MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers outfielder Matt Vierling punished a pair of sliders into the second deck at Target Field for his second-career multi-home run performance in Friday’s 7-1 win over the Minnesota Twins.
He continues to rake in his return from the injured list.
The 26-year-old, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in an offseason trade, is hitting .529 (9-for-17) with three home runs, two walks and three strikeouts in five games since being activated from the 10-day injured list — on Monday after missing 12 games — from lower back soreness.
“No changes,” Vierling said. “I kind of felt good before that, and then obviously the back started bothering me for two or three games there. But I really don’t feel like I changed anything. I’ve been consistent with my routines, and I’m feeling good.”
In Friday’s fourth inning, Vierling hit a third-pitch slider on the inside part of the plate from right-hander Joe Ryan. In the ninth, he hit another third-pitch slider on the inside part of the plate off right-handed reliever Josh Winder.
He crushed the home runs into the upper deck in left field — his pull side — with 104 mph and 105.6 mph exit velocities, respectively.
The first home run traveled 428 feet. The second homer traveled 430 feet.
“He’s obviously freed up and swinging at some pretty good pitches and getting the ball airborne to the seats,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s got a couple of homers but also some really key base hits the other way and on the ground, and he’s played good defense. It’s great to have him back. It balances out our lineup a ton and gives another good at-bat.”
After the second home run, #VierlingASG started trending on Twitter, but for those paying attention — including one of Vierling’s friends — the hashtag has been picking up steam since Wednesday, the day after Vierling returned from the injured list … though perhaps not for the kindest reason.
Somehow, Vierling was chosen as the poster boy for the movement.
“I had a buddy send it to me,” Vierling said, when asked about the trending hashtag. “I’m like, ‘What are the chances something like this happens?’ Just messing around, he’s like, ‘Probably not.’ But then like every person keeps on saying it.”
The top six outfielders in each league from Phase 1 of the voting — which lasts until noon Thursday — will be reveled on MLB Network at 6 p.m. Thursday. Those six outfielders from each league will advance to Phase 2 of voting — on the noons June 26-29 — to determine the three outfielders from each league selected by the fans.
Vierling is hitting .268 with seven home runs, 19 RBIs, 13 walks and 38 strikeouts in 51 games this season, along with a .750 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. It seems unlikely he will advance to Phase 2 of the fan voting, but he is giving baseball fans a reason to vote because of his performance in the past five games.
Most importantly, Vierling is doing more than his fair share for the offense as the Tigers have won back-to-back games for the first time since late May.
“Every night, you get someone else to step up,” Vierling said. “That’s how you do it, especially with some guys injured. Hitting and pitching, to get guys to step up on both sides is how you piece together some wins. It’s hard to rely on guys every night to have a huge night, so when everybody steps up throughout the lineup at a certain time, it’s really big.”