Churn, baby, churn.
Jim Leyland said Wednesday that he wanted to “churn up the butter a little bit,” which led to a shuffled lineup against Jake Peavy in Game 4 of the ALCS. Leyland’s batch of better butter wasted no time getting on a roll, as the Tigers scored five times in the second inning en route to a 7-3 victory over the Red Sox.
Leyland’s biggest change to Detroit’s lineup came at the top of the order. Austin Jackson, who had been hitting .091 (3-for-33) in the postseason, was dropped to eighth in the lineup, while Torii Hunter batted leadoff for the first time since 1999. Everyone else slid up, meaning that Miguel Cabrera found himself in the unique position of batting second. It all worked out beautifully for the Tigers.
Jackson walked on four pitches with the bases loaded and one out in the second inning to open up the scoring. Peavy’s control issues were certainly to blame for Jackson’s run-scoring walk, and the free pass seemingly helped take some pressure off the Tigers outfielder, who had struck out in 18 of his 33 playoff at-bats (55 percent) before Game 4.
“I think we probably contributed to the building of the inning, things we have control over, and that’s hopefully command in the strike zone with a little bit more consistency,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “Jake has been so good at that, uncharacteristic with the three walks inside of one inning.
“You’re asking for a little bit of trouble by additional base runners, and unfortunately what turned out to be giving them an extra out, lends to a crooked number on the board.”
Jose Iglesias — facing Peavy for the first time since the two were traded for each other back in July — followed with a sharp ground ball to second base. It looked like a perfect opportunity for Peavy and the Red Sox to escape the inning with a double play, but Dustin Pedroia bobbled the ball. The Red Sox were forced to settle for just a forceout at second as Iglesias reached safely and Jhonny Peralta scored Detroit’s second run.
“He’s so consistent, he’s such a good defender,” Farrell said of Pedroia. “The ball was hard. He squares it up and typically that’s a routine double play we’ve seen many, many times over. Like I said, it handcuffed him a little bit just enough to not be able to turn a double play.”
Hunter, who had been hitting .182 (6-for-33) in the postseason, carried the comfort that he started to establish at the plate in Game 3 into Wednesday’s Game 4. He ripped a two-run double down the left field line to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead. Cabrera, who was overpowered in Game 3, singled home Hunter to make it 5-0.
The Tigers never looked back after their second-inning assault. The Red Sox’ bullpen settled things down after Peavy was yanked with no outs in the fourth inning, but seven runs were simply too much for Boston to overcome. Doug Fister tossed six innings of one-run ball, and the Tigers’ bullpen did enough to nail down the win.
The Red Sox’ offense had plenty of opportunities — a stark contrast from Games 1, 2 and 3 — but struggled to produce timely hits. Boston finished 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
“We had 12 hits tonight. And you leave 10 men on base,” Farrell said. “The one thing when we’ve been in stretches like this, we continually do a very good job of creating opportunities. We did that tonight. We haven’t done it so much in the first three games. But that’s a tip of the hat to the pitching that we’ve been facing.”
The Tigers’ pitching was good. Peavy was bad. And the Red Sox’ offense wasn’t its usual opportunistic self. But Leyland also deserves a tip of the cap for churning up the butter that had begun to go bad in the ALCS. Jackson reached base four times — two singles and two walks — and drove in two runs. Hunter and Cabrera also had two RBIs, and Victor Martinez went 2-for-4 with a run scored out of the cleanup spot.
The ALCS could have slipped through the Tigers’ fingers with a Game 4 loss. Fortunately for Detroit, Leyland was holding the perfect recipe for evening up the series.