Rajai Davis used his speed as well as his smarts in the eighth inning Tuesday night to help the Detroit Tigers defeat the Oakland A’s 6-5.
Davis came into the game as a pinch-runner in the 8th inning for J.D. Martinez in a tie game after a drawing a walk off Oakland pitcher Fernando Abad. Davis advanced to second base on a wild pitch, then stole third in an unusual way.
Davis noticed catcher Derek Norris’ first throw back to Abad during Nick Castellanos at-bat was very casual. On the second pitch he stole third base easily as Norris lobbed the ball back, catching everyone by surprise, not even drawing a throw. He later scored on a ground ball by Austin Jackson which was the winning run.
“I won’t lie,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “My heart stopped when I saw him take off, considering he was the go-ahead run,” MLB.com reported.
“That’s my specialty,” Davis said. “I thought it was possible after the first throw back from the catcher. I took the circumstances into consideration. No one was expecting it.”
Closer Joe Nathan, who picked up his 12th save, was warming up in the bullpen and was caught off guard.
“I think the whole stadium was surprised,” he said. “I know I missed it. I had my head down. He made it look so easy, coming off the rack after sitting seven or eight innings. That’s one of his biggest assets.”
The game figured to be a pitchers duel between A’s starter Sonny Gray, and Detroit’s Max Scherzer. Scherzer is the reigning AL Cy Young award winner with a 6-1 record this year. Gray had made ten starts before last night, all quality starts. They both pitched six innings with Scherzer giving up five runs, and Gray allowing four.
Miguel Cabrera had two hits, two RBIs, and hit his 8th home run. Torii Hunter also homered in the 7th inning to make the score 5-5.
Davis had pulled off a similar steal against the Tigers last year at Rogers Centre when he played for the Toronto Blue Jays. Former Tigers catcher Bryan Pena tossed the ball back and Davis stole a base, The Detroit News reported.
“That’ll never happen again,” Pena said afterward.
Davis was signed in the off-season to split time in left field with Andy Dirks. Dirks injured his back in spring training, and had surgery in March, he is out until June at least.
Davis, along with second baseman Ian Kinsler, give the Tigers some much needed speed. Detroit was last in the American League in stolen bases last year, with Jackson leading the team with eight swipes. Davis is second in the league with 16 steals.
[Image via sportingnews.com]