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Peralta grateful for opportunity to help Tigers

Shortstop-turned-left fielder hits game-tying homer as Detroit forces Game 5

DETROIT -- In the last few days of the regular season, Jhonny Peralta wasn't sure whether he would be on the Tigers' postseason roster. Now, it seems like they may not be contending without him.

With the A's up 2-1 in the five-game American League Division Series, shortstop-turned-left fielder Peralta went 2-for-3 in Game 4, knocking a three-run homer to even the score in the fifth inning. He added a double in the seventh before exiting for pinch-runner Andy Dirks, who later scored. Detroit won, 8-6, to force a decisive Game 5.

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"I feel, you know, really good that [Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski] give me the opportunity here, and the fans, they feel really good for me," Peralta said. "I tried to do my best for the team and for the fans here in Detroit, so I feel grateful for the opportunity."

It was only 64 days ago when Peralta began his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He worked out in the Dominican Republic, hoping he would get another chance to help his team.

"I tried to practice over there and tried to be ready for the playoffs," Peralta said. "I talked to Dombrowski before ... to see that he [would] give me the opportunity to be here and he said, 'Yes.' So I tried to be ready for that. He said he got to need me for offense, the situation that we are in right now."

Peralta lost his everyday shortstop role during his suspension when the Tigers traded for Jose Iglesias, and he returned without a regular spot in the lineup.

But Detroit's offense was unable to score for 17 consecutive innings in the first two games after scoring three runs in the first inning of Game 1. So for Game 3, manager Jim Leyland decided Peralta would return to a starting role, hoping he could provide a boost to the lineup that he helped power through much of the season. The skipper took a chance and slotted Peralta in left field.

After hitting a two-run single in the Tigers' 6-3 loss in Game 3, Peralta came up to the plate with two runners on and a three-run deficit on Tuesday. He drilled a 2-2 fastball over the left-field wall, tying the game and pumping up the Comerica Park crowd.

"He woke everybody up," Miguel Cabrera said. "We were sleeping the whole series."

When Peralta went back into the outfield, he got a big ovation and a fan threw his home run ball back to him, so that he could keep it.

With Detroit's back against the wall, Leyland turned to Peralta hoping for the best. He's done his part, driving in five runs in two games, helping to force Thursday's Game 5 in Oakland (8 p.m. ET on TBS).

"Well, you know, I was thrilled because today -- I think when I was in here earlier in the day, I said, 'We need another over-the-fence bat in the lineup,'" Leyland said. "I don't want to sound like I'm smart, but that's what happened for us, and it was huge."

After Peralta's suspension, the Tigers made plans to play without him. In the end, it was Peralta who rewarded them for bringing him back.

"They need me in the postseason, and I tried to keep practicing every day and hitting in the batting cage," Peralta said. "Now they give me the opportunity to be here and try to do my best."

Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for

Detroit Tigers, Jhonny Peralta