ARLINGTON -- Now that Miguel Cabrera has enough plate appearances to qualify for what would be his fourth batting title in five years, he's going to get some time off over the season's final days. And his manager, Brad Ausmus, is going to pick and choose his spots when to play him.
Victor Martinez's left quad soreness kept him out of the lineup for Tuesday's 7-6 loss to the Rangers, opening up the designated hitter slot for Cabrera. Given Cabrera's past success against Texas starter Cole Hamels, he probably would've started regardless. Cabrera went 0-for-3 with a walk in the game.
Ausmus said Monday night he'd play Cabrera in one of the final two games in Texas. That suggests he's likely to sit Wednesday's series finale against Yovani Gallardo, though Cabrera is 4-for-6 against him. Once the Tigers head to Chicago for their season-ending series against the White Sox, a battle with no implications other than fourth place in the American League Central, Ausmus suggested he might play one or two games.
"You might see a little different lineup in Chicago," Ausmus said.
It's unclear how much Martinez's injury could change that plan if the DH slot remains open.
Cabrera is now batting .334, 10 points ahead of Boston's Xander Bogaerts for the AL lead. Though Bogaerts has significantly more hits, he's on track for more than 600 at-bats. Cabrera, having missed six weeks with a left calf strain in July and August, won't get to 440 at-bats.
Cabrera had a much larger lead as recently as a week ago, and more than 30 points when he regained a pace to qualify for the batting title in late August. He has tailed off down the stretch -- his OPS in September would be his lowest in a calendar month since he broke into the Majors in June 2003. To some degree, a rest would mean as much to stop the fall as it would to ease his physical wear and tear.
Bogaerts, by contrast, has been on a hot streak. He'd have to get even hotter down the stretch to make up the gap in the final days, but a further decline from Cabrera would leave Bogearts with less of a gap to bridge.
Cabrera has downplayed the importance of another batting title to him, but the history involved makes it meaningful for a lot of people. Just eight players in Major League history have won four or more batting titles in a five-year stretch; Tony Gwynn was the last to do it, winning four in a row from 1994 to '97. Cabrera won three in a row from 2011 to '13 before his average dropped to .313 last year.
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.