Scoop: Fielder hangs in at first base
The Tigers had plenty of plays that kept them in the game Thursday, from Justin Verlander’s strikeouts to Alex Avila’s double to Austin Jackson’s walkoff hit. Two plays that might have gotten overlooked were the scoops that Prince Fielder made at first on low throws from Jhonny Peralta.
Manager Jim Leyland wasn’t overlooking them.
“He picked them both clean and got outs on both of them. That was huge,” Leyland said. “That was absolutely huge for us. Raffy [Belliard] and him worked a lot in Spring Training on that and it paid off today. Those are huge plays.”
The first of them came in the second inning following David Ortiz’s leadoff double. Peralta went to the hole to pick up Kevin Youkilis’ grounder, looked to Ortiz at second and fired to first, but didn’t get enough on the ball, which skipped in the dirt in front of Fielder. He reached out and timed his swipe perfectly, getting the out and keeping Ortiz there.
The second play came leading off the sixth inning, very similar, to retire Mike Aviles. That became big in hindsight once Miguel Cabrera’s error and an Adrian Gonzalez walk put two runners on with two out for Ortiz, who struck out. If not for that out, Verlander could’ve had a bases-loaded, one-out jam for Ortiz and Youkilis.
“That’s to Prince’s credit and Raffy’s credit,” Leyland continued. “They worked on it, and it paid huge dividends today. Those were huge plays. … If either one of those get by, you’re in trouble. That was huge for us.”
Fielder said the work was the least he could do for Cabrera, who was willing to make the move from first to third to accommodate him.
“With Miguel doing all the hard work he was doing, I felt I owed it not only to the team but to him,” Fielder said, “because I couldn’t be here without him being willing to move to third base. I thought I owed it to him to work just as hard as he is at third, to work hard at first.”