By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Some fans still withhold forgiveness from Detroit Tigers shortstop-turned-left fielder Jhonny Peralta for violating Major League Baseball’s anti-drug policy.
If those fans like clutch hitting and chances of winning, Peralta’s return performance Monday might have softened some of those hard hearts.
Playing in Detroit for the first time since his 50-game suspension ended, Peralta received cheers each time he caught a fly ball and especially when he smacked a two-run single that erased a 3-1 deficit.
“Jhonny’s a good hitter,” right field Torii Hunter said. “We miss him in that six hole. In that six hole, nobody’s done what he’s done in that six hole this year. When he left, it kind of went down a little bit. Just to have him back, we’re excited about that.”
Peralta’s defense, understandably since he never played left field before the past couple of months, looked a little shaky. He made two catches early in left, even in a tricky wind on the cool, cloudy day at Comerica. The one glaring defensive mistake he made occurred when he caught another fly ball and tried to throw out a runner at home plate, to no avail.
Just as the Tigers hoped, though, Peralta’s prowess at the plate made up for his follies in the field. The Tigers trailed 3-0 as the game entered the bottom of the fourth.
Hunter led off the inning with a single. First baseman Prince Fielder moved Hunter to third with a single of his own. Designated hitter Victor Martinez sliced a clutch double right down the first base line.
Having snapped a 20-inning scoreless streak snapped, the Tigers trailed just 3-1. A single into left by Peralta would tie up the game.
As if on command, Peralta singled into left. Both Hunter and Martinez scored, and the game was tied.
The lasting impression of Peralta 2.0, iffy throw home aside, was a positive one. Tigers manager Jim Leyland seemed perfectly content with the result of the tradeoff between defense and offense.
“When you put a guy out there that hasn’t been out there, you’re saying you’re willing to accept what you get defensively for what you might get offensively, and today Jhonny got us a hit that gave us two runs,” Leyland said. “It’s as simple as that.
“There’s no tricks to it,” Leyland added. “You know when you’re risking that, you put a guy out there that hasn’t been there before, but at the same time you’re getting the bat in there and he provided us with a couple of RBIs today.”