DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera homered for the 1,000th hit of his Major League Baseball career. He went deep for his 2,000th, too.
No. 3,000 didn't travel quite as far, at least not in distance. What this sharply grounded opposite-field single to right did was elevate him even more among the greatest hitters in baseball history.
Cabrera needed only one at-bat Saturday to deliver his long-awaited milestone hit, quickly reaching the mark as the Detroit Tigers routed the Colorado Rockies 13-0 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
"I think I'm still dreaming," he said. "To be able to see 3,000 up there, pretty special."
Cabrera became the 33rd player in MLB history but the first born in Venezuelan to achieve the feat when he singled through a shift. The hit came against fellow Venezuelan Antonio Senzatela and set off rousing cheers and chants at Comerica Park.
"When I saw the second baseman almost behind second base, I was like, 'OK, you've got to shoot the ball that way," said Cabrera, who added a bases-loaded, two-run single in the sixth, then was pulled for a pinch-runner and drew another huge ovation as he trotted off with 3,001 hits.
He kept moving up the chart with a bloop single for hit No. 3,002 in the first inning of the nightcap.
Now in his 20th MLB season, the 39-year-old Cabrera became just the seventh player with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. He joined an exclusive club with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Among those luminaries, only Cabrera, Aaron and Mays have a .300 career batting average.
"We just don't know if we're going to see another one in our baseball lifetime or our whole lifetime," Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's a small juncture of his Hall of Fame career. The next thing will be when he gets inducted a few years from now."
Cabrera was the seventh Latino player reach the 3,000 mark. Pujols was the previous player to reach the mark, doing it in 2018.
Cabrera is the third player to get his 3,000th hit in a Tigers uniform, joining Ty Cobb and Al Kaline.
After getting his 2,999th career hit Wednesday, he went 0-for-3 on Thursday. The Rockies-Tigers game scheduled for Friday night was rained out, putting history on hold for another day.
Cabrera fouled off the first pitch he saw and took a ball from Senzatela before his milestone swing.
"I was like, 'Get it done today,'" Cabrera said.
He raised his right arm while heading to first base as right fielder Randal Grichuk retrieved the ball. The Comerica Park crowd of 37,566 roared, and Rockies shortstop José Iglesias, who previously played with Cabrera as a member of the Tigers, raced over to give his former teammate a big hug.
His current teammates then came streaming from the dugout to congratulate him before he went behind home plate to embrace his mother, wife, son and daughter on the field.
"I'm happy I hit it here. I'm happy for the people of Detroit to see it. Hopefully I can get more hits here," Cabrera said.
Cabrera scored three batters later on rookie Spencer Torkelson's three-run homer as Detroit jumped to a 4-0 lead. Pinch-runner Eric Haase replaced Cabrera after his two-run single in the sixth.
Tigers starter Tarik Skubal (1-1) allowed five hits and struck out six batters in six innings. The two players who batted in front of Cabrera, Robbie Grossman and Austin Meadows, combined for five hits, five runs and three RBIs. Harold Castro added four hits and scored two runs.
"I couldn't imagine the pressure he was under to try to get a hit," Grossman said of Cabrera. "I'm just so happy for him, his family and the country of Venezuela. It's means so much more than just to us (his teammates)."
Senzatela (1-1) gave up five runs on 10 hits in five innings.
A two-time American League MVP, a Triple Crown winner and an 11-time All-Star with four batting titles, Cabrera's place among the greats already was assured long before this afternoon in Detroit.
As a 20-year-old rookie, he helped the Florida Marlins win the 2003 World Series. All these years later, stamping his name onto the 3,000-hit list had a nice ring, too. And it will certainly look good on a plaque in Cooperstown someday.
The next hitter to reach 3,000? Hard to say.
Robinson Canó trailed Cabrera on the active list with 2,630 going into Saturday and is 39 years old. Yadier Molina, also 39, followed at 2,116. Among younger players, Jose Altuve (32) has 1,783 and Freddie Freeman (32) had 1,722. Mike Trout (30) was at 1,428.
Detroit acquired Cabrera in a trade with the Marlins in 2007, with Dontrelle Willis also going to the Tigers in a deal for Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Cabrera had 842 hits at the time.
The swap came a year after the Tigers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, with the deal made in the hope that Cabrera would help them win the championship for the first time since 1984.
The Tigers, though, have never won it all with their superstar. Detroit was swept by the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series and spent a decade in a rebuilding mode that bottomed out with 310 losses from 2017 to 2019.
After Cabrera was an All-Star for the 11th time in 2016, his production declined and Detroit's rate of success did as well.
The Tigers made bold moves in the offseason in a quest to be relevant, with Cabrera serving as a draw to bring fans to the ballpark and to hit about one ball per game into the outfield grass with savvy swings after crushing baseballs with incredible force earlier in his career.
A top prospect in the minors, Cabrera made his MLB debut in June 2003. He announced his presence to the whole baseball world that October. Brushed back by a couple of heaters from New York Yankees ace Roger Clemens, Cabrera came back to launch a home run off the Rocket and help the Marlins win the World Series.
Cabrera is almost twice as old now and is still a kid at heart, recently taking the grounds crew's three-wheel bicycle for a ride during batting practice. And as he has shown, one of the game's all-time greats can still get a base hit against some of the world's best pitchers.