With Brayan Pena stepping up to the plate and the Tigers sitting on a comfortable 5-1 lead at the time, I think most fans had mentally moved on to the next half inning. However, Pena had other things on his mind, and battled his way to an RBI double that extended the inning, giving the Tigers a 7-1 lead when Justin Verlander took the mound again.
Situation: top of the sixth inning, runner on first, two outs. In a 1-1 count, Pena fouls off an 82 mile per hour changeup at the bottom of the strike zone.
The next pitch is arguably the key to this at-bat. Pena gets out in front of a 75 mile per hour breaking ball, but is able to keep his hands back long enough to fight the pitch off.
On the next 1-2 pitch, Omar Infante takes off for second base. Pena gets another breaking ball on the outer half of the plate and pokes it into right-center field for a double. Infante scores easily from first, and the Tigers take a 6-1 lead.
While Pena's plate appearance wasn't an epic ten pitch battle, it was an excellent example of not giving at-bats away, even when ahead by a comfortable margin. Pena was able to foul off a couple pitches and take advantage of a breaking ball that missed its spot.
The insurance runs proved to be important, keeping the lead at a comfortable margin as the bullpen slogged its way through the final three innings. If Pena can provide the occasional timely at-bat like he did today while keeping Alex Avila healthy, he will provide much more than his fair share of value in 2013.