Game 23: Cabrera gets the rare 3-0 homer
If Jim Leyland has said it once, he has said it 100 times: He has given more green lights to swing on 3-0 counts in Detroit than he did in any of his other managerial stops. Most players don’t feel comfortable swinging at 3-0 pitches.
Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have standing green lights on 3-0 counts, Leyland said.
“I never give Miguel the take, him and Prince,” Leyland said, “unless you think the game’s a lopsided game where you don’t want to get somebody hit or something like that.”
Yet Cabrera is much more likely to take than to swing on 3-0. A big part of the reason is the opposing pitcher. If a pitcher gets to a 3-0 count on Cabrera, he’s far more likely to just give him ball four than throw a get-me-over pitch for strike one.
Out of 6,583 career plate appearances, Cabrera has had a 3-0 count 469 times. On 255 occasions, he has walked on the next pitch, 154 times intentionally. On 83 other occasions, he has walked on a 3-1 or 3-2 pitch, while he has 131 at-bats after a 3-0 count.
How many times has Cabrera put the 3-0 pitch in play? Try 13, seven of them as a Tiger. His only previous extra-base hit off a 3-0 pitch was a 2009 home run off Minnesota’s Anthony Swarzak.
On Sunday, he got a rare get-me-over fastball from Cory Gearrin and lined it into the right-field seats for a three-run homer. In so doing, he demonstrated why most pitchers would rather walk him on 3-0.
“I thought he might swing,” Leyland said. “He’s smart, but he didn’t try to do too much with it. But at the same time, most guys that would’ve gone to right field in that situation, they might have got a single, maybe a double. Like I’ve said, he’s the best I’ve ever seen opposite field power, so it didn’t surprise me. I mean, that was just a lined shot out of the ballpark. Not many guys can do that.”
That makes him 6-for-13 for his career when he puts a 3-0 pitch in play. Even if you take the intentional walk out of consideration, he’s ten times more likely to walk than put the pitch in play.
“He knows when it’s the right situation to swing 3-0,” Cabrera said. “Sometimes we need a guy on base and he makes sure we take. It’s baseball.”
Play of the game: Omar Infante’s second home run in as many games was technically an insurance run, but the solo shot was actually the catalyst for a four-run seventh-inning rally. If not for his drive to left, the inning doesn’t continue for the top of the order to set the table for Cabrera’s homer.
Out of the game: It was a five-run game, but Don Kelly’s running catch in left field to chase down Andrelton Simmons’ drive might have been a game-saver. If that ball bounces off the left-field wall for an RBI double, the tying run is on deck with the top of the Braves order up. And barring a double play, Justin Upton would have had a chance to face closer Jose Valverde.
Strategy: We’ve all seen Valverde in past ninth innings without a save situation. The Braves needed to get one more runner on base to create a save situation for him. Leyland wasn’t waiting for that.
“In the ninth inning, you do what you did because if you’re bringing your closer in, you’re in trouble,” Leyland said. “I mean, we’re in trouble, first and second, nobody out. People might think, ‘Ah, you’ve got a five-run lead.’ Well, this team hits the ball over the fence. All of a sudden, one more single and, boom, one home run and it’s a one-run lead. And all of a sudden, a walk and another home run and you’re behind. I didn’t want to do what I did tonight. I was hoping Alburquerque could get through it, but he couldn’t do it. But he did a great job the inning before.”
Line of the weekend: Infante went 6-for-12 with two doubles, two home runs, four RBIs and five runs scored for the series against one of his former teams.
Stat of the game: 8 — Batters Doug Fister has hit this season, topping his season total from last year.
Print it: “That’s an awful powerful team. We knew coming in that they let it fly. They’re really aggressive. It’s the most aggressive team I’ve seen. And sometimes that bites you, but for the most part, they’re going to score runs because they’re going to hit two- and three-run homers.” — Leyland on the Braves offense