Catcher Alex Avila sustained a strained knee tendon on this play in Game 5 when tagging out Boston's David Ross in the second inning. Avila will return to the lineup for Game 6 tonight in Boston. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Boston — He might not be feeling great, but he’s feeling good enough to play.
So Alex Avila will be in the Tigers’ lineup on Saturday night for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series —after being forced out of Game 5 with a strained knee tendon.
“I got on the plane with him yesterday,” manager Jim Leyland said of Avila, “and I just left him in the trainer’s room. He’s ready to go. I don’t think that will be any kind of drawback.
“If you can’t go, that’s fine, but if you can go, you want to be out there for the entire game, if possible
“The one thing you don’t want to happen as a manager is to start a player and have to take him out in the second or third inning.”
But. . .
“I think Alex is fine now,” Leyland said.
The manager did say, however, that Avila was tested for concussion symptoms because he took a foul ball off his mask in Game 5.
“They gave him all the tests without him going to a hospital.”
Whether the Tigers won or lost on Saturday night, did Jose Iglesias earn the national stamp of “defensive wizard” in this series with the catch he made in Game 5 of David Ortiz’s pop-up to shallow left-center?
That might be a reach, it turns out.
“I don’t think one defensive play makes you a great defensive player,” said Leyland, “but this guy is a terrific shortstop, and I think a play like that (gets remembered) as an unbelievable play.
“He ran almost 30 yards for that ball.”
What the Tigers were trying to do on Saturday — to win the first of a necessary two games in a row to win an LCS — is what the 1991 Atlanta Braves did to Leyland’s Pittsburgh Pirates that year with Taylor’s Steve Avery winning Game 6 and Detroit and Lansing’s John Smoltz winning Game 7 for the Braves.
Born in Trenton, Avery went to Taylor Kennedy High School.
Born in Detroit, Smoltz went to Lansing Waverly
Down 3-2 in games but playing the last two at home in a series that would feature three 1-0 outcomes, the Pirates failed to score in either of the last two games against the Braves.
About that Game 6, Leyland said “Avery pitched one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen pitched in 50 years of baseball.
“He had great stuff, used all his pitches, was overpowering, he had it all going.”
In eight innings, Avery blanked the Pirates on three hits, all singles – stretching his streak of scoreless innings to 16 2⁄3, for which he was named Most Valuable Player of the NLCS that year.
With a complete game in Game 7, Smoltz shut out the Pirates on six hits, all but one of them singles.
Under the bus?
The first-inning play in Game 5 in which Miguel Cabrera was thrown out at the plate after running through a stop sign at third was still the topic of some discussion on Saturday night.
“Some people insinuated that I kind of threw (third base coach) Tom Brookens under the bus to protect Miggy,” said Leyland, “and that’s not true at all.
“The mistake that Tom made is that under normal circumstances he held him up in plenty of time, but with Miggy as he is now, he should have just pointed at third.”
Right away, stop?
“Right,” Leyland said. “It should have been known right away that you can’t send him. But it’s silly to think I would throw Tom Brookens under the bus, or anybody else.