Remember when Alex Avila was a lost cause? Past his prime? Done in by too much use by manager Jim Leyland? Yeah, about that.
Avila hit two home runs Sunday, his offense single-handedly surpassing the Royals to give Detroit a 3-2 victory. Although that might be the most dramatic example of it, success at the plate has been the norm for Avila in the past few weeks rather than the exception.
Avila has struggled with the Mendoza line most of the season, falling as low as low as .163 with just .536 OPS in the middle of June before bouncing back in July. He actually climbed all the way up to a .200 average on the last day of the month, but slid again to start August, when he was lost for about two weeks after suffering a concussion.
That time on the disabled list may actually have helped him. The rest allowed time for his entire body to recover from the wear and tear of the season.
"When I came off the DL, my plan was to play the game as hard as I could to help the team win games," said Avila, who is batting .412 in September. "I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.
"I knew I could contribute. I had done it before. I just wasn't healthy until the second half of the season."
Although he batted .200 during the first few games after returning, the real change came in September. Seldom is an improvement so tidily tied to a date as Avila's was. A 3-for-3 performance Sept. 1 helped his average jump nine points to .207. For the month, Avila is batting .412, with .487 OBP and .676 slugging. For the second half, Avila has a .313/.376/.545 line for .922 OPS. No longer is he the black hole at the bottom of the lineup, he's looking much more like the player who batted .295 with a .895 OPS in 2011.
With Cabrera struggling -- his two hits Sunday lifted him above the Mendonza line to a .219 average in September -- a healthy Avila who continues to post resurgent numbers would go a long way toward helping the Tigers find success in the postseason.