Seriously, has Miguel Cabrera ever even hit second in his career?
Detroit Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland obviously didn’t care, as he shook up his lineup prior to Game 4 of the ALCS with his team down 2-1. And boy did it pay off.
The Tigers offense found its rhythm with a 7-3 win to tie its series against the Red Sox at 2, after being shut out in Game 3. And it just so happened that the guys Leyland moved around came up clutch in big spots.
The whole purpose of the lineup shakeup involved normal Tigers’ leadoff man Austin Jackson, who had struck out 18 times in the eight postseason games prior to Game 4 of the ALCS. Jackson found himself penciled into the eighth spot in the lineup for the first time in his career.
“We had to do something,” Leyland said in his pre-game press conference. “It’s a little bit of a shocker, but, hey, you know, postseason, let’s try something. I’m not afraid to try something. Like I said, I thought long and hard about this last night. I wrote it down. It looks pretty good. I checked with a couple of people, and a couple people really liked it.”
Leyland said that he wanted Jackson’s defense in the lineup in support of Detroit starter Doug Fister. He actually said he was doing Jackson a favor.
“I am sticking with him (Jackson), just a different spot,” Leyland said. “The strikeouts so far, it’s got to get to you a little bit. And like I said, anybody can kick somebody when they’re down a little bit. I just wanted to refresh him, put him lower in the lineup, and hopefully that will relax him a little bit.”
Of course, Jackson came up in a huge spot in the bottom of the second inning with the bases loaded and one out. He could have been an early hero with a big hit, but he came through in a different way -- drawing a four-pitch walk that put the Tigers on the board.
Later that inning, the two guys that Leyland moved up in the order -- Torii Hunter and Cabrera -- each produced run-scoring hits as part of a five-run inning.
It certainly helped that Red Sox starter Jake Peavy uncharacteristically walked three Tigers in the inning and Dustin Pedroia bobbled a potential double-play ball.
Jackson later added an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, his second RBI of the game, a stolen base, another single in the bottom of the seventh and a walk in the bottom of the eighth. The lineup switch must have lit a fire under him, because he reached base in all four plate appearances.
Meanwhile, Cabrera recorded his first multi-hit game of this postseason and drove in two runs out of the No. 2 hole.
Naturally in the aftermath of it all, Leyland looks even more like a baseball genius than he already is.
“We scored one run and no runs in two of the games,” Leyland said prior to the game about making these lineup changes. “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. Not that they’ve been sleeping, they’ve been great games. Just a little something to churn up the butter a little bit.”
The butter was certainly churning in Game 4, as the Tigers scored more runs (seven) than they had in the previous three ALCS games (six).
Expect Leyland to run out the same lineup in Game 5, as the Tigers will take on lefty Jon Lester Thursday night. Detroit will counter with Anibal Sanchez, who defeated Lester 1-0 in Game 1.
My seven-game prediction is still looking good.
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