DETROIT TIGERS ALCS

Leyland lineup provides jolt

Tigers skipper: ‘We had to do something’ to wake up bats

10/17/2013
BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Batting second for the first time since 2004, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera hit RBI singles in the second and fourth innings.
Batting second for the first time since 2004, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera hit RBI singles in the second and fourth innings.

DETROIT — Tigers manager Jim Leyland knew not all would like the particulars of his lineup renovations Wednesday night.

What everyone could agree on was this:

“We had to do something,” Leyland said before Game 4 of the AL championship series. “It’s a little bit of a shocker, but hey, you know, it’s the postseason. Let’s try something. I’m not afraid to try something.”

Attempting to revive the Tigers’ silenced offense, Leyland dropped struggling center fielder Austin Jackson from leadoff to the eighth spot and bumped his top hitters up a rung in the order. Torii Hunter batted first, followed by reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta.

It was such a major shakeup that Leyland had hitting coach Lloyd McClendon text players with the news before they arrived at Comerica Park.

Jackson batted somewhere other than leadoff for just the third time in his career, Hunter was in the top spot for the first time since 1999, and Cabrera had not hit second since 2004.

Yet with the Tigers facing a 2-1 series deficit after Tuesday’s shutout loss, Leyland had seen enough.

“I thought long and hard about this, and I think it makes a lot of sense, I really do,” he said. “I mean, we scored one run and no runs in two of the games. It certainly can’t hurt. We’re going to take a shot. 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. ... Just a little something to churn up the butter a little bit.”

The biggest jolt was moving Jackson, who began the night 3 for 33 with 18 strikeouts in the playoffs and on the wrong end of loudening jeers.

“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.”

 

Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, right, is greeted by Victor Martinez after scoring Miguel Cabrera’s single in the second inning during Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday in Detroit. Hunter earlier reached on a two-run double, part of a five-run inning.
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, right, is greeted by Victor Martinez after scoring Miguel Cabrera’s single in the second inning during Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday in Detroit. Hunter earlier reached on a two-run double, part of a five-run inning.

DRAGGING ON: Ever wondered how a 1-0 thriller can make time stop?

The Tigers and Red Sox have played two of the three longest 1-0 nine-inning games in postseason history — including the record 3-hour, 56-minute marathon in Game 1. Boston’s 1-0 win Tuesday went 3:20.

“I don’t want anybody to take this wrong, but we’re basically playing a Red Sox‑Yankees in‑season game,” Leyland said. “They seem to go a long time. If you watch them on Sunday night on ESPN, they go on forever for whatever reason. We’re playing Boston, so now we’re a culprit, too. I don’t really know. You’ve got the TV, obviously, so it’s longer between innings. You’ve got the seventh inning, ‘God Bless America,’ and things of that nature, which we’re certainly all for.

“But I’ve always said that these games, they’re like a movie. If it’s a good movie you don’t mind staying a little longer. If it’s a bad movie, you don't mind leaving early.”

 

TUNING IN: The series continues to be a ratings hit.

Through three games, the ALCS on Fox is averaging a 4.4 rating and 6.9 million viewers — up 26 percent from Fox’s coverage of last year’s NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

Detroit leads all markets, with Game 3 drawing a 26.7 rating and 49 share (percentage TV sets in use tuned to the game). Boston was second (20.8/​42), followed by Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and Fort Myers, Fla. Cleveland came in eighth (4.6/​10).

 

EXTRA INNINGS: Former Tigers great Lou Whitaker threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Before the game, he held court with reporters on everything from shortstop Jose Iglesias being the first Tiger to wear No. 1 since he retired in 1995 — “He was brave enough to ask for it and got it” — to a young Prince Fielder. “Well, he loved to eat,” Whitaker said, laughing. “He always had a hot dog here, a soda here, and a popcorn there.” ... So what can Anibal Sanchez do for an encore? After striking out 12 in six no-hit innings in Game 1, the Tigers will turn to the league’s ERA leader in Game 5 today. “I know the situation is [big],” Sanchez said Wednesday. “But tomorrow is one day. I’m not going to think too much about where we’re at.”