Well, you don’t see that every day. Or ever, in the Tigers’ case.
Alex Avila, who until Wednesday night looked like he couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag, just turned in one of the best offensive efforts ever by a Tigers catcher.
His five RBIs, sure, were impressive — but lots of Tigers catchers have done that. Sixteen to be exact, 33 different times. Guys like Pudge Rodriguez, Bill Freehan, Mickey Cochrane, Lance Parrish, Matt Nokes, Mickey Tettleton, Rudy York, etc. Heck, even Jim Price.
But what makes Avila’s night stand out among most of the others was his eighth-inning steal of second base.
Only one other Tigers catcher ever has had at least five RBIs and a stolen base in the same game: Cochrance, who stole two in a 1934 game. But he had all singles, while Avila had a homer, double and a single, making Avila’s night even more impressive.
And if you want to take Avila’s night futher, we can look broader, and this is what you’ll find — after you use the nifty Play Index at BaseballReference.com: Only three — three! — other catchers, since 1919, have had a game in which they had at least one double, one home run, one stolen base and five RBIs. The last to do it was Jerry Grote in 1981. The others: Gary Carter and Bob O’Farrell.
What does all this mean? Not much, in the grand scheme of things. Except this, dear impatient Tigers fans: Perhaps it’s time to lay off Avila for one day — after some factions absurdly jumped all over him, in a season a whopping 150 hours old. He may not be Gerald Laird defensively, but he’s not Gerald Laird offensively, either — and thank the baseball gods for that. He’ll hit some days and look phenomenal. He’ll miss other days and look downright awful. It’s called being 24 in the major leagues.
There are ups, there are downs. And for one night, at least, he put it all together.
And found himself in some pretty special company.