If Austin Jackson keeps this up, he’ll be headed to Kansas City for the All-Star Game next month.
Jackson has been showing his team what they have been missing when he was out from May 17 to June 9 with an abdominal strain.
After his successful two-game rehabilitation start in Toledo last Thursday and Friday, Jackson said of the Tigers, “I’m ready to rejoin them and try to help them out a little bit.”
In the five games since his return from the disabled list, Jackson has six hits — including two doubles and two home runs. He has eight RBIs in his last four games, plus a spectacular catch up against the wall to end Wednesday night’s victory.
The second of those home runs came in the top of the ninth inning Thursday, helping the Tigers (30-33) defeat the Chicago Cubs (21-42), 5-3. At the time, the Tigers had a 3-2 lead, which would not have been enough as the Cubs scored a run in the bottom of the ninth.
“Particularly in this place because you saw the leadoff hitter get on in the ninth, blooped the ball down there,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I managed a lot of games in the National League so it can be a nightmare late, particularly if the wind’s blowing out a little bit to left.
“You can get your heart broke here pretty quick so we were fortunate we added a few on.”
Pinch hitter Don Kelly hit a triple that might have been an inside-the-park home run with one out to start the ninth. But Jackson made sure he wasn’t stranded.
“That’s one of those situations where you’re just doing your best to do the job, maybe hit the ball hard somewhere — hit it to the outfield, try to get that runner in,” Jackson said. “It just so happened I hit a home run.”
Before Jackson was injured, he was batting .331 with 10 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 17 RBIs. While Quintin Berry did a fine job filling in for Jackson, Jackson has more power and plays Comerica Park’s center field with more ease.
Jackson said he was inspired by the many Tigers fans in attendance.
“This is awesome,” Jackson said. “It kind of sends chills down your spine a little bit when you hear the ‘Let’s go, Tigers’ chant. You couldn’t ask for anything more on the road.
“Sometimes you need that extra support, it gives you that extra motivation going out there.”
The Cubs announced that the three-game total attendance was 124,782, the largest midweek total for a series in Wrigley Field history.
Justin Verlander, who allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out eight in eight innings, earned his first victory since May 18 against Pittsburgh, improving to 6-4. Although he did not get his first hit, Verlander did have two successful sacrifice bunts.
“This whole series has been fantastic,” Verlander said. “I remember 2006, it was pretty similar. So close to home, it’s a good experience for our hometown fans to come out here and come see a game in Wrigley Field, such a historic place.
“That’s why they pack it in the way they do.”
The Tigers won back-to-back series for the first time since the first two series of the season.
Perhaps, now that Jackson is back and some of the other Tigers have started to heat up, so will the team.
“It’s definitely big,” Jackson said. “Momentum for us going home, hopefully we can do well there. We’ve been battling all year long.
“We know we still have work to do but we’ve been playing well, hopefully we can keep it going.”