Welcome to a new feature that we may or may not feature occasionally, depending on how often I feel like doing this and/or how quickly you get sick of reading my poorly constructed run-on sentences. In these posts, I will break down a specific play (or plays) that had a significant impact on the game at the time. Tonight, we're looking at Prince Fielder's at bat in the top of the fourth inning.
Situation: Runner (Brennan Boesch) on third base, one out. Right-handed pitcher Julio Teheran blew through the Tigers lineup in the first three innings before allowing a single to Boesch. Teheran then balked, sending Boesch to second. Victor Martinez grounded out to first base, allowing Boesch to advance to third. The Braves defense shifted shortstop Tyler Pastornicky to the other side of second base, leaving a large hole on the left side of the infield between Pastornicky and third baseman Juan Francisco.
On the first pitch, Teheran threw an 82 mph changeup. Prince was looking fastball, and nearly spun himself into the ground with his usual heavy swing.
On the 0-1 pitch, Teheran threw a 93 mph fastball over the outer half of the plate. Prince was late after seeing Teheran's changeup on the last pitch and fouled it off. Again, Prince was swinging for the fences.
On the 0-2 pitch, Teheran threw a 94 mph fastball. Prince shortened up his swing and grounded a single through the hole between short and third, driving in Boesch to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
There is a good chance that Boesch would have scored even if Pastornicky were playing in his normal position, but the combination of the shift and Prince's excellent bat control results in an RBI single and a runner on first, continuing the opportunity for a big inning. Teheran deserves credit here: he hit his spot on all three pitches and didn't give Prince the inside fastball that has already resulted in plenty of bat flips during his short tenure in Detroit. Teheran pitched Prince away, yet was still beaten because of the defense's positioning.
Prince showed the ability to beat the infield shift by hitting to the opposite field last season with this short swing, especially with runners on base. This type of play is what made Prince so valuable to the Tigers last year. If he continues to hit for average at a near-.300 clip, opposing teams will have to tread very carefully when pitching through the heart of the Tigers' batting order.