Tuiasosopo drives Tigers with career-high 5 RBIs
DETROIT — Austin Jackson was smiling as widely as Matt Tuiasosopo when Tuiasosopo returned to the dugout after crushing a three-run homer Friday night at Comerica Park.
“Man, he was sprinting around the bases,” Jackson said. “So, I decided to mess with Matt. I said, ‘That ball was hit hard! Why did you run so fast?’”
Tuiasosopo replied: “I wanted to get in and celebrate with you guys.”
That homer in the fourth inning off right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro made it 10-0 for the Tigers, and that’s the way it stayed as starter Anibal Sanchez struck out a club-record 17 Atlanta Braves in eight innings.
However, the two-out, two-run single Tuiasosopo drilled through the hole into left field in the third inning was the biggest hit of the game. It made it 4-0 against left-hander Paul Maholm, who had allowed just five runs in 25 1/3 innings this season.
Tuiasosopo had watched Maholm pitch on his iPad for several days and viewed more videotape of him at Comerica Park, displaying the preparation that goes into success. He developed a game plan against the crafty pitcher and came through.
The right-handed hitting Tuiasosopo finished with a career-high five RBIs. He’s batting .318, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland rewarded him with a start Saturday against tough Braves right-hander Kris Medlen. Left-handed hitting Andy Dirks, who has been platooning with Tuiasosopo, is slowed by an inflamed right knee joint.
"I'm going to play him tomorrow against the righty and see what happens,” Leyland said. “You have to give him the chance after a game like that."
Tuiasosopo’s homer came off a right-hander, so why not?
It was the first time he’d gone deep in a major league game since Sept. 8, 2010 against Gio Gonzalez, then of the Oakland A’s and now one of the game’s best pitchers for the Washington Nationals.
Tuiasosopo said: “It is unbelievable how in the spring I went out and made this team, have a baby and now this. To make this team after two years in Triple-A, I thank God for everything I’ve received. And to hit that homer today was a special one.”
He had one previous RBI this season, and only 16 RBIs in parts of three seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
“I hadn’t gotten the job done with knocking in runs,” he said. “So, it felt good to get the job done tonight. Those guys in front of me are hitting, and hitting is contagious. I knew that sooner or later I would knock them in.
“I was trying to get back here for three years, and figure things out. Now, being able to contribute is so good.”
Having his wife, Abi, and infant son, Josiah, at Comerica put the biggest smile on his face. They are up for the weekend from their home in Georgia.
“Today was a lot of fun,” Tuiasosopo said. “It was good for me and a special night for the whole team.”
It came against Atlanta, which brought the game’s best record (15-6).
“Look around the clubhouse,” Tuiasosopo said, while doing just that. “We’re a great team, too. This is the type of night we are capable of doing.”