Cleveland — What a perfect day for the Tigers’ Steven Moya.
His first major-league game, his first major-league at-bat — and in the ninth inning of a 12-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians, his major-league hit.
It was a single to right, after which he rode home on Tyler Collins’s first major-league home run — a blast to center.
“I couldn’t ask for more,” said Moya, who followed the flight of his first-hit ball as it was thrown to the Tigers’ dugout.
In comparison, manager Brad Ausmus recalled the first hit of his career during the 1993 season: “It was an infield hit, so I was gassed,” he said.
“I didn’t follow anything but my steps back to first.”
Moya is a September call-up, and should be after the kind of season he had a Double A Erie — where he earned Eastern League Most Valuable Player honors with 35 home runs and 105 RBIs.
Despite getting into a game right away, he probably won’t play much for the Tigers this month, however, because it’s difficult to find a spot for a kid in a pennant race.
But at least he didn’t have to go through what Torii Hunter went through in his first major-league appearance.
Hunter broke into the majors as a pinch-runner at first base for Terry Steinbach in the ninth inning of a Twins’ game on Aug. 22, 1997.
The only problem is that when Hunter went to first, Steinbach wouldn’t leave.
“So there we were with two runners at first base,” said Hunter, “and the Baltimore crowd yelling, ‘Get off the field, rookie.’
“Not only that, but guys like Cal Ripken and Rafael Palmeiro were wondering what the heck I was doing.
“I kept telling Steinbach he had to get off the base because I was pinch-running for him,” said Hunter, “and he kept saying, ‘Nope.’
“Steinbach was joking with me, setting me up,” said Hunter. “Then he laughed, high-fived me, and went to the dugout.”
That’s not the story Hunter told when he returned to the minors, though. He went back being able to brag about his attempt to break up a double-play.
As his debut unfolded, Hunter was erased on Matt Lawton’s game-ending 4-6-3 double-play grounder.
“The ball went to Jeff Reboulet at second,” said Hunter, “and his toss went to Mike Bordick, who I took out. So when I went back down again to Double A (New Britain, Connecticut), I was able to say ‘Hey, I took out a $3 million player.’ ”
As for advice to Moya, Hunter said, “I’ll tell him to enjoy it, learn as much as you can from guys who’ve been around, but also that ‘look, we’re here to win, so when you step on the field, always remember that we’re playing for something special and savor the opportunity to be here for it.’ ”
More on Moya
For one thing, he might have set a record for quickest trip to the majors — but that has nothing to do with how quickly he climbed the minor-league ladder, which (because he’s been in the Tigers’ organization since 2009) wasn’t exactly lightning fast.
It turns out that when Moya got the good news he was being called up to join the Tigers for September, his Erie team was in Akron — so it took just 40 minutes to drive north to join the Tigers at Progressive Field.
And it was immediately evident, judging by his wide smile and enthusiasm, that the 6-foot-6 outfielder is thrilled about being in the majors.
“Thankfully, I was healthy all year,” Moya said. “I couldn’t keep myself in the game before for my numbers (to show the kind of power they did this season).”
Moya struck out 161 times, but feels he’s a better hitter now that he’s changed his stance.
“If you saw a video from spring training,” he said, “you would see the difference right away. I held my hands were a lot higher then.”
On whose recommendation?
“Mine,” he said.
As excited as Moya is to be in the majors, he said, “it’s not just about getting here, it’s about working hard once you do —because things get tougher once you do get here.”
When asked which of his 35 home runs this year stands out the most to him because of distance or importance, Moya couldn’t single one out.
“Some of them went really far,” he said. “Moonshots.”
His single wasn’t a moonshot.
But he’ll never forget it all the same.
Farmer en route
The Tigers will recall right-hander Buck Farmer on Tuesday from Triple A Toledo.
Farmer is 0-1 with a 15.63 ERA in two starts with the Tigers this season, spanning 6.1 innings.
Tigers at Indians
First pitch: 7:05 Tuesday, Progressive Field, Cleveland
LHP Kyle Lobstein (0-0, 3.09), Tigers: He didn’t win his first start, but the Tigers did, 3-2 over the Yankees. Lobstein allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings of that game.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (6-4, 3.01), Indians: Lights out in last four starts, going 3-0 with a 0.73 ERA. Also has limited opponents to .131 batting average in that span.