Tigers put on defensive clinic, Iglesias steals show
Detroit — Ian Kinsler is a little bit like your big brother. No matter what you do, no matter how well you play, he’s still going to give you a hard time about something.
Such was the case after the Tigers’ 13-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
Jose Iglesias, Kinsler’s middle-infield partner and protégé, made two of the best plays you will see a shortstop make in the sixth inning. The second one may be among the top 10 plays of the year.
On a fly ball to short left field, Iglesias bolted 88 feet and caught the ball running full tilt with his back to the infield.
Kinsler, good-naturedly, was careful to keep Iglesias’ humility in check.
“There are other guys who can make plays like that, but he’s got a special flair to it,” he said. “It’s uncanny the way he knows where the ball is going to be and find that spot. Of course, he gets some extra credit from people because he’s a little guy so it looks like he’s running a lot farther.”
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Well, 88 feet is 88 feet.
“Both were tough plays I was able to make,” Iglesias said. “That’s something that you practice and also you’re kind of born with. You just try to make a play for the team.”
The first defensive gem was on a slow ground ball hit by speedy Peter Bourjos. Iglesias charged hard and with his fast hands, scooped it up and made a firm throw to first to get him by a step.
But it was the over-the-shoulder catch that people will be talking about.
Manager Brad Ausmus was asked if he’d ever seen another shortstop make a play like that.
“No,” he said. “That’s a tougher play than it looks because the outfielders are running at him. He’s got great instincts as a defender, including knowing where he needs to be when the ball goes up in the air.”
Iglesias caught the ball on the dead run, splitting left fielder Justin Upton and center fielder Alex Presley.
“I expect him to make that catch,” Upton said. “He does it pretty easy. It’s just a matter of whether he can get there. Usually he will shut it down if he knows he can’t get there. But if he continues to keep coming after it, I back off and let him have it.”
Iglesias makes so many difficult plays look routine, that his brilliance often goes unremarked. But the fans at Comerica Park on Friday let him know his efforts were appreciated. He got a standing ovation after the running catch.
“That was huge,” Iglesias said. “The fans appreciated baseball, not just homers. It was huge for all of us.”
Those two plays were just part of the Tigers’ defensive showcase Friday.
Upton leaped over the fence in left to take a home run away from Corey Dickerson, also in the fifth.
In the second inning, pitcher Daniel Norris struck out Mallex Smith and catcher James McCann threw out Tim Beckham at second — the old strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play.
In the third, with the Tigers trailing 2-1, they nabbed Smith trying to steal home on a pick-off throw to first by Norris. First baseman Alex Avila made a strong throw to the plate to complete the 1-3-2 putout.