DETROIT (AP) — Miguel Cabrera was set to stroll to the plate and fans rose to their feet and roared, hoping to witness his 3,000th hit.
Instead, they saw his 236th career intentional walk.
A strategically sound move by manager Aaron Boone and the New York Yankees. A very unpopular decision in Detroit.
The crowd, eager all afternoon to see the milestone, responded with perhaps the loudest boos ever heard at a Tigers game since Comerica Park opened in 2000 and shouted derisive chants at the Yankees.
Cabrera, though, insisted multiple times that he had no problem with Boone’s move because Detroit beat New York 3-0 Thursday.
“That’s the beautiful game of baseball,” Cabrera said outside the clubhouse soon after the game ended.
Cabrera was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, forcing him and Tigers fans to wait at least another day for him to hit the 3,000 mark, a milestone just 32 players have reached in Major League Baseball history.
Ahead 1-0, the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth against Miguel Castro. Reliever Lucas Luetge got Jeimer Candelario to hit a comebacker that was turned into a double play.
That brought Cabrera to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third. The 39-year-old slugger didn’t make even make it into the batter’s box because Boone held up four fingers to give Cabrera, a former Marlins teammate, a free pass to the unoccupied base.
Boone said the crowd reaction wasn’t a surprise, adding he didn’t necessarily like being in the position to make such a decision.
“It’s a baseball call all the way, but there’s no doubt that there’s a little more feeling to it, understanding the situation,” Boone acknowledged. “In the end, you have to do what you think is right within the context of the game.”
“Obviously, understanding the moment in time,” he said. “A little more gut-wrenching than usual.”
The crowd of 21,529 quickly turned the jeers into cheers when Austin Meadows blooped a two-run double on a lefty vs. lefty matchup to put Detroit ahead by three.
When the inning ended, Cabrera put out his hands as if to tell that crowd he was OK with how things went. He then put up three fingers and gestured toward the scoreboard to indicate the runs his team had on a sunny, 60-degree day in the Motor City.
“They want to see 3,000, but we want to win first,” Cabrera said.
Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said there was “zero doubt,” that Boone would put Cabrera on first to load the bases, giving the Yankees a forceout potentially at each base to get out of the jam.
“Boonie is obligated to his own team and their chances to win,” Hinch said. “I know our fans responded accordingly, but I totally get it. I’m glad Austin came up and got a base hit and we ended up with the win, which is what Miggy was happiest with."