Tigers’ lineup shuffle pays off in Game 4 win over Red Sox
Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (1) is congratulated by third baseman Miguel Cabrera after scoring against the Boston Red Sox during Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park October 16, 2013. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)
It wasn’t as if Jim Leyland had many options.
His Detroit Tigers offence was stalled. Six paltry runs in three games and five of those runs came in a Game 2 soul-crushing 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
He had to shake up his lineup. Austin Jackson was killing him in the leadoff spot, hitless in the first three games of the American League Championship Series and just 3-for-33 in the playoffs.
So, prior to Game 4 Wednesday, Leyland pulled Jackson from the top of the order and moved him to the eight-hole in the lineup, moving seven hitters up one spot each. That made Torii Hunter a leadoff man for the first time in 10 years. Miguel Cabrera batted second for the first time since 2004.
Some managers might have consulted a SABRmetrician before making such an adjustment prior to a playoff game. Leyland, who invented old school, no doubt consulted a glass of Jack Daniel’s.
And, of course, it all worked like Leyland knew exactly what he was doing as the Tigers went off for seven early runs against Boston starter Jake Peavy and then needed most of them as the Red Sox rallied late, falling short in a 7-3 Detroit win. The best-of-seven series is now tied at two wins apiece.
The Tigers scored five runs in a bat-around second inning and two more in the fourth to build a 7-0 lead for Detroit starter Doug Fister who, like his three rotation-mates before him, kept the BoSox lineup in check. Fister worked six innings, allowed eight hits and only one run, while striking out seven.
“I mean, we scored one run and no runs in two of the games,” said Leyland before the game. “(The lineup change) certainly can’t hurt. If nothing else, when guys look at the lineup card they kind of look at it a little bit. And maybe it wakes you up a little bit. Not that they’ve been sleeping, they’ve been great games. Just a little something to, you know, churn up the butter a little bit.”
Over the course of the first four games of the series, Tiger starters Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and now Fister have pitched 27 innings, allowed 14 hits and just three runs while striking out 42, yet the Tigers couldn’t score enough to win more than one of those first three games. Between them, the two teams had scored but 13 runs, six by Detroit and seven by the Red Sox. In this one, the Tigers more than doubled their series output.
From his new spot in the order, Jackson gained life. He went two-for-two with two walks, one of them with the bases-loaded that started the scoring parade for Detroit in the second. He drove in a second run in the fourth.
“Well, I think I’m actually doing Austin Jackson a favor,” Leyland said. “He’s getting kicked around pretty good right now. I think it’s easy to kick people when they’re down. I’m not taking him out of the lineup, so I am sticking with him. If I was taking guys out of the lineup, when you’re in the postseason you don’t really bench somebody, you might sit them. During the season you bench them for a week or something. There’s not anything like being benched in the postseason.”
It’s hard to know if it was Leyland’s revised lineup or Peavy’s loss of composure that kick-started the Detroit offence. The Tigers couldn’t care less what it was as they batted around, climbing all over Peavy for five runs in the bottom of the second.
After Detroit’s top three — Hunter, Cabrera and Fielder — went quietly in the first, new cleanup man Victor Martinez led off the second with a single. Peavy then lost the strike zone, walking the next two batters, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila to load the bases.
Martinez, playing despite a calf injury, did not try to score on Omar Infante’s flyball to short centre field but then Jackson, the man at the centre of all the lineup-shuffling, drew another walk to score the game’s first run.
“It helped to get to see some of the pitches he was throwing before I got up there,” said Jackson. “I’ve been scuffling. It’s not a secret. I was happy I was still in there. The goal was to just get me relaxed. When you’re in that leadoff spot, the tendency is to press a little bit to get things going.”
Jose Iglesias then stroked what could have been an inning-ending double-play ball but Pedroia didn’t field it cleanly, getting an out at second as another run scored. Hunter followed with a double down the left field line that scored two more and then Cabrera capped off the uprising with an RBI single that scored Hunter.
“We contributed to the building of the inning,” said Boston manager John Farrell. “You’re asking for trouble giving them additional baserunners and the missed double play could have cut it off at two runs.”
When Infante led off the Detroit fourth with a double and Jackson singled him home off Pedroia’s glove, that was it for Peavy, who gave up five hits and three walks while getting only nine outs. When Jackson eventually scored on a two-out Cabrera single, Peavy was officially charged with seven runs.
“This didn’t have anything to do with Jim Leyland,” said Leyland. “It’s about the players. You just do as a manager what you think you need to do to win the game but the players made this happen.”
The Red Sox bunched three singles together against Fister in the sixth to score their first run. In the seventh, with Fister out of the game, Shane Victorino doubled in Ellsbury. In the ninth inning, the Red Sox got another run but the rallied fizzled after Ellsbury tripled home Will Middlebrooks, who had doubled.
“This such a dangerous team,” said Leyland, speaking of the Red Sox. “They never quit. Those veterans grind it out. They’re tough and I think we showed that we’re tough, too.”