Running Rajai's circus catch denies Detroit

Running Rajai's circus catch denies Detroit

DETROIT -- Former Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis made sure everyone knew his allegiances as he walked around the Indians' clubhouse, wearing socks with the image of the Cleveland skyline as he chatted before the game. By the time his work was done Friday night, having run down Miguel Cabrera's drive to right-center field for a juggling catch and a game-ending double play, he had seemingly run halfway to Ohio.

"If he hits that ball in another ballpark, it's a tie ballgame," Davis said after the Tribe's 7-4 win. "Fortunately for us, it was here."

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It was a part of Comerica Park where Cabrera has had heartbreak before, watching many a drive fall into an outfielder's glove. But it might have been the longest journey such an outfielder has had to take to do it.

"It's a heck of a long ways out there in right-center field," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Miggy punched the ball, but Raj stuck with it. We had Raj here for a couple of years and everyone likes him, but I wish he would've missed."

For the Indians, it was the best possible outcome from a worst-case scenario, after a strikeout-error and back-to-back singles brought up Cabrera as the potential tying run against Indians closer Cody Allen. Cabrera had grounded into two double plays earlier in the night, but that was little comfort for Indians manager Terry Francona.

"You're thinking the whole time, 'Let's not let Miggy come up as the tying run,'" Francona said. "And when he hit the ball, I was like, 'Stay in the ballpark. Stay in the ballpark.'"

Few Indians know Comerica Park, especially its outfield gaps, better than Davis, a Tigers outfielder the last two years before signing with Cleveland as a free agent last offseason. He was playing Cabrera deep and read the ball off the bat, but still had to take off and hope for hang time to run it down.

"I thought that was off the wall," Davis said. "I thought it was hit really good. I got a good jump on it."

It nearly ended up off the out-of-town scoreboard -- after hitting Davis' glove first. He ran it down, but the ball bounced out of the heel of his glove as he tried to close it. From there, Davis was keeping it in the air while heading near full speed toward the wall, corralling it just before impact.

"I don't know what happened," Davis said. "I guess we have to go to the replay. All I know is I was trying to focus on trying to catch the ball and run and while the ball's bouncing, my eyes were trying to slow it down. I guess I slowed it down just enough to refocus and catch it."

Ian Kinsler and Cameron Maybin took off from first and second, believing Davis had dropped it. The throw eventually went home, but catcher Chris Gimenez fired to first to double up Maybin and end the rally as Kinsler and manager Brad Ausmus looked on, incredulous.

"I realized I caught it," Davis said. "I don't know if everybody else realized I caught it, but I definitely realized it, and I was just trying to tell the guys they were throwing to the wrong base."

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.