"He tends to shine brightest when he needs to," pitcher Justin Verlander said after Cabrera's three-hit performance provided some of the offensive support for a 12-0 win at Comerica Park.
The Indians owned the season series this year in no small part thanks to their ability to contain Cabrera, who had tormented Cleveland over the years. He entered Tuesday 13-for-51 (.255) against the Tribe in 2016, but with only one extra-base hit, a double.
While the Indians sent rookie Mike Clevinger to the mound as they try to figure out their injury-shortened rotation for the postseason, Cabrera stepped to the plate with the Tigers' postseason hopes on his shoulders. With runners at second and third and nobody out in the first, the Indians not only pitched to him, Clevinger threw him a 2-0 slider over the plate. Cabrera sent it to the wall in right-center field for his 98th and 99th RBIs of the season.
Once Cameron Maybin's two-out walk extended the second inning for Cabrera with two more runners on, he crossed the century mark. His drive off a changeup landed on top of the front shrubs beyond center field, projected at 444 feet by Statcast™ for his 35th home run.
With that, Cabrera hit 100 RBIs for the 12th time in 14 Major League seasons, tying him for sixth on Major League Baseball's all-time list. Only Albert Pujols (13) has more 100-RBI seasons among active players.
Eight of those 100-RBI seasons have come in a Tigers uniform, tying Cabrera with Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann for most in franchise history.
"He's a beast, man," Verlander said. "He's one of the best, if not the best hitter in the game and on the planet. It's fun to see him when he's clicking, and when he knows the moment's there, he tends to take it to another level."
Cabrera added a single in the seventh off Adam Plutko. With that, he fell a triple shy of the cycle for the 33rd time in his career.
The only pitcher to take him down, ironically, was Verlander, whose second-inning pickoff throw in the dirt bounced up and hit Cabrera on his right kneecap. Cabrera was clearly in pain, but received treatment between innings and stayed in the game until victory was well in hand.
"I think Miggy's track record has proven that at this time of year, short of a limb being severed, he's going to play," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.