Fish have become unexpected wild-card threat
MIAMI -- With the Marlins surging and very much in the mix in the National League wild-card race, Miguel Cabrera is turning South Florida into a dangerous place for visiting teams.
The Marlins' third baseman has become an unstoppable force for opposing pitchers, especially at Dolphins Stadium, as he competes for the National League batting title and keeps Florida in the hunt for the postseason.
"To be honest, I do want to win the batting title and I am focused on it," Cabrera told ESPNdeportes.com. "When a hitter is that close to something like that, he's got to take advantage of it and go for it.
"You never know when you'll have another chance at a batting title in your career."
In his fourth season in the majors (and third complete season), Cabrera is putting together his best year, despite not having the type of protection in the Marlins' lineup that he had in previous campaigns. With its "market correction" to reduce payroll in the offseason, Florida said goodbye to most of its big-name players.
"From the beginning, I knew I'd have to make some adjustments, because opposing pitchers weren't going to throw me many good pitches," said Cabrera, who is hitting .353 at home and has drawn a career-high 68 walks this season. "I've had to learn to be patient by necessity, because generally I only see one good pitch per at-bat, and a lot of times I don't see anything close [to the strike zone]."
Cabrera, who has 23 home runs, may not reach his career high of 33 two years ago, but he has reached new heights in doubles (44) and leads the majors in on-base percentage (.429).
As Cabrera has grown into a dominant hitter, the Marlins have become an unexpected threat to Cincinnati, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and other teams competing for the NL wild card.
With a payroll of just $15 million (lowest in MLB), Florida has won eight straight and 12 of its last 17 to go to 64-66 for the season, two games under .500 and two games off the wild-card pace.
"This is the most important race we have -- the collective goal of reaching the playoffs and wiping out all the predictions about us before the season," said Cabrera.
Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.