With the Detroit Tigers offense struggling to break through against Kevin Correia and the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, veteran outfielder Torii Hunter would end up taking the game over in the seventh inning with some timely hitting and heads up base running.
Detroit entered the inning trailing 1-0 on Brian Dozier's RBI single in the top half, and were on the verge of another 1-2-3 inning when Bryan Holaday extended it with a two-out single. After Austin Jackson followed with his own single, Hunter stepped in and gave Detroit the lead with a two-run double that split the alley in right center field perfectly.
Hunter's double was the hit that completely turned the game around. Had the inning ended right there, Hunter probably would have remained the offensive hero. But the inning didn't end there despite the fact that Prince Fielder struck out for what should have been the third out. It actually continued because Twins catcher fill-in Ryan Doumit couldn't handle Caleb Thielbar's high fastball and had it trickle far enough away from him that Prince Fielder was able to beat the throw to first base.
Hunter, who was charging hard to third base after the pitch, rounded the bag and never stopped running when he saw the throw go to first. He knew with Doumit out of position there would be no one would covering the plate, and he was able to touch home before anyone on Minnesota's infield could react. Though he won't be credited with a steal of home, that's essentially what Hunter was able to do. And he did from second base on a strikeout — which makes it sounds even better — though with the undeniable assistance of the passed ball.
It was a pure hustle and awareness play, and perhaps the only thing greater than his display of both was his own description of the play.
"That's the only way I know how to play," Hunter said. "I was always told by Kirby Puckett, be a hyena, always take advantage of the weak link. I saw the pitcher sitting there waiting, looking at the play and home plate was wide open. I just took a dive. That play never developed if Prince doesn't run. He did what he had to do to make him throw the ball and I was able to score right there."
If you're going to take and apply baseball advice from someone, you could do a lot worse than Kirby Puckett. In this case Kirby's advice paid off, and it's more than a little ironic that Minnesota was on the wrong side of this particular play and the scoreboard, losing 7-1.
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