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Published: 10/8/2013 - Updated: 6 months ago

SPORTS COMMENTARY

A Magical day for Tigers, Leyland

Sometimes a manager gets lucky, sometimes he’s just good

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

DETROIT — He stuck with Doug Fister.

He stuck with Max Scherzer.

He stuck with Jhonny Peralta.

My goodness, Jim Leyland even stuck with Austin Jackson.

Sometimes a manager gets lucky. Sometimes he’s just good. And sometimes he gets a Game 5 in the ALDS.

Leyland and his Detroit Tigers seemed poised to give up the ghost, but never quite got there, so the season continues Thursday in Oakland, the series tied 2-2 after the Tigers toppled the A’s 8-6 Tuesday night.

Fister started, struggled from the get-go, but gutted it out through six innings. Peralta is back after a 50-game PED suspension; a cheater in some eyes, a much-welcomed and needed bat in the eyes of the Tigers. He knows he’s fortunate to be back in uniform.

"I feel, you know, really good that they gave me the opportunity here," he said. "I tried to be ready for the playoff, and I tried to do my best for the team and for the fans here in Detroit."

Peralta drove in two of his team’s three runs in a Monday loss. He hit a three-run homer to tie this one in the bottom of the fifth and hit a double in the seventh that was turned into the run that snapped a 4-4 tie. The Tigers didn’t trail again.

That run, by the way, crossed on a broken-bat blooper to right by Jackson, who was at that point 1-for-14 with 10 strikeouts.

“I was just happy that it fell,” Jackson said. “Looking over in the dugout and seeing how pumped up they all were for me, it just kind of gave me chills.”

Added Leyland: “Sometimes that’s the magic that gets a guy going.”

Baseball is a game. The poetry of it is sometimes over the top. But there did seem to be something a tad magical at play Tuesday night as the Tigers fought back from the brink.

And the most magical of all those moments came in the top of the eighth inning with Scherzer on the mound.

Leyland was mildly second-guessed before the game for not going to his ace on short rest to start a must-win game. He said he gave it no thought, but hinted that since Justin Verlander would be in reserve for a possible Game 5 after a travel day, Scherzer just might be available out of the bullpen in the late innings.

Sure enough, Max came on in the seventh, allowed a tie-breaking run, went back out in the eighth with a one-run lead, and got in immediate trouble. The righty walked the leadoff batter, gave up a double, and then intentionally walked the bases loaded with nobody out. Next up? Three straight left-handed hitters.

“I hated to load him up, but [Oakland’s Seth] Smith has been so hot and Max is a strikeout guy, so you take your shot,” Leyland said.

Scherzer admitted he was a little wild. “I didn’t have my best command, but when it counted in full counts I was able to execute some pitches.”

He got Josh Reddick on an ugly 3-2 changeup at the ankles, then got Stephen Vogt swinging at a 3-2 fastball. He held his breath as pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo sliced a shot to left that was barely foul before lining out to Jackson in center.

“It was surreal to be able to get an out in that situation and keep the one-run lead,” Scherzer said. “That’s the stuff you dream about pitching; bases loaded, eighth inning, no outs, and I was able to do it. I mean, that’s something I’ll never forget. Obviously, [Leyland] had the confidence in me to stick with me. For me to get those left-handed hitters out in that situation …”

Magical.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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