The Detroit manager shook up his lineup before Game 4 of the AL championship series Wednesday, dropping slumping outfielder Austin Jackson from the leadoff spot to eighth in the order. Other hitters essentially moved up a spot, with Torii Hunter leading off and Miguel Cabrera hitting second.
The Tigers trailed the Boston Red Sox 2-1 in the series. Detroit won the opener 1-0, but the bullpen collapsed in a 6-5 loss in Game 2 and Boston prevailed 1-0 in Game 3.
"We scored one run and no runs in two of the games," Leyland said. "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, you know, churn up the butter a little bit."
Jackson was 3 for 33 with 18 strikeouts in this year’s postseason. Only twice in his career, including postseason, had he started a game hitting anywhere other than leadoff, according to STATS.
"I think I’m actually doing Austin Jackson a favor," Leyland said. "He’s getting kicked around pretty good right now. I think it’s easy to kick people when they’re down. I’m not taking him out of the lineup, so I am sticking with him."
Hunter was in the starting lineup as a leadoff hitter for the first time since July 4, 1999, when he played for the Minnesota Twins. The last time Cabrera started a game hitting second was June 28, 2004, when he played for the Florida Marlins.
One person unaffected by the changes? Shortstop Jose Iglesias, who was set to bat ninth, as expected.
"I agree with all you people and I think you agree with me on this one — we had to do something," Leyland said. "It’s a little bit of a shocker, but, hey, you know, postseason, let’s try something. I’m not afraid to try something."
Leyland was asked if he worried his team would think he was panicking.
"I can’t cover everything," he said. "You guys wanted me to change something, and now you want to find the flaw in something we changed. I did what I thought was the right thing to do, and I really wanted to give you guys something to write about and talk about. This should be a good time for you.
"You can say I’m nuts, you can say I’m dumb, you can say whatever you want. It does give you something to write about, other than, `Jackson struck out 18 times, Leyland needs to do something.’ So here it is, have a good time with it. We’ll see how it plays out — and I will be willing to answer the questions after the game."