DETROIT — Quintin Berry had just found a way to push the go-ahead run across the plate, and he stood on first base and clapped his hands twice with gusto before pointing both arms skyward. Then he shouted for joy as the sellout crowd roared inside Comerica Park.
The scrapper with the infield dirt ground into his white uniform, from the Old English “D” on his chest to his pant legs, had done it again.
Berry’s thunder clapping has become synonymous with sparking rallies to Detroit Tigers fans. When he ran out to left field in the first inning Saturday night, they let him know they were counting on him to get the party started.
Berry said, “I get out there and they shout, ‘Hey, QB, let’s go! Can you clap for us?’ ”
And he obliged by clapping after two big hits and a stolen base. Three-clap games are good things for the Tigers.
Berry had lifted the club upon getting called up to the majors for the first time in late May, bringing the needed spark to set fire in a lineup loaded with heavy lumber. And in the division championship series opener with the Oakland A’s, Berry once again was central to scoring runs in a 3-1 victory.
“He’s created some good things for us,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “And he’s really given us a little life and spark.”
Berry singled to left after getting two strikes while failing to drop a sacrifice bunt, and moved Austin Jackson to third base in the first inning. That allowed Jackson to score when Miguel Cabrera hit into a double play to tie the game at 1-1.
“When you don’t get the job done, you still have a job to do,” said Berry, who batted .367 with runners in scoring position this season. “I found a hole and got it through.”
Then Berry beat out a dribbler down the first base line in the third inning.
A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker probably had no shot at getting him, but still attempted to scoop the ball to first baseman Brandon Moss while picking it up with his glove. However, Moss was attempting to field the ball, too, and the scoop toss went as an error that allowed Omar Infante to scamper home for the 2-1 lead.
“Quintin brings a different dynamic to us,” said Tigers catcher Alex Avila. “Really the only other speed we have is Austin Jackson, but even he’s not like Quintin.
“He’s been huge there for us, sparking the team. Me, if I hit that grounder, the pitcher takes his time and flips to get me out.”
Berry was 21-for-21 on steal attempts, and is now 1-for-1 in the postseason.
He became the first Detroit rookie since Matty McIntyre, also a left fielder, to get two hits and a stolen base in his first postseason game. McIntyre did it in a Game 1 loss to the Cubs in the 1908 World Series at Bennett Park in Detroit, and he scored one run on a single by perhaps the greatest hitter of all-time, Ty Cobb.
“I’ll take that little stat back home with me,” Berry said. “That’s cool.”
He was hitting .337 on June 19, two days after a five-hit game against the Rockies. But he batted .218 after the All-Star break, when corner outfielder Andy Dirks returned from an injury and Berry found himself coming off the bench.
He got 12 starts down the stretch ,and Detroit was 9-3 in those games. Berry was central to the comeback to win the Central Division.
“He puts a lot of pressure on opposing teams when he gets in there,” Jackson said. “He plays good defense and uses his legs, and he’s really big for us.”
The 27-year-old rookie’s best friend since elementary school in San Diego is Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, whose club’s playoff run continues after winning Friday night’s wild-card game with the Rangers.
“I texted him all day yesterday,” Berry said. “He texted me before the game: ‘It’s time to get it. Let’s get it, so we can play again.’ ”
Berry said he passed on his usual pregame energy drink.
“There was so much electricity and energy in the air,” Berry said. “It’s awesome, man. I understand why everybody wants to be in the playoffs. The fans are just electric.”
When he punctuates a big play with those forceful claps, Berry also thrusts both arms above his head in unison.
“I get excited,” Berry said. “That’s my way of telling everybody, ‘Let’s go!’ And it’s my way of giving thanks to the Lord. It’s a blessing to be playing these games.