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Tigers' D has night full of highlights, high-fives

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Jose Iglesias knows a good defender doesn't take his at-bats with him to the field. But the Tigers shortstop knows what good defense can create for a team when it gets hitters to the plate.

That's what stood out for him after Friday's 13-4 win over the Rays at Comerica Park. It wasn't about the over-the-shoulder catch he made in short left field, or the quick release he put up to beat speedy Peter Bourjos, or the leaping catch Justin Upton made at the fence to rob a home run from Corey Dickerson.

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DETROIT -- Jose Iglesias knows a good defender doesn't take his at-bats with him to the field. But the Tigers shortstop knows what good defense can create for a team when it gets hitters to the plate.

That's what stood out for him after Friday's 13-4 win over the Rays at Comerica Park. It wasn't about the over-the-shoulder catch he made in short left field, or the quick release he put up to beat speedy Peter Bourjos, or the leaping catch Justin Upton made at the fence to rob a home run from Corey Dickerson.

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All three plays came in the fifth inning, right after the Tigers had turned a 2-1 deficit into a 6-2 lead by sending all nine batters to the plate. The Tigers followed by batting around again and scoring five more runs.

"Defense turned into offense," Iglesias said. "It was a great inning."

Justin Verlander calls it the shutdown inning for a pitcher. For the defense, it's simply momentum.

Video: TB@DET: Kinsler leaps to make catch, turns two

"It's a little bit of a momentum-killer for the opposing team," manager Brad Ausmus said. "All three of those plays really, I think, knocked their momentum down. It might have created a little momentum for us."

It's not something seen often this year from the Tigers, whose defense has been known at times to prolong innings. Their Defensive Efficiency Ratio ranks 27th out of 30 Major League teams, and their minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved ranks 22nd.

But Friday, the Tigers' fifth-inning fielding wizardry not only brought their offense back onto the field, it might have bought Daniel Norris another inning. And it started with a play that Iglesias has made familiar, running into the outfield with a fly ball over his shoulder before making the catch with his back to home plate.

Video: TB@DET: Iglesias makes an impressive basket catch

"That's something that you practice," Iglesias said, "and also you're kind of born with. You just try to make a play for the team."

He covered 88 feet to make that play on Steven Souza Jr. And yet, it was just the fifth-most ground he has covered to make a putout this season, according to Statcast™.

"That's a tougher play than it looks," Ausmus said, "because the outfielders are running at him. He's got great instincts as a defender, including knowing where he needs to be when the ball goes up in the air."

The outfielder usually running at him has grown to expect him to make that play.

"He does it pretty easy," Upton said. "It's just a matter of whether he can get there. Usually he will shut it down if he knows he can't get there. But if he continues to come after it, I will back off and let him have it."

By contrast, Dickerson's drive was all up to Upton as he retreated to the left-field fence. The ball was hit at a 30-degree angle, according to Statcast™, giving him time to measure the ball and time his jump.

Video: TB@DET: Upton robs Dickerson with a leaping grab

"It was high enough to where I could kind of peek [at the fence]," Upton said, "and make sure I had some space to jump. I knew I could catch it, for sure."

All Norris could do at inning's end was tip his cap.

"The thing is," he said, "the one on Bourjos, it was a soft-hit ball. The one that Souza hit and he caught over his shoulder was a soft-hit ball. So those are the ones that, if those fall, you're like, 'Dang, man, bum luck.' But the one Dickerson hit obviously would've been a homer, so I got kind of fortunate for that. That was awesome."

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.

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