes were on Cabrera as Ramon Santiago replaced him at third base with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning Wednesday. Cabrera went hitless in two at-bats.
The 30,383 fans at Kauffman Stadium — the largest crowd since July 13, one day after the All-Star break — provided Cabrera a standing ovation as he left the field with baseball’s 14th Triple Crown of the modern era all but secured.
“Very emotional,” Cabrera said. “It was like playing at home to have all the fans cheer for you. It was an unbelievable feeling. I was very thankful for the fans here in Kansas City. It was a great moment in my life.”
Along with the fans, the Tigers and Royals players stood clapping until Cabrera re-emerged from the dugout for a curtain call. He waved his navy blue Tigers cap to the crowd and tilted his glove toward the Royals’ dugout.
With that, baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski disappeared back into the Tigers’ dugout. Cabrera finished the season with a .330 average and a career-high 44 home runs and 139 RBIs.
“Our fans are very knowledgeable,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, who moved to the top step of the dugout to applaud Cabrera. “They appreciate that. I was, our whole team was, giving him a standing ovation. What he did was nothing less than amazing.”
The biggest threat to Cabrera’s historic run Wednesday was surprisingly Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who hit a pair of home runs to inch within one after Cabrera had already been removed from the game. After hitting No. 43, though, Granderson did not bat again.
Meanwhile, Angels rookie Mike Trout collected two hits in three at-bats, but he still finished the season with a .326 average — four points behind Cabrera.
“I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Miguel Cabrera,” Yastrzemski said in a statement released by the Major League Baseball. “I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he allowed Cabrera to decide if he wanted to play Wednesday. With a sizable lead in all three categories entering the regular-season finale, Cabrera slid into his usual No. 3 spot in the Tigers’ lineup.
Facing Royals starter Luis Mendoza, Cabrera flew out to center fielder Jarrod Dyson in the first inning and struck out swinging in the third in the Tigers’ 1-0 victory.
Against the Royals in 2012, Cabrera hit .314 (22 for 70) with one home run and seven RBIs. He is a lifetime .333 hitter against the Royals.
“I don’t believe this happened right now,” Cabrera said. “I didn’t believe a few weeks ago this was going to happen. But you always dream.”