BALTIMORE — Only Chris Davis stands between Miguel Cabrera and baseball history.
As he heads toward the conclusion of another sensational season with the Detroit Tigers, Cabrera has a decent shot at becoming the first major league player to win the Triple Crown in successive seasons.
Entering play Monday, Cabrera comfortably led the AL with a .356 batting average, 28 points higher than runner-up Mike Trout. His 126 RBIs were best in the league, too, eight better than Davis.
In home runs, though, Davis held a 46-42 advantage. And if the Baltimore Orioles slugger can make that lead stand up, then Cabrera’s bid for a repeat performance will be denied.
“As far as me being the obstruction for him doing it again, I hope he does do it again,” Davis said. “That would be awesome. He’s a great hitter. He deserves everything that he gets.
“My goal is not to go out there and keep Miguel Cabrera from winning the Triple Crown. It’s to do everything I can to put us in position to win, whether that means I hit 10 more home runs or two more home runs. I’ve had a productive year so far, but if we don’t make the playoffs, it doesn’t really mean a lot.”
A productive year? That’s putting it mildly. Davis ranks 10th in the AL with a .302 batting average, has already surpassed his previous career high RBI total by 33 and leads everyone in both leagues in home runs.
Most importantly, he’s got four more homers than Cabrera, who last year became the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967.
Davis understands the significance of the accomplishment.
“Obviously when somebody does something like that, not only is it extremely hard to do, but it doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “You have to appreciate that.”
Only two players in baseball history have won it twice: Rogers Hornsby in 1922 and 1925, and Ted Williams in 1942 and 1947.
“One is pretty special to have. It’s a pretty impressive feat to win it once,” Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. “So, I’m going to root for Chris to keep rolling. Whether Miggy wins the Triple Crown or not, I don’t think anybody’s going to doubt what kind of a player and hitter he is.”
No one will argue that Cabrera is among the finest right-handed hitters ever to play the game. In most years, 42 homers with a week to play in August would be good enough for the league lead.
Not this year. Cabrera has been in catch-up mode for months behind the man nicknamed “Crush.”
“We don’t worry about him,” Cabrera insisted. “We focus on what we can do here in Detroit.”
Cabrera and Davis haven’t been in touch since the All-Star game, when Detroit’s third baseman had some meaningful words of advice for Davis, who was in the midst of a career year.
“One of the things he told me was, ‘Don’t let the talking heads get to you,’ ” Davis said. “Down the stretch everybody is going to compare us and say that this guy is doing this or this guy is doing that. But the biggest thing is to go out there and continue to play. He said, ‘You’re having a great year. You have something to be proud of. It’s not whether you finish with better numbers than I do, because you’ve still had a great year.’ I really appreciated that.”
Davis won’t measure his success in 2013 by the numbers of home runs he hits. He’s more focused on the numbers in the victory column for Baltimore.
“Chris is a huge team guy,” Wieters said. “He’s about winning more than anything. We’re all rooting for him because of that, because he cares more about us winning than any kind of home run title. Everybody in this clubhouse is rooting for him to keep going because, one, it’s going to help us win and two, because he deserves it.”
Said Davis: “There’s going to be a different home run king every year. Somebody is going to come along and break somebody else’s record. For me, the individual awards are nice, but at the end of the day, I play for the ultimate team award. To say that you were part of a winning team, or even a championship team, is something that nobody can ever take away from you. That’s how I feel about it.”