DETROIT -- Jhonny Peralta turned while rounding third base and the noise of the fans at Comerica Park was deafening. Seconds earlier, the Detroit Tigers shortstops two-run homer off Andrew Bailey had turned defeat into a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Now he was headed home and the first player waiting in front of the circle of joy at the plate was Miguel Cabrera. Peralta could not stop smiling.
Its a good feeling, he said Thursday night in the clubhouse. To see everyone at home plateHitting a home run there that is the best you can feel.
Peralta began the night with the third-highest batting average in the American League. Hes hitting .329, and has more doubles (21) and a higher on-base percentage (.385) and slugging percentage (.496) than any AL shortstop. Shoot, his slugging percentage is higher than Detroit cleanup hitter Prince Fielders.
And yet Peralta is third in All-Star Game voting at his position.
He flies under the radar quite a bit here and probably nationally, too, said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. But he made a quality play in the hole tonight and hit a home run to win the game. Hes doing pretty good.
Im happy for Jhonny. Im happy for the team.
Phil Cokes eighth-inning meltdown didnt end up sending the team to its third consecutive defeat after all. There were smiles everywhere. And even the deposed closer, Jose Valverde, got in on the fun by drenching Peralta with a Gatorade cooler dump as FOX Sports Detroits Shannon Hogan interviewed him outside the dugout.
Valverde surprised me, Peralta said. It was really cold, too.
Peralta was still smiling. It was the third walk-off homer of his career, and the first since beating the Chicago White Sox on May 4, 2012.
Hes having an All-Star year and hes playing very good, said Tigers infield and first base coach Rafael Belliard, who spends about as much time with Peralta as anyone. He comes to play every day, and is unbelievable. Hes quiet, and everything you ask he does.
Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (.270, 14 homers, 43 RBIs) leads with 1,871,010 votes. He won the Gold Glove last year, has three homers off Justin Verlander this season and has produced more runs for his club than Peralta has for Detroit.
But how can Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers (.239, no homers, 23 RBIs) have 1,358,412 votes to lead Peraltas 1,322,791? Its because fans vote largely on reputation.
However, Peraltas quiet profile got a boost Thursday night. His walk-off homer that set off quite a celebration was getting replayed across the land. And maybe, just maybe, it got him on the radar with some folks.