Jose Iglesias just missed making a highlight-reel catch on this foul pop. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Detroit — Where’s Iggy?
Where isn’t he?
The Tigers’ starting shortstop Jose Iglesias, playing the biggest game of his career against the team that let him go this summer, had a major impact on, essentially, keeping the Tigers’ World Series hopes alive.
On Wednesday at an electric Comerica Park, he made two outstanding plays on defense — and nearly a third — and contributed greatly on offense as the Tigers beat the Boston Red Sox, 7-3, in Game 4 to tie their American League Championship Series at two games.
“Oh, he plays it with such ease,” Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer said. “What he’s able to do defensively out there is mind-boggling. I call him Domingo Ayala, for the Internet sensation, because he can make plays that nobody else can make.”
Iglesias, 23, has been kind of the forgotten man in this postseason because of Jhonny Peralta’s ability to play shortstop — and because the Tigers often need Peralta to play shortstop to get an extra bat in the lineup.
But with groundball pitcher Doug Fister going in Game 4, Iglesias was the wise choice — and he put on a show for the fans.
On defense, he showed that flash — his glove is bright red, and his cape should be, too, if he ever gets one — all night.
When Torii Hunter fired the ball from the wall on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single in the third inning, there was Iglesias, snatching it in the middle of the diamond and, seemingly in one motion, firing to first, where Ellsbury barely was safe.
“Aw man,” Drew Smyly said, “I don’t know how he moves his hands so quick. He’ll catch it and release it before you even see it in his glove.”
Said Boston’s Dustin Pedroia: “He does a lot of things on the field that impact the game.”
Ellsbury already knew that, and got a reminder two innings later. Ellsbury reached with a one-out double, and Shane Victorino hit a bloop toward short left — a ball you’d never imagine Peralta running down. But Iglesias did with such stunning ease, he nearly caught Ellsbury again; his flip to double him off second was just a hair late and off-line.
Iglesias also nearly raced down a foul fly ball at the stands between third and home. He slid, got glove on it, but couldn’t hold on.
The effort, though, always impresses.
“He’s very flashy,” Alex Avila said, smiling. “That’s just who he is, that’s how he’s gonna play, which is fine. He’s just a good player out there.”
He’s exactly the defender the Tigers knew they were getting when — with Peralta facing a 50-game suspension over the summer — they acquired him in a three-team trade with the Red Sox and White Sox.
Boston’s net gain in the deal, actually, was on display Wednesday, too. And Jake Peavy wasn’t good, rocked in the biggest start of his career.
It’s too early to name a winner in the trade. The Tigers, after all, parted with an outfield prospect, Avisail Garcia, who, with the White Sox, will burn them a time or 12.
But for this night, the Tigers were the winners — thanks also to the suspect part of Iglesias’ game, offense. Up with the bases loaded in the second, he hit a shot to second that resulted in an RBI. He also had a big sacrifice bunt in the fourth — a bunt he thought he beat out — that set up another Tigers run. And just for fun, he added a single to right in the eighth inning, during which he booked it out of the box, knowing full well his old teammate, Shane Victorino, would charge and make a throw to first.
Victorino’s bid was met with a good-natured gesture from Iglesias.
“It was really fun,” said Iglesias, who was the only Tiger who’s lineup position didn’t change for Game 4; he stayed ninth. “Especially when you win. Bottom line, you wanna win games.”