August 18th, 2012

Leyland: Don’t try for 2nd just to disrupt throw home

Jhonny Peralta had the Tigers’ lone hit with runners in scoring position Saturday, and it resulted in Detroit’s two runs. But in the process, he also might have run the Tigers out of a bigger rally.

With his eighth-inning flare to right field, he not only drove in the first runs off Pedro Strop since July 3, he turned what had been a 3-0 shutout bid into a one-run game. When he kept on going to second as right fielder Nick Markakis threw home, however, he became an easy target for first baseman Mark Reynolds, who cut off the throw and started Peralta in a rundown.

It wasn’t anything orchestrated on the Tigers’ part to try to make sure the second run scored.

“Really, the general rule thumb there is if the ball is low, you can’t go, because it’s a ball that can be cut,” manager Jim Leyland said. “If the guy air-mails it and throws it high, then you go on to second. It was probably just a mistake in judgment on Jhonny’s part, to be honest with you.”

Asked about the philosophy of taking the extra base and sacrificing the out to get the run home, Leyland said:

“I think that’s one of the most — not in this particular case, i’m just talking in general — one of the most misunderstood plays in baseball. When there’s a confusion there whether they’re going to throw the guy out at home or not, years ago they thought: If you think they’re going to throw him out at home, keep going. I don’t believe in that. You can’t do that. You’ve gotta go by the way the ball’s thrown.”

That’s an area where Leyland seemingly goes against some of the traditional thinking.

Can’t find specific stats on rundowns on the basepaths with a runner going home. Bigger-picture, however, STATS Inc. keeps a category known as unforced errors on the basepaths. According to STATS, the Tigers have made 38 outs trying to take an extra base, third-highest among AL teams behind the Angels and Rays.

Alburquerque cleared to resume rehab assignment

The Tigers have been hoping for the sight of Al Alburquerque around Comerica Park at some point this summer. These weren’t the circumstances they were looking for, though.

The good news for the Tigers is that team doctors don’t believe the tenderness Alburquerque felt in his surgically repaired right elbow to be anything serious. He was cleared to resume his minor-league rehab assignment, and he’ll rejoin the Mud Hens in Lehigh Valley on Sunday with plans to make his next appearance on the mound Monday.

Whether he’ll have enough time to get back on the mound after that before the Tigers have to make a decision is in serious question. Alburquerque, who went out on rehab July 24, can be on assignment for no more than 30 days, or up to this coming Wednesday.

After that, the Tigers have to make a decision to activate him, send him to the minors or keep him on the disabled list without pitching.

Alburquerque has spent the past two and a half weeks with Triple-A Toledo. He has pitched only once in the past week, however, tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings on three hits with five strikeouts Wednesday at Syracuse. Alburquerque threw 44 pitches in the outing, but the Tigers have had relievers on rehab stretch out their arm on longer outings to see how the arm responds.

Alburquerque said he felt tenderness in his elbow after that. In accordance with what the team medical staff told him before he went on rehab, he reported it and flew to Detroit to have it checked out.

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Orioles

Left-hander Zach Britton is starting for Baltimore tonight, so Omar Infante moves into the second spot, with Jhonny Peralta batting fifth. Andy Dirks is again the left-handed hitting outfielder who gets the start.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  6. Delmon Young, DH
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Jeff Baker, RF
  9. Andy Dirks, LF

P: Rick Porcello

ORIOLES

  1. Nick Markakis, RF
  2. J.J. Hardy, SS
  3. Nate McLouth, LF
  4. Adam Jones, CF
  5. Matt Wieters, C
  6. Chris Davis, DH
  7. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  8. Manny Machado, 3B
  9. Robert Andino, 2B

P: Zach Britton

Notes and quotes on Fielder’s home runs

Sometime this season, after Miguel Cabrera kept hitting home runs to the upper reaches of the center field shrubs that challenged the depths of the Comerica Park charts, the Tigers shifted measurements on home runs to ESPN Stats and Information, whose sites include the Home Run Tracker. So some of the distances that show up on home run this year are going to sound different than those of the past. Even so, they’re not different enough to dispute the fact that this has been an incredible summer for tape-measure home runs in Detroit.

The Tigers had four home runs estimated at 450 feet or further over the previous two seasons. Prince Fielder’s sixth-inning drive Friday night was the sixth such home run so far this year, all but one of them from Cabrera or Fielder, and all but one of them since June 1. Fielder’s the second longest, trailing only Miguel Cabrera’s shot to straightaway center off Hiroki Kuroda back in June.

Technically, the velocity on Fielder’s home run Friday trailed only another one he hit earlier in the year. Still, the angle on the home run made it seem hit that much harder.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any ball in my entire life hit any harder than the first one Prince hit,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I’m not talking about distance, but I’m talking about, just, pow. … I’ve seen that hit far, but that was as hard as you can hit a ball. You can’t hit a ball any better than that.”

Fielder wasn’t about to estimate how hard he hit it.

“You obviously know you hit it good,” he said, “but you don’t really feel it too much. You don’t really feel any ball you hit on the barrel. You have a good idea.”

As impressive as that was, his second home run might have actually been more of a rarity. Just four of his home runs this season had been hit off lefties until he got a J.C. Romero fastball on a 1-2 count and hit it to the sky down the right-field line.

Fielder is a very good hitter against lefties, as we’ve documented before, but moreso for simple base hits than home runs. He was 0-for-4 previously off Romero, which made him quite glad to get him.

“This is my first hit ever off of J.C.,” he said. “I mean, he’s broke my fingers a lot of times with his sinkers. Finally got a hit.”

This time, he laid off the sinker, only to guess right when Romero gave him a fastball.

“He’s snuck it by me a lot,” Fielder said. “He broke my bat every time.”

They count the same as a home run just over the fence, of course. Yet Joaquin Benoit, who earned Friday’s win with a perfect eighth inning, might have put it into perspective when asked for his reaction after the game.

“When they hit in BP you see balls hit that well, but today as soon as he hit it we all know,” Benoit said. “He’s got a lot of power, and [with] Miguel, those two guys are the keys to our success right now. The bottom of the lineup, if they start hitting, we’re going to be set for sure.”

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