PRINCE FIELDER displays home run prowess. — Dan Graschuck photo
The Motor City has been on fire this summer, with temperatures soaring to record heights. The Detroit Tigers amid very lofty expectation had been cool as the other side of the pillow. However, just before the All-Star break the Tigers heated up and won five consecutive games, improving to 44-42, two games above .500 for the first time since April 25.
The Tigers’ lofty expectations were due in part to the team making it to the America League pennant title game versus Texas, then they signed slugger Prince Fielder as a free agent and the hype went into overdrive.
Fielder and American League batting champion Miguel Cabrera batting next to each other, on paper, was supposed to produce one of the most, if not the most, intriguing and arresting offensive tandems in both leagues.
So far they have not disappointed, but injuries and role players like catcher Alex Avila, infielder Jhonny Peralta, and outfielders Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn were at career highs last year but are pedestrian at best in the 2012 season.
Many Tigers fans were concerned that in the midst of the team showing an upswing, the All-Star break comes and could possibly slow that long awaited momentum all in the Motor City has been waiting for.
Before 40,351 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City at the All-Star Home Run Derby, Fielder showed all that he is still in a solid groove by becoming only the second player, Ken Griffey Jr. is the other, to win the Home Run Derby twice. With the 2012 title, Fielder became the first player to win the Home Run Derby in both the American and National leagues.
Fielder thrilled the crowd with several monster shots into the right-field fountain, beating Toronto’s Jose Bautista 12-7 in the final. The Tigers slugger put on the most powerful display among baseball’s big boppers. He won at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium three years ago, and came back and produced 28 home runs over three rounds to cap the main event on the eve of the All-Star game. Five of his longest homers were 476 feet, 464 feet, 461 feet, 458 feet and 448 feet. Six of Fielder’s majestic home runs splashed into the colorful fountains at Kauffman Stadium.
“Just being mentioned with him is real special,” said Fielder, who spent time at Griffey’s house when he was a kid. “My dad would let me go over and play video games all day. He always took care of me when I was a kid.”
And to think Fielder almost didnt get out of the first round, hitting just five home runs before a festive audience. Fortunately for Prince, Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), Matt Kemp (L.A. Dodgers) and Robinson Cano (New York Yankees) all call came up short.
Given new life, Fielder went to work, smacking 11 bombs in the second round to get to the finals against Bautista. Then Fielder went into beast mode, smacking dinger after dinger, much to the awe of the Royals’ home faithful.
As the second half of the season commences, manager Jim Leyland said, “It’s what I talked about all year — it’s combinations, good bullpen, big hits, good pitching and big home runs. There’s no secret to what it takes to win. When you’re winning, you normally get good combinations going for you, and when you’re losing, you don’t. We’ve had some pretty good combinations going before the All-Star break. Hopefully we can keep it going.”