Manager Jim Leyland dropped Austin Jackson to eighth in the batting order, hoping to relax the slumping Detroit Tigers outfielder.
So naturally, Jackson’s first plate appearance came with the bases loaded. After drawing a four-pitch walk to force in a run, he finally felt a little more at ease.
A revitalized Jackson delivered in Leyland’s revamped lineup as the Tigers built a big lead and held on this time, beating the Boston Red Sox 7-3 Wednesday night to even the best-of-seven American League Championship Series at 2-2. Detroit scored five runs in the second inning, the first coming home on Jackson’s walk.
”It was a big situation right there to try to get something done,” Jackson said. ”I think after I’d seen a couple of pitches I was able to kind of just take some deep breaths and relax a little bit — and not worry so much about the result, just try to get a good pitch.”
Jackson finished with two singles and two walks. He was 3 for 33 with 18 strikeouts in this postseason before Wednesday.
Torii Hunter had a two-run double and Miguel Cabrera drove in two runs after Leyland moved the slumping Jackson out of the leadoff spot and bumped almost everyone else up a place following the Tigers’ 1-0 loss in Game 3. The Detroit manager was quick to deflect credit afterward.
”This has nothing to do with Jim Leyland, this is about the players,” Leyland said. ”They executed, they came out, they played well.”
Jackson’s bases-loaded walk off Jake Peavy in the second seemed to be a relief for most of Comerica Park. Another strikeout could have derailed the rally, but instead the Tigers broke the game open.
Doug Fister, meanwhile, provided another fine outing for Detroit. He allowed a run in six innings, and the Tigers’ starting pitchers have yielded only three runs in 27 ALCS innings — and struck out 42.
After blowing a 5-0 lead in Game 2, Detroit kept the Red Sox at bay Wednesday.
Game 5 is Thursday night in Detroit. The Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez faces Boston’s Jon Lester in a rematch of Game 1, which was won by Detroit 1-0.
Jacoby Ellsbury had four hits for the Red Sox on Wednesday, finishing a homer shy of the cycle, but now it’s Boston manager John Farrell fielding questions about whether a lineup shakeup is in order after another tough night against Detroit’s pitching.
”The one thing that we’ve maintained is a constant approach with the lineup and not creating further uncertainty,” Farrell said. ”I think our guys have responded well to that.”
The Tigers lost Games 2 and 3, wasting gems by Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Leyland left Jackson in the lineup but changed the batting order. Jackson hit eighth, and with others moving up a spot, it made for an odd-looking lineup. Hunter hit leadoff for the first time since 1999 and Cabrera was second for only the third time in his career — first since 2004.
”That was pretty good. He switched things up, kind of shake it up a little bit,” Hunter said. ”It gave us a different mindset. Miggy hitting second, me leading off. It gave us a different mindset to make things happen.”
Leyland indicated his batting order would remain the same in Game 5. But will he be doing anything special with the lineup card from Wednesday’s game?
”I’ll throw it away, unless I can sell it to some bar on the way home,” he said.
Jackson found himself batting in a crucial situation right away in the second. Peavy walked him to force home the game’s first run.
The Red Sox had a chance to halt that rally when Jose Iglesias hit a potential double play grounder to second, but Dustin Pedroia couldn’t field it cleanly and Boston had to settle for a forceout at second that brought another run home.
”That was my fault. We’ve got to turn that double play,” Pedroia said. ”That ball was smoked. If I catch it, we’re getting two.”
Hunter followed with a double down the line in left to make it 4-0, and Cabrera added an RBI single.
After walking three batters in the second inning, Peavy was in trouble again in the fourth. After a leadoff double by Omar Infante, Jackson slapped a single past a diving Pedroia to bring home a run.
”It felt good to contribute to a win,” Jackson said. ”Just get a chance to go out there and not put so much pressure on yourself, just have fun.”
Cabrera’s single made it 7-0, and the Detroit third baseman — who has been running even slower than usual the past month or so because of groin problems — caught reliever Brandon Workman and the Boston defense napping when he stole second without a throw.
In the fifth, Cabrera looked healthy enough when he charged Pedroia’s slow grounder, barehanded it and threw to first for the out.
Peavy allowed seven runs and five hits in three-plus innings.
Detroit blew a 5-0 lead in Game 2 — with the bullpen responsible for most of the damage — and Cabrera and Prince Fielder both struck out with runners at the corners in the eighth inning of Game 3. The tension was building in Motown, but the defending AL champions jumped out to an early lead Wednesday.
David Ortiz’s tying grand slam in Game 2 off Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit kept the Tigers from sweeping the first two games at Fenway Park.
Detroit went to Benoit in the ninth Wednesday with a 7-2 lead, and Ellsbury hit an RBI triple with none out. But Benoit struck out Shane Victorino, ensuring that Ortiz wouldn’t be able to bat as the tying run later in the inning.
When Ortiz did come up for his rematch with Benoit, there was only one man on. The Boston designated hitter took another mighty swing, but his high fly to right was caught easily.
Detroit had taken a no-hitter into the fifth inning of its previous four games. Pedroia’s single in the first put an end to that streak, but the Red Sox didn’t do much against Fister.
Boston had a chance to score first in the second. Mike Napoli, whose homer accounted for the only run of Game 3, led off with a double off the tip of Cabrera’s glove and went to third on a groundout. Cabrera caught Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s foul popup against the railing of the Detroit dugout, and Fister struck out Stephen Drew.
After the Tigers scored five in the second, Boston put two on for Ortiz in the third. He pulled a grounder into Detroit’s shifted defense for the third out.
Saltalamacchia hit an RBI single in the sixth, but Fister got out of a two-on, one-out situation after that. The right-hander allowed eight hits and a walk, striking out seven.
Victorino hit an RBI double in the seventh to make it 7-2.
NOTES: The Boston bullpen, which has been outstanding in this postseason, worked five scoreless innings. . . . Drew Smyly got five outs in relief for Detroit, helping the Tigers get the game to Benoit.