Peralta known for bat, but 'D' is making mark in ALCS
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YORK -- Understandably, much of the focus of the American League Championship Series to date has revolved around the drama of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. But Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta has quietly put his own stamp on the ALCS as Detroit has taken a 2-0 advantage.
How quietly? Peralta didn't talk to reporters after going 2-for-4 and providing several sparkling defensive plays in Sunday's 3-0 win, slipping out the back after having a teammate fetch his suitcase from his locker as reporters waited in the clubhouse.
But the 30-year-old Dominican has made plenty of noise on the field, hitting .556 (5-for-9) in the first two games of the ALCS and .385 (10-for-26) in the entire postseason.
His base hit leading off the top of the sixth on Sunday ended Hiroki Kuroda's perfect game and continued Peralta's strong October at the plate.
More importantly, though Peralta isn't known for his glove, he turned in three momentum-changing plays in the first two games at Yankee Stadium. Sunday's gem was a bare-handed pickup and rocket throw to first to beat Russell Martin on a slow roller with two out and runners at the corners to keep a scoreless duel intact in the sixth inning.
"I think Peralta is playing better than he has all year right now, knock on wood," said Tigers skipper Jim Leyland. "He's made great plays. The bare-handed play that one inning was fantastic. He's playing better and moving better than he has all year."
Peralta got Doug Fister out of hot water twice in the first two frames on Saturday as well. After Fister walked the bases full in the first, Peralta made an excellent diving stop of a hard grounder by Alex Rodriguez and just nipped Raul Ibanez with the force at second.
Then with the bases loaded again in the second, he picked up a hard shot that deflected off Fister's wrist and gunned down Robinson Cano in another bang-bang play at first to keep the Yankees from gaining any offensive foothold.
"Jhonny's been phenomenal," Fister said Sunday. "He's a guy that is consistent. He's going to go out there and give you everything he's got every day. He's going to make the routine plays. And that's what you want as a pitcher.
"You want a guy that is dependable, somebody you know that a ground ball to short is going to be eaten up. That's what you want and that's what he gives you. And then every once in a while he gives you that little extra. That's just defense. He's an offensive threat, too. He's just one of those guys you want behind you."
Or next to you, as in the case of second baseman Omar Infante.
"The way he picked up that ball with his hands, that was a very, very big play," Infante said. "That saved the game for us. He made big plays yesterday, too."
Catcher Alex Avila said he was standing in the on-deck circle during one of Peralta's at-bats Sunday and noticed a statistic on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard that would surprise a lot of folks. Peralta finished second among American League shortstops with his .988 fielding percentage this season.
"A lot of people when they think of Jhonny, they think of more of an offensive shortstop," Avila said. "And he does swing the bat well. But the thing is, he's really sure-handed. A lot is made of the fact he maybe doesn't have as good of range as other shortstops around the league, but the thing is, anything he gets to, he catches.
"He doesn't always make spectacular plays, though once in a while he will like he did today," Avila said. "But he's going to catch everything he gets to and he's going to make fine throws. It's very reassuring knowing you have a guy like that over there."
This is Peralta's third ALCS in his 10-year Major League career, having reached this point with the Indians in 2007 and now the Tigers these past two years. He's hit .295 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 28 postseason games, reinforcing the notion that he's a legitimate offensive threat.
But if he keeps playing as well defensively as he has in this ALCS, he might just convince people there is another side to his game. Even if he's letting his glove do the talking for him.