Hunter, Jackson lead Tigers’ 17-hit outburst

DETROIT — If you ask Torii Hunter, he and Austin Jackson are just here to serve.

“Austin gets on base and you’ve got to commend him, he’s the table setter for us,” Hunter said. “Those guys at the table, which would be Prince Fielder and (Miguel) Cabrera, those guys want to eat, so I’ve got to be the server and try to serve it up for them.”

It’s only been five games, but after Saturday’s 8-4 victory over the New York Yankees, Cabrera and Fielder have six and eight RBI, respectively. Both came into the game in the top 10 in the American League in that category.

Jackson, who reached base and scored in the first inning for the fifth straight game, has scored a team-high seven runs.

Add in the fact that he’s batting .429 and tied with Hunter for the team lead with nine hits, and it seems like Cabrera and Fielder will be dining regularly.

“Hopefully it can kind of put some pressure on [opponents] early in the ballgame,” Jackson said. “I think really trying to focus on getting good pitches, having good at-bats and getting out there for the guys behind me, it puts a lot of pressure on opposing teams.”

Cabrera and Fielder are going to get the bulk of the RBI opportunities, but they aren’t the only ones who can drive in runs.

On Saturday, in addition to Cabrera’s RBI single and Fielder’s two RBI on a sacrifice fly and fielder’s choice, Hunter had an RBI Double, Victor Martinez had a sacrifice fly, Andy Dirks had an RBI single and sacrifice fly and Jhonny Peralta had an RBI single.
“We swung the bats pretty good throughout the lineup and that’s a good thing to see,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We talk about it all the time, when you extend your lineup like that, that’s important.”

The Tigers managed to rack up 17 hits Saturday, which is not going to happen every day, but if Jackson and Hunter are at the top getting on base, they’ll be able to force the issue at times.

“I think it puts more pressure on the other team when those guys are out there and you’ve got those big guys coming up,” Leyland said. “That’s pretty stressful. I think that’s the big key.”

No doubt the Yankees’ pitchers are feeling stressed. Ivan Nova lasted just 4 2/3 innings Friday and Phil Hughes left after facing three batters and retiring none in the fifth inning Saturday.

When Hunter joined the Tigers and Leyland drew up his lineup, this kind of offense was what he had in mind.

“Yeah, that’s the way you envision it,” Hunter said. “You wish it could be like that every night, but that’s what we’re going to try to do every night. We’re just going to go out there and play the game of baseball. Whatever we’re capable of that night, is going to happen.

“Today is the perfect day — and it’s why I signed here as a free agent — to look at something like that.”

Another thing to look forward to is Martinez, who missed all of 2012 with a knee injury. He hasn’t even heated up yet, batting just .176 with one RBI. He hit .330 with 103 RBIs in 2011 and has a strong track record.

After the 17-hit outburst, the Tigers are now batting .292 as a team and are back over .500 at 3-2.

“It’s a long season, we just have to keep this going,” Cabrera said. “We have to stay focused and do our jobs so we can win as many games as we can.”