Boston — They might have picked on the wrong man, the Boston fans who serenaded Jhonny Peralta during Saturday night’s American League Championship Series opener at Fenway Park.
He got three hits. He drove in the game’s only run. And, largely because of a guy the crowd heckled with cries of “ster-oids, ster-oids,” the Red Sox are trailing the Tigers after the first game of their best-of-seven series.
Peralta was, of course, in his usual mood after the Tigers had beaten the Red Sox, 1-0. He was serene.
He sat at a dais, next to teammate Anibal Sanchez, answering media questions from a room full of national reporters, some of whom wanted to know how Peralta had reacted to the “ster-oids” chorus.
Peralta broke into that full-moon smile that seems to be a permanent facial fixture.
“I don’t try to put attention about what the fans are doing or whatever,” he said, in less than perfect English, although his point was perfectly clear. “I think it’s better for me to go to home plate and try working hard every day.
“I don’t try to listen to what people say, the fans and everything. I try to concentrate every day in the game and try to do my job.”
The chants and sniping are, of course, a byproduct of Peralta’s 50-game suspension, which was dished out after he was tied to the Biogenesis clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., and to its commerce in performance-enhancing drugs.
Peralta was out of uniform from the end of July until the final weekend of September. And what the Tigers have gained from him since has been nothing less than astounding: He is 8-for-16 in the postseason. His .500 batting average includes three doubles and a home run, good for six RBIs.
And he continues to play a steady left field, his new position when Jose Iglesias starts at shortstop, as Iglesias did Saturday against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.
“Offensively, he’s done exactly what we hoped he’d do,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, aware that fans and media from markets outside Detroit are a bit befuddled by Peralta’s sudden shifts in left field.
“As a manager, if you’re not willing to give up something to get something, then you shouldn’t play (Peralta). But I’m willing to do that.
“And if something bad happened in the outfield, you take your criticism and you take it like a man.
“But the fact of the matter is, you’ve got to give up something to get something, and that’s what we’re doing when we play him in left field — not when we play him at shortstop.”
The stigma, of course, lingers, which is why Red Sox fans were berating him Saturday. That was always going to be part of the price Peralta paid for his Biogenesis dalliance.
But the realities of misdeeds — and their consequences past a 50-game exile and the $2 million in salary lost — have seemingly been compartmentalized. He has played some of the best baseball of his career, not only during the earlier stretches of 2013, but now also in the playoffs, when pitching and nerves are their most merciless.
“That’s what I want to do,” Peralta said, his face still aglow. “I try to be positive and try to help our team. And try to win games every day. So, this is what I do more than anything.
“I try to show that I can help the team.”