After watching his lineup get shut out in Game 3 of the ALCS, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is ready to try something drastic. But is this a panic move or could it provide a jolt to a team that's only scored six runs in its past three games?
Roughly five hours before the start of Game 4 on Wednesday, Detroit announced its starting lineup and it has quite a different look from what we've seen during the Tigers' postseason run.
Austin Jackson, who's batting .071 in the ALCS with five strikeouts in 14 plate appearances, has been pushed from the leadoff spot to eighth in the lineup. Torii Hunter takes over the at the top of the order. Miguel Cabrera will bat second, with Prince Fielder hitting third and Victor Martinez in the cleanup spot.
Here's the full lineup:
1. Torii Hunter, RF
2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
3. Prince Fielder, 1B
4. Victor Martinez, DH
5. Jhonny Peralta, LF
6. Alex Avila, C
7.Omar Infante, 2B
8.Austin Jackson, CF
9. Jose Iglesias, SS
With sinkerballer Doug Fister pitching Game 4 for the Tigers, starting Iglesias at shortstop was a must. Putting Peralta in left field is risky, but he's been one of Detroit's best hitters this postseason, batting .417 with a 1.125 OPS. Leyland absolutely needs his bat in the lineup, even if it causes problems defensively. (Does Peralta chase down David Ortiz's fourth inning deep fly ball to left-center field, as Andy Dirks did in Game 3? It's unlikely.)
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal points out on Twitter that Hunter hasn't batted leadoff since July 1999. He only has 71 career plate appearances batting first in the lineup, compiling a .164 average and .211 on-base percentage. But there really isn't another suitable candidate on the Tigers' roster right now.
The important thing was getting Jackson out of that spot. He's been awful during the postseason, batting .091 with 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats. (However, Jackson does have a .321 career average and .938 OPS against Jake Peavy, the Red Sox's scheduled starter for Game 4.) Leyland said after losing Game 3 that he was considering putting Don Kelly in center field and batting him leadoff. Considering Kelly is batting .222 and doesn't provide the same level of defense, that probably wasn't the right move.
Batting Cabrera second is also notable, as it should get him more at-bats during the game. Leyland has occasionally been a proponent of putting a power hitter in the No. 2 spot, believing it could generate some quick offense.
Red Sox manager John Farrell is leaving his lineup essentially the same for Game 4, only substituting Daniel Nava in left field for Jonny Gomes and batting him sixth.