ALCS notebook: Tigers drop Jackson from leadoff spot

Richard L. Shook, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- A lack of nerve is not one of Jim Leyland's problems, especially if it makes sense to him.
The Detroit Tigers manager adjusted his batting order for Wednesday night's American League Championship Series game against the Boston Red Sox, dropping strikeout-prone leadoff hitter Austin Jackson down to eighth and moving everybody else up a notch.
"I mean, we scored one run and no runs in two of the games," said Leyland, whose team entered Wednesday down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. "It certainly can't hurt. Just a little something to churn up the butter a little bit."
Torii Hunter inherited the leadoff spot, a position he last occupied as a starter in 2000. In 25 career games batting in the No. 1 slot, Hunter had a .164 batting average and a .211 on-base percentage However, he brought a .438 lifetime batting average against Boston starter Jake Peavy into the game.
Miguel Cabrera followed Hunter, with Prince Fielder batting third and Victor Martinez the cleanup hitter. Next was Jhonny Peralta (playing left field), Alex Avila, Omar Infante, Jackson and shortstop Jose Iglesias.
"You follow (Hunter) up with two guys who can hit it out of the park," Leyland said. "If you put Miggy and Victor back-to-back, you're talking about two guys you have to pinch-run for."
Leyland hoped to injury more offense into a pitching-dominated series.
Detroit starters allowed just two runs in 28 innings over the first three games. Boston starters gave up six runs in 18 2/3 innings.
Each team won a 1-0 game, with the Red Sox winning the middle contest 6-5 a game in which each team scored four runs in one inning.
A change was dictated, in Leyland's view, with Jackson slumping, Cabrera playing hurt and Fielder without an RBI in the first eight postseason games. Jackson will now take his 18 strikeouts in eight playoff games down near the bottom of the batting order.
"I don't always agree with you. You don't always agree with me," Leyland said. "But we both agree on one thing: We had to do something. I felt we had to shake it up a little bit.
"I'm not afraid to try something. I wrote it down, checked with a couple people and they really liked it.
"I even went so far as to have Mac (hitting coach Lloyd McClendon) text everybody, so when they came to the ballpark they weren't shocked when they saw a different lineup card. We've got to try something."
Boston manager John Farrell said of changing lineups, "You're looking to maybe gain a spark somewhere. We made a couple of changes in Game 2. Those are all just kind of gut feel and potential scenarios you walk through."
With the league's best offenses being held down by both teams' pitchers, moves were in order.
"I think it's probably different than we all envisioned," Farrell said. "With these two lineups to have 13 runs scored in the first three games ... for a baseball purist, this is the ideal first three games that you might see."
NOTES: Boston's Daniel Nava was set to start in left field in Game 4. Jonny Gomes started the previous two games, going 2-for-7 with five strikeouts. Nava went 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the series opener. ... Through the first three games of the series, the Red Sox were batting .133 and the Tigers were hitting .225. Each team had two home runs, but Boston's two blasts were game-changers: David Ortiz's game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 2, and Mike Napoli's seventh-inning shot that gave the Red Sox a 1-0 win in Game 3.