Moya reaches new heights with tater No. 1

Moya reaches new heights with tater No. 1

KANSAS CITY -- Steven Moya struggled to describe the feeling as his first Major League homer left the confines of Kauffman Stadium.

"Wow, I can't," Moya said following the Tigers' 2-1 loss to the Royals. "Just a happy feeling to get that one out of the way, that first one. It felt great."

Moya went through two September callups the last two seasons, with a triple as his only extra-base hit. He hit five of his 11 hits for extra bases this season entering Sunday, but all doubles and triples. His prodigious power, the trait that had helped propel him through the Tigers' farm system, hadn't been fully displayed.

That finally happened on Sunday against the 6-foot-10 Chris Young, one of the few pitchers taller than the 6-foot-7 Moya. Fittingly, like many of his 113 Minor League homers, it was not suspenseful.

But if the Tigers are going to survive the next four to six weeks without the injured J.D. Martinez, it can't be that rare.

For most of the Tigers' lineup, Young's fastball has always been deceptive, in part because of his height. He holds the ball so high, then releases it so close to home plate, that the upper-80s velocity has the reaction time of a fastball in the 90s. For Moya the height isn't quite as discomfiting. He can see up there just fine. And if he can stay with his approach, as he did on Sunday, he can track the pitches.

The Tigers had just three hits off Young on Sunday. Moya, who had never seen Young before, had two of them. Add in a 10th-inning single off the sidearming Peter Moylan, and Moya had three of Detroit's five hits on the afternoon, though a caught stealing on a hit-and-run and a late read on a line drive erased him from the basepaths the other two times.

"He's swung the bat well in his first couple days up here," manager Brad Ausmus said.

And no hit was bigger than his drive off a first-pitch fastball, which Statcast™ projected to travel 441 feet. The ball cleared the visiting bullpen and landed in the right-field seats, giving Detroit a brief one-run lead.

"That feeling when you hit that ball and you got it and you got it good," Moya said, "it's a beautiful feeling."

Moya had five hits and three strikeouts in three games this series after returning from Triple-A Toledo. With Martinez out until mid- to late July, Moya is going to have his chance at more. The regular Major League at-bats that eluded him when the Tigers signed Justin Upton before Spring Training are here for him now.

It's not the way he wanted his opportunity, not with a teammate hurt. But if the Tigers are going to stay in contention, they need him to take advantage of the chance to some degree.

"Obviously, it's a chance," Moya said, "and I'm going to try my best to take advantage of it, give my best out there and have fun while I'm playing."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.