It took quite a while for it to happen, but it appears Alex Avila may finally be getting comfortable at the plate for the Detroit Tigers.
Avila hit a home run on back-to-back days against Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. He pulled a grand slam to right-center off Strasburg on Tuesday and went the other way against Gonzalez Wednesday, showing that he is able to do more than just hit the ball to the right side of the infield. Avila is at his best offensively when he is able to hit the ball the other way, which he has been able to do over the last few days.
It’s been a long time coming for Avila, who was sent down to Triple-A to figure things out in mid-June. He’s now on a six-game hitting streak with a batting average nearing .200. The Mendoza line is far from impressive, but Avila’s defensive ability is what gives him the majority of his value.
The Tigers are best served with Avila doing well. While Brayan Pena has done an exceptional job as the team’s backup, they are better off with Avila behind the plate because of his extensive knowledge of the Tigers’ pitching staff, his familiarity with the team’s opponents and his ability to call a game.
Justin Verlander seems to pitch better with Avila behind the plate as well. The two of them form a solid battery that rarely results in mound visits simply because they usually know what each other wants to do with a particular batter. Verlander did issue five walks against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, but was able to limit the damage thanks in large part to Avila calling the pitches from behind the plate.