Between near-flawless pitching and power bats that couldn’t possibly keep quiet the whole series, Detroit showed why they deserve to be in the ALCS, whipping the Red Sox 7-3 and tying the series at two apiece.
All it took was a little curveball from manager Jim Leyland.
Reactions were mixed by Tigers faithful when Leyland announced that Austin Jackson would be batting 8th in the lineup for Game 4, while Torii Hunter would be moved up to leadoff, and Miguel Cabrera would be batting second.
“You can say I’m nuts, you can say I’m crazy, you can say I’m dumb, you can say whatever the hell you want,” the skipper said in a pre-game interview. “Jackson struck out 18 times. Leyland needs to do something. Well here it is. Have a good time with it.”
It seemed the Tigers had a good time with it too.
Detroit wasted no time in the second inning, getting a single from Victor Martinez then drawing two consecutive walks from Jake Peavy. After an Infante flyout to keep the bases loaded, the man drawing the most attention (from the lineup switch) walked to the plate in delicious postseason irony.
Jackson, batting .091 in the postseason with 18 strikeouts, was not anyone’s choice in this situation. However, he was patient and did something he’s only done twice in this postseason: he drew a walk.
Detroit abused Peavy after that, adding runs through a Hunter double and a Miguel Cabrera single. It was 5-0 after two innings. The Tigers finally got that run support the starting rotation had desperately been looking for.
Detroit cruised after that, using Fister’s shaky, but solid, start, pitching out of any jam he found himself in through six innings. The relief pitching did the rest, as Detroit took Game 4 with emphasis, 7-3.
In an ALCS defined by starting pitching, the highlight to take away was Hunter, Jackson, and Cabrera all notching two RBIs, proving that they are the same Tigers from the regular season. Peavy looked nervous and couldn’t locate his pitches, and Detroit was patient at the plate.
With an already exciting ALCS knotted at 2-2, the winner will be decided in, essentially, a three-game series. Ace Jon Lester will take the mound for Boston, while Detroit counters with Anibal Sanchez in a rematch of Game 1. Sanchez pitched six innings of no-hit baseball in that game, as Detroit was two outs away from only the third no-hitter in postseason history.
Leyland has said he plans to keep the same lineup as Game 4. Boston may want to take notes from the Tigers, going only 2-16 with runners in scoring position last night. Will the mix-up work again? Detroit will find out in a pivotal Game 5, tonight at 8 p.m.
Richie Cozzolino is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.