Perhaps it’s fitting that I re-watched The Sandlot for the first time in about twenty years last night. One of the great lines in the movie (and there are many) sees Benny explain the legacy of Babe Ruth to Smalls. “Smalls, Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player that ever lived. People say he was less than a god but more than a man.”
It’s iconic, it speaks to the way ballplayers are larger than life, and the line resonated for me tonight watching an otherwise so-so game, because Miguel Cabrera, who had been hitless for something like 27 consecutive at-bats, not only broke that streak, but he tied with Babe Ruth for the all-time hits record with 2873 hits.
It was a feat he would surpass only a couple of innings later, putting him in a category above Ruth. Less than a god, but more than a man.
If you missed it, there was a moment of visible tension release from Miggy, realizing his slump had ended, then the Tigers in the dugout began clamoring for the return of the historic ball.
The moment itself did not lead to any runs, Cabrera and then Niko Goodrum would both be left stranded, but it was a lovely high point in what has otherwise been a dismal season.
In a game marked by the constant interruption of inclement weather, it was hard to maintain any level of excitement, especially after Tarik Skubal gave up inning-opening home runs in both the first (to Kyle Garlick) and the second (to Jorge Polanco). If you were to just look at those two home runs it would be easy to say it was a rough night for Skubal, but honestly, it wasn’t.
His command wasn’t perfect, but when he was dialed in, the level of professional pitching we saw tonight was enough to make me pretty enthusiastic about the kid. Sure, the two home runs weren’t great, especially when they remained the only runs of the game for quite some time, but apart from those slip-ups, Skubal looked good. Really good, honestly.
He tied a career record for strikeouts with eight, and managed his longest major league game yet in terms of pitch count, with 96 pitches thrown, getting himself through five innings. His final line for the day was 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 2 HR.
There’s a moment from the fifth inning I truly wish I could find a clip of for you, but it was one of those bizarre and delightful baseball moments where Josh Donaldson attempted to check his swing and accidentally hit the ball, which traveled perfectly over first base for a hit. It was goofy, and since no one scored in that inning, I choose to enjoy it.
In the sixth inning, with Bryan Garcia on in relief, the Twins added to their lead with Polanco and Sano walking back-to-back, then a Kepler single scoring Polanco. A Simmons groundout brought Sano home, and the Twins were suddenly up 4-0.
The bottom of the sixth, however, was a nice treat. Candelario singled, then Cabrera walked, and with one out, Willi Castro (who has looked out of his depth at bat to this point) homered to left center to bring the Tigers within one run. A Baddoo double seemed to threaten a possibility for a tie, but Greiner struck out to end the inning, and the tarp was brought out a second time.
(It might be worth noting, for those who like to keep an eye on potential doom, that AJ Hinch and Doug Teter definitely didn’t like something they saw in JaCoby Jones’s swing and came to visit him for a bit before letting him continue. Still might be something, might be nothing.)
After the second rain delay, the Twins pulled even further ahead against Cisnero. Donaldson hit a double (another kind of weird one), and then scored on a Polanco double. In the eighth with Norris pitching, another lead-off home run came off the bat of Max Kepler, giving the Twins a 6-3 lead.
Props to the camera crew for blessing us with many lingering shots of a disappointed Nelson Cruz after Cruz went 0-for-5 for only the second time ever in his career against the Tigers.
They evidently didn’t need Cruz tonight though, because Norris gave up walks to Donaldson and Polanco, and then Sano scored Donaldson to reach the final score of 7-3.
It may shock you to learn that the Tigers did not score any runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Final: Tigers 3, Twins 7