'A welcome addition': Red-hot newbie Wily Peralta leads Tigers over Rangers, 7-3
Arlington, Texas — We were all forewarned. Manager AJ Hinch very nearly did it against Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in spring training, and he said then, don’t be surprised if he uses a four-man outfield at some point this season.
That point in the season was Monday in the Tigers’ 7-3 win over the Texas Rangers in their first appearance in Globe Life Field, and the victim was Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. It was one of several odd but entertaining sideshows on this night.
"I've got a lot of history with Gallo," said Hinch, who faced the Rangers some 19 times a year when he managed in Houston. "I know how dangerous he is. He hits a ton of fly balls."
Hinch sent second baseman Willi Castro out to left field and shifted Robbie Grossman to left-center, Akil Baddoo to right-center and Nomar Mazara closer to the line in right field.
"I might've put six guys in the outfield with Houston," Hinch said. "I'd put Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve in shallow outfield. We put as many outfielders as we could. I'd put a guy over the fence if the league would allow it."
The first time up, Gallo rendered the strategy moot by striking out, flailing at a couple of change-ups from Tigers starter Wily Peralta. The second time up, Gallo hit a ground ball to shortstop Zack Short, who was playing in shallow right field — essentially a fifth outfielder.
Third time through, the Tigers played three outfielders, though Castro was rover depth in shallow right. Didn’t matter. Peralta again struck him out with a change-up.
"It didn't really come to play except just psychologically giving him something different to think about," Hinch said. "He's been one of the hottest hitters in baseball."
Is it any wonder Gallo just tries to launch baseballs into the seats, which he did in the ninth inning against reliever Bryan Garcia, his 21st homer of the season? Jonah Heim also homered off Garcia in the ninth.
About Peralta and that change-up, though. Hat-tip to Tigers Latin America scout Oliver Arias. Peralta didn't pitch in the big leagues last year, but Arias saw him throwing in the Dominican Winter League and took notice of that change-up — which he throws with a split-finger grip — how it was baffling right-handers and left-handers alike.
He pushed the Tigers to give him at least a minor-league deal and take a look. They are happy they did.
"He's been a welcome addition," Hinch said.
Peralta had that split-change dancing and floating and teasing the edges of the strike zone. He threw 26 of them. Rangers hitters swung at 16 and missed eight. He struck out left-handed hitting Gallo twice with it. He also struck out right-handed slugger Adolis Garcia with it.
"I've been throwing that pitch since 2019," said Peralta, who now has a string of 16.2 innings without allowing an earned run. "But I was in the bullpen so I didn't get a chance to throw too many. This off-season I worked on it a lot and I feel real comfortable with it."
Peralta ended up blanking the Rangers on three hits over seven innings, needing just 91 pitches. He struck out six and didn't walk a single batter.
"He controlled contact on the ground for the most part," Hinch said. "He did a good job of missing bats here and there. But that team will hit the ball on the ground if you execute and they will also do damage if you don't.
"It was key for him to mix in that change-up and he was able to command his secondary pitches late in counts. He did a great job."
The day started with the news that the Tigers were losing another coach —third base coach Chip Hale is now the new head baseball coach at the University of Arizona. He would be working his last game in the old English D Monday.
He follows Jose Cruz, Jr., who took the head coaching job at Rice last month.
Then during batting practice, starting center fielder Daz Cameron ran hard into the center field wall chasing a fly ball and sprained his right big toe. He was scratched from the lineup. That pushed Baddoo, a left-handed hitter, into the starting lineup against lefty Kolby Allard.
Baddoo faced three different lefties and went 0-for-5.
"He's day-to-day," Hinch said of Cameron. "We will see how he feels but I'm not sure I'll put him out on this turf, to be honest."
It was a 1-0 game before the Rangers unraveled defensively in the top of the sixth. The Tigers loaded the bases against Allard with one out. Miguel Cabrera (two hits) singled, Jeimer Candelario doubled and Grossman walked.
Former Ranger Nomar Mazara, who drove in the first run with a ground out in the fourth, hit a routine ground ball to first baseman Nate Lowe who had two options, throw home and get an easy force on Cabrera or throw to second and try to double-up Mazara.
Option three was to boot the grounder, allowing Cabrera to score, then flipping the ball blindly to first base which was uncovered. Allard was in the middle of the diamond, fully expecting Lowe to throw home.
Two errors on Lowe, two runs in.
Willi Castro then executed a safety squeeze against reliever Brett Martin, scoring Grossman.
And how about Short's night? Talk about going from dark to light. When he came to bat in that whacky sixth inning, he'd struck out six straight times, four on Sunday and two Monday.
"We had (assistant hitting coach Mike) Hessman draw eyes on his bat," Hinch said. "So you go to the all-time home run king in the minor leagues if you need a boost."
Short hoisted a 1-0 curveball from Martin 405 feet over the wall in left-center — 6-0 Tigers.
"That's the second time that coach has done that to me and both times I homered," Short said. "I'm going to have guys drawing graffiti on my bats from now on."
Short hit another one 400 feet in the eighth, this one was a sacrifice fly to plate Candelario, who ripped his second double of the game, for the seventh run.
Then, just to cap the day, Short made an incredible diving stop and glove flip to second to start a 6-4-3 double-play.
The Tigers have won five of six and are 30-22 since May 8.