DETROIT — Before he decided to shake up his lineup, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he gave it plenty of thought.
He considered everyone. Reporters, players, fans, his coaches. In one form or another, they all said something had to change with the top of the order struggling and the Tigers hitting just .220 as a team in the first three games. Leyland figured he couldn’t argue with them.
“I was laying on my couch at home last night watching the Dodgers and the Cardinals, and I kept thinking, because I didn’t disagree with anybody saying we needed something” Leyland said. “I felt like fans, members of the media, myself, probably the players, if the truth be known, I think something had to be done. I don’t want to say this had anything to do with it.
“I thought about it long and hard, some people thought it would be maybe [Don] Kelly playing centerfield. But I didn’t think that was the answer, I thought long and hard about it and this is what I came up with.”
He took Austin Jackson out of the spotlight and scrutiny that came with being a leadoff hitter that couldn’t get on base in the postseason, dropping him into the eighth spot in the order and moving everyone else up a spot. It meant Torii Hunter would hit leadoff for the first time since 2000 and Miguel Cabrera would hit in the two hole for just the third time in his career.
There was no guaranteeing the tinkering would work, but seeing his team finally turn the bats on in a 7-3 win over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS, it was clear the Tigers were at a point where they needed to reshuffle the deck.
“This has nothing to do with Jim Leyland,” the manager said. “This is about the players. They executed, they came out, they played well. It was really a good game for us.”
“So we were very fortunate. And the series is tied. The only thing we know for sure is that we’re going back to Boston.”
Leyland knew that when players saw the new lineup, the changes would get their attention.
“I called my hitting coach Lloyd McClendon real early in the morning and I had him text the guys, so there would be no real shock when they came in,” Leyland said. “But I’m sure when they looked at it, they might not have believed when he texted them, but they believed it when they saw it. I don’t know if they went whoa. And maybe sometimes just a jolt like that gets you back in sync a little bit.”
With the exception of Prince Fielder, ever Tigers starter reached base.
Jackson, who came in 1 for 13 in the first three games, reached base in all four of his plate appearances going 2 for 2 with a pair of walks, including one in the second inning with the bases loaded that gave him his first RBI since Game 3 of the ALDS.
“That started everything,” said Hunter. “You’re hoping that it creates something different in our thought process and it did. For Austin it worked and if he had stayed in the leadoff spot we don’t know what would have happened. But he’s in the eight hole and what Jim Leyland did makes him a brilliant man.”
Leyland said he would throw the lineup card from Game 4 away (he’s not into memorabilia), but when he fills one out for tomorrow, it’ll be the same order.
“I really think you have to,” Leyland said. “I will go with that same lineup tomorrow. A lot of people contributed tonight and that was a good thing.”