DETROIT (AP) - Miguel Cabrera flashed his playful, boyish grin when pressed to explain how he’s doing what just some of the game’s greats have done.
“Magic,” he said, sitting in front of his locker as a handful of reporters encircled him.
While even those who watch the Detroit Tigers on a daily basis struggle to describe what Cabrera is doing and those on opposing teams can only marvel, Cabrera is creating his own place in baseball history.
There’s a reason for that. No one has seen it.
The reigning Triple Crown winner has a shot to become baseball’s first player to lead a league in batting average, home runs and RBIs in consecutive seasons. Only Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby have twice won Triple Crowns in a career _ Williams in 1947 and 1942; Hornsby in 1925 and 1922.
The defending AL MVP, whose banged-up body got a much-needed day of rest Monday, is leading the major leagues with a .360 average and 120 RBIs. Cabrera’s 40 homers trail only Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who hit his 45th Sunday.
“He’s the best player in baseball,” Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Maybe it is, but that might not be good enough to catch Davis to pull off an unprecedented feat with back-to-back Triple Crowns.
Cabrera became baseball’s first Triple Crown winner last year since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 by hitting .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs for the AL Central-division winning Tigers. Cabrera could easily surpass his home run totals from last year, and still not catch Davis.
He is connecting on pitches he isn’t supposed to hit, cutters several inches inside and off the plate and fastballs away high or low.
Bruce Chen hadn’t lost this season until he had to pitch against Cabrera on Sunday. After Cabrera sent Chen’s first pitch over the left-field wall, a day after he ended a game with a homer to right. The lefty didn’t want to give the slugger anything to hit in the third inning and liked what he saw coming out of his hand. Until Cabrera smacked it for an RBI single.
“I was going `Whoa, a good pitch. Not over the plate,’” Chen recalled. “But he hit it like I left it in the middle of the plate, but I didn’t.”
Cabrera’s manager and teammates would say he knew what was coming from Chen, the latest in a long line of pitchers who have tried to pitch around a player for the ages.