DETROIT — 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.
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.”
Michael Pineda (1-0) gave up just three hits over five innings in his Detroit debut against one of his former teams. Jacob Barnes, Wily Peralta, Alex Lange and Gregory Soto, who earned his third save, followed with four innings of scoreless relief.
The Yankees were shut out for the third time this season and their 39 runs are their fewest through 13 games since 1972.
“When you’re struggling to score runs or you’re not hitting the ball in the seats, you got to take advantage of the opportunities you get and we were unable to do that,” Boone said.
New York was limited to four hits over seven innings against three pitchers before Boone put a pair of pinch-hitters in the game in the hopes of providing an offensive spark.
Josh Donaldson hit a double on Lange’s first pitch of the eighth, Gleyber Torres singled on the fourth pitch of the inning and Aaron Judge drew a one-out walk to end right-hander’s brief appearance. Soto got the Tigers out of the bases-loaded, one-out jam by getting Anthony Rizzo to hit a comebacker, leading to a force out at home, and Giancarlo Stanton to ground out to first.
Jordan Montgomery (0-1) became the first Yankee to finish six innings this year. He gave up only one run on three hits while striking out five, but he teammates didn’t provide any help offensively.
“I thought he got into a good rhythm as he went,” Boone said. “I loved his pace. He worked quickly and his stuff got better as the game went along.”
Tigers: RHP Matt Manning (shoulder discomfort) went on the 10-day injured list two days after RHP Casey Mize (elbow sprain) last week and he might be ready to throw a bullpen in a few more days. “Manning is ahead of Mize,” Hinch said.
Yankees: Plan to start RHP Jameson Taillon (0-1, 3.72) to begin a six-game homestand Friday night.
Tigers: Continue a six-game homestand with LHP Tarik Skubal (0-1, 3.72) expected to face Colorado on Friday night.