CLEVELAND — The last time the Tigers swept a doubleheader here, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker were in the first week of what became legendary careers. As Miguel Cabrera’s 494th career home run hit the seats in right-center at Progressive Field, it brought back memories of so many drives here when the Tigers seemingly owned this park.
Cabrera’s Hall of Fame credentials are pretty well complete, but as he creeps closer to the 500-homer and 3,000-hit clubs, he’s helping rebuild the mindset of a team that had lost its winning ways here. Detroit’s 7-1 victory in the wee hours of Thursday morning, coupled with a 9-4 win in the first game of the seven-inning doubleheader on Wednesday night, marked the Tigers’ first twin-bill sweep of the Indians since Aug. 7, 1986, and their first sweep in Cleveland since Sept. 14, 1977.
The Tigers won two games at Progressive Field in 2019 and ‘20 combined. By matching that total, Detroit completed its second consecutive winning month, something it hadn’t done since the summer of 2016. The club closed out June winning seven of its last 10 games against the Indians, Astros, Cardinals and Angels.
“The expectation for us to have winning months has to be the norm,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We really need that to be a goal, it starts with winning series. We won this series. That’s big for us.”
It was also a big month for Cabrera. With a pair of two-hit games in the twin bill, he closed out June batting .329 (28-for-85) for the month with five doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs, his first full month batting over .300 since June 2019. In the process, he has taken what had been a sub-.200 batting average as recently as June 13 and pushed it to .240.
Beyond the track record, the factors behind it suggest he can keep it up.
“He’s getting healthier and he’s starting to lock in his timing,” Hinch said. “He’s starting to stay disciplined to his approach. Even a polished veteran hitter, such an accomplished hitter like him, needs a tweak every now and then.
“I think he’s settled in nicely, and I think he knows what he’s trying to do. And when he goes up and executes that and gets rewarded with a few hits and the oppo homer today, like anybody, that breeds confidence. I don’t care how long you’ve been in this league. You need production in order to feel good about yourself.”
While Cleveland fans mockingly chanted for Cabrera to retire, he let his bat respond for him, punctuating his four-hit doubleheader with a fifth-inning home run off reliever Nick Wittgren. It was a classic Cabrera opposite-field swing, sending a drive to right-center for his second homer of the series and his seventh homer of the season.
“It’s surreal,” said teammate Eric Haase, who grew up in Michigan watching Cabrera torment the Tribe. “Him going opposite field, especially in Cleveland, it’s just vintage Miggy. I mean, growing up, he always crushed the Tribe. Whatever it is in this ballpark, he just sees the ball really well.”
Cabrera’s 494th career homer broke a tie with Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 28th in AL/NL history. His next milestone is 500, a mark he now seems sure to reach this year.
Cabrera has hit 50 of those home runs off Cleveland; only fellow Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski (51) has more homers off Indians pitching in the expansion era since 1961.
“He was an absolute hassle when I was in Cleveland,” said Haase, a former Cleveland Draft pick who played for the club in 2018 and ‘19. “To be hitting right behind him and watching him do it live, a couple away from 500, we’re just all watching history in the making. It’s awesome to see.”
Haase had visions of himself hitting home runs like that here as he came up through the Cleveland farm system. His first home run at Progressive Field came in a Tigers uniform on Wednesday, sending a Statcast-projected 442-foot drive into the left-field bleachers.
The run support set up veteran right-hander Wily Peralta for his first win as a starter since April 26, 2017. He gave up some hard contact against an aggressive Cleveland lineup, but he managed five innings of three-hit ball with no walks and five strikeouts.