Dirks' slam lifts Tigers over Astros, 7-2
MAY 13, 2013 7:36p ET
Detroit's new lead-off hitter hit a 415-foot double to start the first inning, hit a routine single in the third and then capped a six-run fourth inning with a no-doubt grand slam deep into the right-field stands.
"I knew I had hit that one pretty well," said Dirks, who thrust out his right fist on his way to first base.
With Jackson on the disabled list with a sore hamstring, Dirks has moved to the top of the order. He also did that when Jackson hurt his wrist in 2011, and he's got other experience as a table-setter.
"I've led off in college and in the minors, and I did it when Austin got hurt a couple years ago, so this is nothing new," he said. "It doesn't change the way I hit. I'm still trying to have good at-bats and make things happen."
Detroit led 3-2 when Dirks came up in the fourth, and with the bases loaded and one out, he knew he had a chance to break open the game. He quickly fell behind 0-2, but Astros starter Bud Norris then made a mistake he won't forget any time soon.
"That was the worst 0-2 pitch of my entire career," he said. "I threw him a slider and hung it right down the middle of the plate."
Dirks chuckled when he heard how Norris felt about the pitch.
"I liked it."
It was the first grand slam of his major-league career, and instantly matched a career-best four RBI, but one of the humblest players in baseball wasn't about to pat himself on the back.
"It's nice to hit a grand slam, but it isn't that big a deal," he said. "I'm just happy that I was able to go out there and help the team win."
The player who had made "I'm just a ballplayer" his career slogan also didn't get excited at the possibility of hitting for the cycle. Needing a triple in the seventh inning, he grounded weakly back to the mound.
"To be perfectly honest, I never even thought about it," he said. "I would never go up to the plate trying to hit a triple or a homer or anything like that. I'm just trying to get a good pitch and make something happen. That's all I do."
Early in the season, Dirks wasn't even able to do that. After banging up his knee in a spring-training collision with the outfield wall, he was hitting .167 in late April. Jim Leyland finally gave him four days off, and the rest seemed to work.
For the first time since the injury, Dirks was pain-free and able to use his lower body to generate power. He's hitting .354 since that break, with four homers and a .667 slugging percentage. More importantly for a lead-off hitter, he has a .415 on-base percentage.
"I don't think he was able to plant after the injury," Leyland said. "He's not favoring anything right now, and he put a great swing on that 0-2 pitch tonight."
Houston manager Bo Porter, whose team dropped to 0-5 against the Tigers and 10-29 overall, said that Dirks showed the difference between a top team and his young squad.
"There's a reason that they are one of the best in the American League, and that because they have great depth," he said. "They lose a guy like Austin Jackson, and they can plug in Andy Dirks. He's a very good player -- look what he did to us tonight. We're still working to the point where we can develop that same thing."
In a lot of stadiums, Dirks would have finished the game with two homers, but he's not the type of player to worry about Comerica Park's spacious centerfield. For him, the first-inning at-bat was an unqualified success with a double and an eventual run scored.
"I'm not going to hit one out here -- that's big-boy territory out there," he said. "I got us off to a good start. That's my job."
No park in the majors would have held the grand slam, and even the emotionless Dirks finally admitted that he had enjoyed it.
"I think I showed a little bit of excitement there," he said when asked about the briefest of fist pumps. "Hitting a grand slam is fun to do."
When Andy Dirks admits to having fun, you know things are going well. If he keeps hitting like this, he might even admit that he's doing a decent job.
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