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Miguel Cabrera’s 500th homer biggest highlight of another year in Detroit Tigers’ rebuilding

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera joined the 500-home run club and the Detroit Tigers had their best season in five years.

The historic feat was worth celebrating in late August, when Cabrera became the 28th major leaguer to reach the milestone. It allowed some joy for a team that finished 77-85 and in third place in the American League Central.

Detroit manager AJ Hinch said his players believed they would beat the AL champion-White Sox to end of the regular season — and they did — carrying over a mindset he sensed developing at spring training.

“I think our players’ belief matters to me more than a spin rate or more than an adjustment at the plate or more than baserunning aggressiveness,” Hinch said at the close of his first season with the franchise.

Right-hander Michael Fulmer, who made a successful transition from starter to reliever, said closing the season by having some success against playoff teams such as Chicago, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee was encouraging.

“Going forward, it just kind of motivates us to see the success we’ve had against those types of teams,” said the 28-year-old Fulmer, who had the first 14 of his saves this season. “And, to win those types of games, the one-run games and the comeback wins. It’s been a lot of fun. I think it gives everybody hope for next season.”

Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown and the first of back-to-back MVP awards in 2012, fell just short of becoming the first hitter to reach 500 homers and 3,000 hits in the same season. He finished the year with 2,987 hits, making it only a matter of time next year before he becomes the seventh player with both milestones and joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Eddie Murray.

With each home run and hit, Cabrera’s career totals were displayed beyond the left-field fence at Comerica Park.

“The numbers that are changing on the board are really cool,” Hinch said. “I’m proud of him. I think he’s been in a good place mentally, which is important. Seeing your numbers grow, both the big numbers on the Miggy Milestones and the overall, like 700-plus OPS, that’s got to be encouraging going into next season.”