Does lineup construction matter? Other than making sure a team's best batters get more at-bats, many would argue that how a lineup is put together doesn't make much of a difference.
However, the Tigers and manager Jim Leyland will probably disagree with that. Their fans might too. At least for one night. Detroit's new-look lineup broke out for seven runs, battering Red Sox starter Jake Peavy in a 7-3 win in Game 4 of the ALCS. The series is now tied 2-2.
Leyland shuffled his lineup for Game 4, bumping Austin Jackson from leadoff to the eighth spot, moving Torii Hunter up to the top of the order and batting Miguel Cabrera second. (Essentially, all the other Detroit hitters moved up one spot.)
The change certainly seemed to suit Jackson, who had his best game of the playoffs, batting 2-for-2 with two walks, two RBI and a stolen base. He opened the Tigers' scoring by drawing a bases-loaded walk on four pitches from Peavy. The Tigers center fielder came into Game 4 batting .091 with 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats during this postseason.
Detroit also got the offense from the top of the lineup that he was hoping for with the shuffle. Cabrera went 2-for-4 with two RBI. (He even stole a base in the fourth inning. Leyland probably wasn't anticipating that from Cabrera in the No. 2 spot.) Hunter also drove in two runs from the leadoff position.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, Peavy melted down for the Red Sox in the second. The first three Tigers batters reached base, the latter two of them walked by Peavy. As mentioned above, Peavy then walked Jackson with the bases loaded. A Jose Iglesias groundout, double from Hunter and single by Cabrera resulted in four more runs, giving Detroit a 5-0 lead.
Peavy actually stayed in the game and pitched a 1-2-3 third inning. But after the Tigers led off the fourth with a ground-rule double from Omar Infante and a RBI single by Jackson, the right-hander was done for the night. Overall, Peavy gave up seven runs, five hits and three walks in three innings of work.
On the other side, Doug Fister allowed one run and eight hits over six innings. Obviously, he was the beneficiary of the Tigers' offensive eruption. But for the fifth consecutive game (going back to Game 5 of the ALDS vs. Oakland), a Detroit starting pitcher allowed one run or less.
The Red Sox scored runs in the sixth and seventh innings to chip away at Detroit's lead. Boston mounted a threat in the ninth against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, scoring again on a Xander Bogaerts ground-rule double and Jacoby Ellsbury triple. But Benoit settled down to retire the next three batters, sewing up a 7-3 Detroit win.
Game 5 of the ALCS is Thursday at 8:07 p.m. ET and will be televised on FOX. Jon Lester takes the mound for the Red Sox, while Anibal Sanchez gets the start for the Tigers. The two opposed each other previously in Game 1 of this series. Lester gave up one run and six hits in 6.1 innings, but Sanchez didn't allow a hit in his six innings, racking up 12 strikeouts and six walks.