For the next several weeks we’ll be rolling out our list of the best The Moment’s of 2013. The list is the product of winnowing down 173 moments from April to October into the best twenty. They vary in their importance but all captivated us in an important way. A few are silly, a few are excellent plays, and a few will travel down in Tigers lore. I hope you enjoy it.
#20: Alex Avila hits a grand slam off Stephen Strasburg
[click to play]
Beating an under-performing Nationals team doesn’t jump out as one of the more important wins of the 2013 season, but the way in which the Tigers scored the decisive runs earns it a place on our list. Entering the day, Alex Avila was hitting .193/.289/.309 and had struck out 29.6% of the time. The year was looking like a nightmare. He had performed better in July after coming off the DL, but he was still nowhere near where he wanted to be.
That night, he drew a tough assignment – Stephen Strasburg. Now Strasburg wasn’t getting the kind of national attention some other young stars were but his season was extremely impressive once you got beyond the ridiculous standard he set for himself. To date, Avila had 6 HR and all were against fastballs between 89-94 mph.
Then came his 6th inning at bat against one of the best arms in baseball. Strasburg got ahead 0-1 before putting two inside and leaving the count at 2-1. The bases were loaded. The score was tied. Strasburg came down and in at 96 mph. To date, Avila had exactly one hit against a pitch 96 mph or higher which got through a hole on the ground against Fernando Rodney.
On this night, he turned on it and sent it flying deep into the Michigan summer. 5-1, Tigers lead. Here comes Avila. You know the rest. From that day forward he hit .299/.377/.514 and looked a whole lot like the Alex Avila who took the league by storm in 2011. He led the Tigers staff through one of the best pitching seasons of all time and punctuated it with a couple more appearances further down this list.
The season didn’t start very well for Avila, but as the summer wore on his luck started to turn. It’s not often than a .190 hitter makes the great Strasburg hang his head in shame, but on July 30, 2013 that’s exactly what we saw.
In a season of great moments, this one trailed only 19 others. Watch the video and enjoy. Only 156 days until Opening Day.