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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Berry, Berry extraordinary

It quietly flew under the radar, but Quintin Berry was unavailable for Saturday's game.

A little sick, Tigers manager Jim Leyland reported before Sunday's game, when he inserted Berry into the No. 2 hole in the lineup, right behind Austin Jackson.

"Trying to get a little energy at the top, a little speed. Why not?" Leyland said pregame. "Perfect time. This is what a team’s about. If you look at the lineup, I played Berry, I played (Don) Kelly. I want some energy today.

"These other guys have been playing all the time. I want to get Miggy (Cabrera, Sunday's DH) off his feet for a day. Get Berry in there, some speed, a little different look.

"That’s what a team’s all about. If we can win this game today, it’s really good tonic for our team."

Also a good tonic for a team that's been desperately without it for years: Speed.

Jackson and Berry were on base a combined seven times in Sunday's game, scoring once each in a 5-0 win. While Jackson was a respectable 2-for-5 in the game, Berry was scorching, going recording a career-high five hits in five at-bats. He stole his team-leading ninth base, as well.

Rather than unavailable, he was unstoppable.

"Quintin Berry had an unbelievable day," Leyland said. "He didn't try to do too much. Berry just laid the bat on the ball, he didn't try to do too much. He had a great day. Line drives, too. I'm not talking about fluke hits, every one of them was hit hard. The last one wasn't quite as hard as some of the other ones but just laid the bat on the ball, the legs are there, obviously. He gives us a different dimension when he plays and that's why we played those guys today. ... Some fresh legs and some different looks today. Quintin was at the top of that list and he did more than you could have expected."

A career minor leaguer who came up to fill in when Jackson missed 21 games on the disabled list, and worked his way — at least for now — into the team's immediate plans, even when its regular center fielder and leadoff man returned, Berry had no way to explain his day, either.

"Nothing too big about it. Five-for-five, you don’t think about it too much. It just happens. Things flowing, getting good pitches to hit. ... I’ve got nothing else for you. Five-for-five — that’s just what it is. I can’t give you too many answers," an elated Berry said.

"Hopefully, they don’t expect this to happen everyday — because it’s not. ... I’m not going to try to keep doing that, because realistically, we all know it’s something that doesn’t happen very often."

• In the first inning, he fell behind Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie, 0-2, but singled through the right side of the infield. He was later erased on Cabrera's 6-4-3 double play.

• In the third inning, Berry got a reprieve when Guthrie and catcher Wil Nieves couldn't converge on his foul pop up, allowing it to fall as a harmless strike. Guthrie was charged with an error on the play, and Berry made him pay by scorching the ball over shortstop Marco Scutaro's head into shallow left field. He'd go to second on a Guthrie balk, then score on Prince Fielder's RBI double to the right-center field gap.

• Berry would lead off the fourth with a single up the middle, steal second, daringly move to third on a groundout by Cabrera in front of him, but get gunned out at the plate trying to score on a grounder by Fielder to second baseman Chris Nelson.

• In the sixth, with Jackson having singled, Berry got a fastball to hit, shooting it into left-center field, putting Jackson on third, where he'd score on a double down the left-field line by Cabrera. He'd be stranded there when Brennan Boesch grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.

• In the eighth, with Gerald Laird on ahead of him with a single, Berry shot the ball toward Scutaro at shortstop, and beat out the infield single when it went off Scutaro's glove. It was ruled a base hit.

"I was glancin’ up at that scoreboard for a while, I’m not going to lie. It could’ve went either way. Luckily, had a little home-court advantage there, helped out. They gave it to me," Berry said with a laugh, admitting he'd waited on the scoring decision.

"I’ll take it."

It helped that Berry was hitting in the No. 2 hole, behind a guy who's every bit as disruptive on the basepaths as he is.

"I’ve never hit in the second hole very much, and having Austin in the leadoff spot, hitting behind him is great. You know you’re going to get those pitches to hit. They’re going to give you fastballs, because they don’t want to take too long getting the ball home, because he’s going to steal too," Berry said.

"That’s the kind of thing you don’t think of when you’re hitting in the leadoff spot or the nine hole, because you’re always hitting behind somebody who doesn’t run."


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