MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Cabrera has been off at the plate for close to a week, if not most of September. In Wednesday's 7-4 win over the Twins, he was out of the starting lineup. He later pinch-hit in the eighth inning, but struck out and is now hitless in his last 20 at-bats.
"I talked to him about it yesterday, then after the game just told him, 'You're getting a day off tomorrow," Ausmus said before Wednesday's game. "Miggy's a grinder. He likes to play. He wants to be out there every day."
Combined with Thursday's scheduled off-day, the time off gives Cabrera a chance to not only rest his legs, but clear his head amidst a drought that ranks as the third-longest hitless stretch in his career, and his second-longest with the Tigers.
"Even the best hitter on the planet struggles from time to time," Ausmus said.
Cabrera's body, including his previously injured left calf, is OK, he said. His timing at the plate, he said, is off, as is his swing.
At least in part, it's the struggle of a great hitter trying to keep pushing through a difficult season with no postseason berth at stake for the first time since 2010 and a losing season all but certain for the first time since 2008, his first season in Detroit.
"It's kind of like you create bad habits because we know we don't go anywhere," he said, "but we try to push ourselves too much. When we make mistakes, we want to do extra and we want to do something we don't have to. What we need to do is play hard, try to go out there and make it happen. Stop trying to push too hard."
Cabrera's individual season is one of the few races Detroit has going. He's still in line for his fourth batting title in five years, a roll just eight players have matched or exceeded in Major League history. But what was a 37-point lead on the next-best AL hitter on Aug. 29 was down to 14 points before Wednesday's game. His hitless stretch has dropped his average from .351 a week ago to .335 after Wednesday.
As much as a fourth batting title would mean historically, it means less to him than winning. And the Tigers' clear fate the last few weeks, he admits, has left him struggling in turn.
"It's over there," Cabrera said of the batting race, "but it's hard when you're losing games. It's hard to focus on what you want and what the team wants, because if the team's not doing good, you know you're not going to do good. But hopefully we finish strong and make something happen."
Cabrera has largely maintained a good face through the struggles, but he admits the home stretch has not been fun without a postseason goal.
"The past two or three weeks, no, it's no fun at all," he said. "It's hard, man, when you lose a lot of games and all the stuff happens this year. It's kind of hard, but we need to keep pushing, we have big series at home. We're going to give something back to the fans, trying to play good baseball. I think we have to focus on that, trying to win this game, get some rest and focus on what we can do in the next 10 games at home."
Cabrera is expected to be back for those games.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.