DETROIT — Don Kelly probably wasn’t even supposed to start Tuesday’s game but he ended up making the play of the game.
Hot-hitting Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia led off the second inning and absolutely smoked one of Anibal Sanchez’s pitches. It was headed out of the park — until Kelly leaped and brought it back in.
“I didn’t know how far it was going to carry,” Kelly said. “He hit it, obviously, pretty well. So just to be able to get back there and catch it was awesome.”
Kelly’s fellow corner outfielder has stolen a home run or two in his day and he was impressed.
“I really respect that kind of art, robbing home runs,” Torii Hunter said. “I think when he robbed it, I was jumping up and down like a little kid in a candy store. I was like, yay! It was pretty awesome. Donnie Kelly’s a good guy and he plays hard and to do that, I’m happy for him.”
Unlike Hunter, however, Kelly doesn’t think it’s a better feeling to take away a home run than to hit one.
“No, it’s not,” Kelly said. “You definitely want to hit them but when you’re not hitting them, if you can bring them back, that’s just as sweet.”
Kelly played in left because Andy Dirks was the designated hitter. Victor Martinez was out and is day to day because he cut his right thumb on a metal bolt in the bat rack Sunday, an injury which required eight stitches.
Sanchez was fired up by the play and struck out the next two batters, Colby Rasmus and Rajai Davis, preserving a 1-0 Tigers lead.
“Oh, yeah. I think he make my day,” Sanchez said. “He play great today. That’s the sort of thing we’re used to. If we keep the score right there, I know the team at some point they gonna hit.”
The Tigers eventually won, 7-3.
Catcher Alex Avila wasn’t all that surprised by Kelly’s heroics.
“Very impressive,” Avila said. “I’ve seen Donnie make some really nice plays and come up with big hits so he doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s a good baseball player, good athlete. It was a hell of a catch.”
Even Toronto manager John Gibbons wasn’t shocked by Kelly’s thievery.
“One thing about Kelly — he doesn’t play a lot, but that guy is in the middle of something good all the time,” Gibbons said. “He had a big game for them last year in the postseason. He’s a good player. He’s done a lot of good things to help them win. That’s why he’s in there.”
And that’s why you’re likely to see Kelly on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays tonight.