Game 38: Avisail Garcia’s first MLB home run
The scouting report long before Avisail Garcia made it to the big leagues last August was that his power hitting would come. That thought stayed even after Garcia recorded 15 hits down the stretch last season without one going for extra bases. He finally rounded first base with a double in the ALCS.
He can put on an occasional show in batting average, but his very limited track record was more mini-Magglio with opposite-field singles than mini-Miggy with home runs. Then he connected with a hanging curveball from Dallas Kuechel on Wednesday.
As first home runs go, it was a tape-measure drive, clearing the visiting bullpen in left-center field and landing in the seats.
“It was an amazing moment for me, my first home run in the big leagues,” Garcia said. “I was waiting for that.”
The reaction on the dugout, especially from Miguel Cabrera, punctuated it.
“The most exciting of my career was last year when we won the American League championship,” Garcia said. “Now it’s this one, hitting my first home run.”
It doesn’t mean he’s about to break out on a power tear. He hasn’t shown that in the minor leagues yet, and that has been with everyday play, which he doesn’t have yet in Detroit. Still, it’s a reminder that he’s much more than a line-drive slasher.
It’s also a bright spot in a game the Tigers seemed to have in hand for a brief while but ended up losing to the Astros, finishing the season series 6-1.
Leyland said before today that he could end up starting Garcia twice during the four-game series in Texas, potentially first against one of the right-handed starters they’ll face over the first three games, then for sure against left-hander Derek Holland on Sunday night.
It was in Texas where Brennan Boesch had his breakout series as an early-season injury replacement three years ago, so you never know. At this point, though, that’s nowhere close to the front of the Tigers’ minds.
He has been working in the cage with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, he said, trying to get his approach down. Keep in mind, he only played eight games at Triple-A Toledo before getting the call-up, having missed a month with a bruised right heel.
With a distance shot off a curveball, the extra work paid off.
Play of the game: Marwin Gonzalez made a slick play to get his face out of the way of Victor Martinez’s grounder and make an overhand stab to grab it and throw him out at first for the second out of the second inning. The Tigers went on a their four-run rally right after that.
Out of the game: For someone who hadn’t played at Comerica Park before, Brandon Barnes did an excellent job to realize how much room he had in front of the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field as Miguel Cabrera’s opposite-field blast kept carrying. As much of a question as the distance was, it wasn’t all that easy of a catch, and Barnes made it crashing against the scoreboard to end the game.
Strategy: I focused a lot of the game story on the site on Jim Leyland’s decision to hand the ball to Phil Coke against switch-hitting Carlos Corporan after a leadoff walk in the ninth. Coke’s struggles against right-handed hitters are well-known, but most Detroit fans also know Alburquerque’s struggles to throw strikes lately.
Leyland knew the track record, but he also knew Coke was far more likely to throw strikes and at least make Corporan hit it. As Leyland has said many times, when you’re hoping your pitcher throws a strike, that’s not good.
“We knew that Cokey would probably throw strikes,” Leyland said. “Today, they just hit them.”
Should the Tigers have had another right-hander warming up in the bottom of the eighth? They did. It was closer Jose Valverde in case Detroit took the lead.
Should the Tigers have turned to Valverde in the ninth, since there wasn’t going to be a save situation? That’s a philosophical question that has been debated a few times with Leyland, but it’s not so simple when you consider he would have been working with a runner on first base (at least until he had stolen second).
Line of the day: Matt Tuiasosopo enjoyed his second career three-hit game in the big leagues, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. He’s now batting .375.
Stat of the day: 6 — Walks from Al Alburquerque to lead off an inning this season. Those are the only leadoff men he has allowed to reach base; they’re 0-for-9 hitting against him.
Print it: “In this stadium?” — Miguel Cabrera when asked if he thought his ninth-inning ball had a chance to get out. He had to laugh.