Jhonny's knock completes Tigers' comeback

Jhonny's knock completes Tigers' comeback

Jhonny's knock completes Tigers' comeback
DETROIT -- Drew Smyly doesn't show nerves easily. Neither, for that matter, does Jhonny Peralta.

One of them is a veteran shortstop with a history of big hits in his career. The other is a 22-year-old rookie, back in the big leagues only because Doug Fister is injured.

One kept the Tigers from beating themselves early. The other won it for them late with a two-run double in the eighth for a 5-3 comeback victory over the Angels on Saturday night at Comerica Park.

Neither played up their own roles in Detroit's fourth win in five games. If this was the happy ending out of what was mostly a miserable game, they weren't shocked by it.

"A lot of time, it happens," Peralta shrugged. "We'll lose the game early, but by the seventh, eighth, ninth inning, we're coming through. I feel like a lot of time, we're coming through by the end of the game."

This one didn't necessarily have that feeling.

When Prince Fielder doubled into the right-field corner for the first hit of the night and tumbled trying to stop at second base, seemingly trying to avoid the throw, it had the feeling of a long night.

When Austin Jackson committed his first error since June 29, 2011, the night utility player Don Kelly pitched, it felt a little worse.

Even in a one-run game, when Torii Hunter reached behind his shoulder to catch Miguel Cabrera's drive on the warning near the deepest part of right-center field earlier in the eighth inning, it felt like this game was supposed to go against the Tigers.

Not until Fielder was nearly jumping for his joy down the line with the game-tying run, followed closely by Andy Dirks with the go-ahead tally, did this feel like the Tigers' game. Peralta's hit sent them home.

Peralta came to the Tigers two years ago with a reputation for focus in key situations. He hit .307 with runners in scoring position last year, including .380 with two outs, and .278 in the late innings of close games. All of those numbers have taken a tumble this season, but his walk-off home run against the White Sox on May 4 isn't easily forgotten.

He was the Tigers' last hope in a 2-1 game Friday night and struck out chasing a slider from Garrett Richards to end an 0-for-4, two-strikeout game. He didn't forget it when he stepped to the plate against Richards with two outs in the eighth Saturday.

"Yesterday he got me, because I don't see him too well, and he throws a lot of cutters and high fastballs," Peralta said. "Today, I'd already seen him, so today made it easy, because I already know what he's got."

Peralta took a cutter for ball one, then fouled off a fastball over the plate. When Richards came back with the fastball inside, he was ready.

"I learned from yesterday," Peralta said. "Today I got him."

Richards' reaction backed it up.

"I didn't change my mentality [from last night]," he said. "I was filling up the zone. Probably the ball that Peralta hit down the line was up in the zone, but I wasn't going to change my approach."

Catcher Alex Avila compares Peralta's consistent approach emotionally with a former teammate, Placido Polanco -- "a perfect pro," as Avila called it. It's not that Peralta doesn't feel emotions, he said, but he doesn't show it.

Avila has seen tough breaks snowball on Smyly, but not flummox him.

"That's just because he's a young guy learning how to pitch," Avila said. "But the thing about him is you feel pretty comfortable he's going to make a good pitch, because nothing really rattles him. He's very confident. He doesn't seem to get distracted very easily, or really doesn't care what the heck's going on around him. He just worries about making a pitch."

Smyly's reaction to three errors behind him was an example. Add two unearned runs to the run the Tigers missed out on when Young doubled after Fielder's out at second, and miscues meant a three-run swing.

The errors behind him, Smyly shrugged off.

"That stuff happens," he said. "Whether he hits a liner off the wall or someone makes an error, he's on base, and you have to work through it. It doesn't really matter how he got there, as long as you can bear down and try to keep him from scoring."

Smyly had mixed results at that, but he kept the Tigers in the game. After Jackson's error and Erick Aybar's RBI double, the Angels had a 3-0 lead and a chance for more. Avila threw out Aybar trying to steal third, denying the Angels a run on Vernon Wells' ensuing single, before Smyly struck out Bobby Wilson.

Smyly has pitched some gems in his first big league season, from his first Major League victory at Yankee Stadium in April to a 10-strikeout gem against the Royals in his last Major League start July 6. He left with a no-decision Saturday after four hits and one earned run over six innings, yet valued this one more.

"I'd say it's at the top," Smyly said. "It's been two months since I've pitched out there, and against a heavy right-handed lineup in the Angels. We were down the whole game and all you can do is just try to keep your team in the game. It's just a matter of time until they put hits together like they did in the eighth.

"Down 3-0, that's nothing to us. We came back and won it."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.