Jhonny Peralta had been a disappointment at the plate this year coming into the game with a .241 batting average and no homers in 86 plate appearances. Tonight, he picked the perfect spot for his first home run of the year. He deposited an 0 and 2 pitch from White Sox reliever Matt Thornton into the right-field stands for a two-run homer giving the Tigers and 5-4 walk-off win over Chicago. Left-handed hitting Alex Avila had set up the game winner with a one-out duck snort single against the same-handed Thornton.
The Tigers have not hit as well as we had hoped this year, but they have been very clutch. According to the FanGraphs, the Tigers lead the American League in CLUTCH, a statistic which measures how well players do in high-leverage at bats compared to average at bats. They will move further ahead of the league after tonight.
It was a gratifying victory for Tigers fans after Octavio let the game get away on a two-run homer by White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham in the seventh. That gave Chicago a 4-2 lead at the time. The Tigers closed to gap to 4-3 when Miguel Cabrera singled home Don Kelly who also singled in the eighth.
Rookie Drew Smyly gave up two runs for the first time, but it was another excellent performance by the young southpaw. He allowed two runs while striking on seven and walking nobody in six innings. Smyly now has an impressive 1.61 ERA and 29/8 K/BB ratio in 28 innings over five starts.
The other hitting star for the Tigers tonight besides Peralta was Avila who went three for three with a double, homer and walk and three runs scored. Some fans have been impatient with him this year, but he's batting .279/.372/.529 and his .901 OPS actually exceeds his .895 OPS of 2011. There are plenty of reasons for the Tigers lack of offense this year, but Avila is not one of them.
The win keeps the Tigers a game and a half behind the Indians who beat the powerful Rangers tonight. The White Sox dropped to three games back.