Pérez punctuates 6-run 7th with bases-clearing triple

Tigers' No. 20 prospect continues to make his mark in short time in The Show

May 19th, 2024

PHOENIX -- As Wenceel Pérez stood at third base in the top of the seventh inning, the 24-year-old pounded his chest, yelled with excitement and pumped his fist repeatedly in the air.

The emotions were getting to him. The rookie, who has ascended his way into the top of the Tigers’ lineup, just gave Detroit the lead by lacing an opposite-field three-run triple. It capped off a six-run inning that saw the Tigers erase a two-run deficit en route to an 8-3 win over the D-backs on Saturday night under the roof at Chase Field.

“It’s all thanks to God,” Pérez said in Spanish. “I was telling myself in that moment that I was the best. That situation, there is the reason why we work hard. All the work I did paid off.”

The Tigers’ No. 20 prospect was called up to The Show on April 8 to fill in for Andy Ibáñez, but Pérez's hot bat has made it nearly impossible to keep him out of the lineup. Heading into Saturday, Pérez has stood out among 41 qualified rookies. He is second in OBP (.371), third in wRC+ (146) and fourth with a .291 average.

The D-backs opted to load the bases by issuing an intentional walk to Mark Canha. Pérez admitted that the move by Arizona crept into his mind as he stepped up to the plate. It caused him to believe in himself even more than he already did, sparking that game-changing swing.

“It gives them a dilemma,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “[Pérez is] going to put up a pretty good at-bat and it's going to happen quick. He showed discipline today from the left side facing a really good pitcher. They turn them around and he hit at the right place, at the right time in a big moment. He's off to a really good start in his career.”

Hinch has plenty of experience from his time as a player, baseball executive and manager of three Major League teams. But players like Pérez continue to give Detroit’s skipper new knowledge.

“It's been a lesson on patience,” Hinch said pregame. “Players don't have to be perfect. We will find them, we're going to develop them in our system. We're going to be patient with their development and we're going to let them learn.”

The switch-hitting batter signed with the Tigers for $550,000 in 2016, and spent three seasons split between Single-A and High-A before beginning to break out. Recurring back injuries kept on delaying Pérez’s progress.

That extended time in the Minors may discourage some players in their pursuit of the Majors, but for Pérez, he used every day as a learning opportunity while he waited for his time to come.

“It really came down to my resilience and discipline,” Pérez said in Spanish. “Each experience that I had in the Minor Leagues was a test of adaptability. When I had a bad season, I was thinking about how to bounce back.

“It’s about overcoming the little things, like working out of a slump. That really helps when you get to the Majors because you know how to work through that. I spent enough time in the Minors to learn different aspects of the game before making my debut.”

Pérez contributed beyond his bases-clearing hit. He finished 2-for-4, with a triple off D-backs ace Zac Gallen in the first inning and he collected his fourth RBI on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. In Friday’s contest, he tripled, scored two runs and drove in one.

Detroit’s offense has turned around in the desert, helping starter Jack Flaherty earn his first win of the season. The Tigers have lost their last four series, but have the chance to have a series sweep for the first time in this season, and Pérez has been at the forefront through all.

He keeps proving that the trust the Tigers had in him is paying off, by making his 13th start at third in the batting order. Most notably, he became the fifth player in franchise history with three doubles, three triples and three home runs within his first 30 career games.

“It’s a privilege to have that trust,” Pérez said. “I feel really good, and I’m really thankful for A.J. to have believed in me and given me that confidence. It’s really allowed me to be more laid back, have fun with the game and give it my best every single day.”