Chris McCosky The Detroit News
Published 5:17 AM EDT Apr 3, 2019
New York — He got to second base and all he could do was hop up and down like he was on a pogo stick.
“Honestly, I blacked out,” said Tigers center fielder Dustin Peterson, after he delivered the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of the Tigers 3-1 win over the Yankees. “I didn’t know what to do. All the emotion, that’s just what came out of me.
“I was amped, pumped. I got my hit, scored the go-ahead run. That was awesome.”
Peterson, a rookie, was hitless in two pinch-hit at-bats with the Braves last season and he’d gone 0-for-7 so far this season. But against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of a 1-1 game Tuesday, with Niko Goodrum on first, Peterson ambushed a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball.
It left his bat with an exit velocity of 105.4 mph and sailed over the head of left-fielder Mike Tauchman. As first big-league hits go, it’d be hard to top this one — even if he had to wait a year and seven at-bats to get it.
“I don’t think I would change a thing,” said Peterson, whose parents were in attendance Tuesday. “That was a pretty good first hit, off a guy like that, go-ahead double — I will never forget this, that’s for sure.”
The Tigers retrieved the baseball for him and then poured all kinds of different fragrances, including beer, on him in the postgame shower.
“He just got pounded in there,” Gardenhire said. “They drowned him. He’s very excited. He had family here, you could hear a bunch of people screaming for him. Good for him. That’s what this game is about.”
BOX SCORE: Tigers 3, Yankees 1
Peterson’s heroics made possible by another brilliant outing by Jordan Zimmermann. He kept the Tigers in the game, while the offense was being stymied for 6⅔ innings by Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka.
“All you do in these games is keep grinding,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what these guys did. It was cold out there and Tanaka was tough, like he usually is. But our bullpen was good again and Zimmermann was fantastic.”
After allowing just one hit in seven shutout innings in Toronto, he limited the Yankees to a run and six hits in 6⅔ innings.
“We just stuck to the game plan and mixed it up well,” Zimmermann said. “We (him and catcher Grayson Greiner) were on the same page the whole night and I was able to keep the ball in the yard. It’s a small ballpark and I got a lot of fly balls. Luckily, none of them went out.”
The one run the Yankees scored came in the second and was set up by a blooped, opposite-field double by Tauchman. It put runners on second and third and the run scored on a sacrifice fly by Clint Frazier.
The only other stress Zimmermann encountered came in the fifth inning. Tyler Wade singled and stole second. With two outs, pitching coach Rick Anderson came out to discuss a strategy against Aaron Judge. Smartly, as it turned out, the decision was to walk him intentionally.
Zimmermann then struck out Luke Voit to end the inning.
“You always want to put up zeros and keep your team in the ballgame,” said Zimmermann, who struck out six. “Especially against Tanaka, it was basically going zeros for zeros and we were able to scratch some runs across late.
“We got the win, that’s all that matters.”
His slider and curveball were extremely effective. Of the 36 sliders he threw, six were swinging strikes and seven were called strikes. Of his 21 curveballs, five were whiffed on and three were called strikes.
He threw 36 four-seam fastballs, getting 10 called strikes with it.
Zimmermann left with two outs in the seventh after allowing a single to Austin Romine. Gardenhire decided to play the percentages, calling on lefty Daniel Stumpf to pitch to left-handed hitting Brett Gardner.
“That’s one of those bad feelings for a manager, to take a guy out when he’s got two outs,” Gardenhire said. “But I didn’t want him making a mistake to a lefty, he’s at 90-some pitches. That’s what we have the lefty for, for that situation.
“But I hate walking to the mound in that situation. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. But we did what he had to do to win.”
Stumpf struck him out with a 3-2 slider.
“There’s some history there,” Gardenhire said. “We did that last year and Gardner got him once, but I think Stumpf got him a couple of times. It’s one of those iffy things. Gardner is a real tough hitter.
“When it got to that point, we said let’s not let anything happen here that we’re going to regret..”
Asked if Zimmermann protested the move, Gardenhire smiled.
“No,” he said. “When I come out there, I’m the grim reaper. I don’t really go to have a conversation.”
Joe Jimenez, who was tagged for three runs in Toronto Sunday, bounced back with a scoreless eighth. He struck out Judge with three straight sliders.
“I just try to stay confident,” Jimenez said. “Try to stay in my game like always. It’s going to happen. Sometimes you are going to feel good and you don’t do that good. I just try to give my team a chance to win.”
The Tigers ended up with 11 hits. Jeimer Candelario had a pair of doubles, John Hicks had a single and a double and Nick Castellanos had two singles. Peterson, who got his first big-league start in center field, ended up scoring in the ninth on a single by Jordy Mercer.
Pretty good night for a guy who was optioned back to minor-league camp late in spring training, only to be brought back after JaCoby Jones injured his shoulder.
“I’ve just been doing everything I could do,” Peterson said. “I’m a competitor wherever I’m at. I like to compete and I am glad to be here with this team and helping them out.”
As for how he envisioned his first big-league hit?
“I didn’t see it being off of Chapman, to be honest, a flame-thrower like that,” he said. “I’ll definitely take it, that’s for sure. Just growing up, I wanted to get here. I wanted to make it. To finally make it and get my first hit like this, it’s special for me.”
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