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Cabrera's scorching July nets honor

Cabrera's scorching July nets honor

Miguel Cabrera wasn't even leading the Tigers in runs batted in when July began. He's now fourth in the American League. That's what a 31-RBI month will do.

That, in turn, will win some awards. The latest came Monday, when Major League Baseball recognized Cabrera as the American League's Player of the Month. It's another sign that Cabrera is getting back into his customary form as an elite run producer, but even he hadn't enjoyed a month like this.

The 25-year-old slugger had two 30-RBI months in 2006, driving in 32 runs in August, but he had never won Player of the Month honors for his work. The fact that he had fewer games this month to reach the 30-RBI mark thanks to the All-Star break did little to affect his pace. He simply made up for lost time once he entered the season's second half, taking advantage of his first year out of the All-Star Game since his rookie season of 2003.

Cabrera needed just 25 games to reach his RBI total, batting .330 (35-for-106) with eight home runs, six doubles and an .613 slugging percentage in the process. No other Major League hitter topped 27 RBIs for the month, while only Aubrey Huff had more total bases among American League batters than Cabrera's 65.

Twenty-two of his RBIs for the month came after the break, and 17 of them came in four separate games. He hit a three-run homer en route to a four-RBI night July 19 at Baltimore, part of a nine-game hitting streak that included a career-high-tying six RBIs in a five-hit performance two nights later at Kansas City. He plated three more runs two nights after that, all of them on singles, before capping his month with four RBIs in Detroit's 14-12 comeback victory at Cleveland on July 30.

Those numbers lifted Cabrera's RBI total for the season back into customary territory. He entered Tuesday's series opener at Chicago with 82. After driving in 31 for the season's first two months combined while he adjusted to different pitchers following his much-ballyhooed offseason trade from Florida, he's on pace to approach 120, putting last year's career high of 119 in jeopardy.

"The first month, two months, I didn't know how [American League opponents] were going to pitch, how they were going to try to throw to me," Cabrera said over the weekend at Tampa Bay. "Right now, I have a better idea, a better approach."

Clearly, that approach is now paying off. He carried his July momentum into the new month by going 5-for-11 in the three-game series against the Rays, including a double, a triple that might have hit a catwalk above left field at Tropicana Field and a home run that definitely hit the catwalk. He drove in three more runs and walked three times.

"I think he's going to be an offensive force in this league just like he was in the other league," manager Jim Leyland said over the weekend. "When it's all said and done, we will see. ... He's been picking [the offense] up lately, that's for sure."

Cabrera had won AL Player of the Week honors twice this season, most recently a week ago for his efforts July 21-27. The monthly honor earns him a 52-inch Sharp Aquos HDTV, courtesy of the award's presenting sponsor, as well as a customized trophy.

Cabrera just the third Tiger since 2001 to win the award. Ivan Rodriguez earned it with a .500 batting average in June 2004. Magglio Ordonez won it last August with a similar month, driving in 31 runs in 29 games with a .393 average.

Huff finished as the runner-up to Cabrera for Player of the Month, with Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Grady Sizemore also receiving votes.

Cabrera is also up for another monthly honor. Voting continues through Wednesday night at MLB.com for the Pepsi MLB Clutch Performer award for July, for which Cabrera is one of six finalists. His competition for that award includes players from both leagues, including Milwaukee's C.C. Sabathia.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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