Found June 17, 2013 on The Detroit Sports Site:
In the recent monthlong absence of center fielder and leadoff man Austin Jackson, the Detroit Tigers’ offense didn’t struggle so much as feel just a tiny bit off. With Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder thumping, Torii Hunter remaining consistent and Victor Martinez beginning to come around, Detroit didn’t lose much from a run production standpoint minus Jackson, but the Tigers didn’t feel like they were as complete of a team. Andy Dirks and Avisail Garcia did enough to bridge the gap, but lost were the explosive plays and the feel that the Tigers’ offense was some type of juggernaut. This weekend in Minnesota, Jackson made this presence felt immediately upon returning to the lineup. Shaking off the rust on Friday with a walk and a run scored, a 2-4 day on Saturday was followed up nicely by a big Sunday afternoon matinee showing. Jackson’s towering two run home run added to an early lead, and provided the Tigers with a surprising power boost from the top. Detroit quickly began to look and feel more like themselves. Friday’s effort, where Jackson struggled at the plate yet still managed to make something happen on the scoreboard said it all. He’s a baseball creator to the highest degree. In this aspect, a healthy Jackson might be the most important element for extended Tigers’ success. His defense in center field, of course, is second to none. But Jackson’s bat, speed and tenacity at the top sets the table for everything else Detroit does. Since cutting down on the strikeouts last season, Jackson has become a bigger force towards making good things happen on the base paths. Without him, the Tigers have to take their chances with an inconsistent revolving door at the top. Bullpen and closer talk will dominate the usual headlines as it should, but Jackson’s successful return quietly meant more to his team this week than any of Jose Valverde’s problems or Joaquin Benoit’s four out save to close down Sunday afternoon’s game. There are other ways around ninth inning trouble, and perhaps the biggest is even more offensive consistency. Back in the lineup, Jackson will continue to bring that as immediately as he did this weekend. Our Facebook feedback of the week celebrates another Tigers return to the cover of Sports Illustrated with Cabrera and Fielder. Readers were excited when we shared the news, and one took time to explain his disdain with the decision to not make the cover a little more, how shall we say, risque. Rod Sanville: (It would) look better if they were bashing Valverde. Very harsh yet funny, Rod. But if that’s what it would take to get Jim Leyland to quit trotting him out in games, I might end up becoming sold on the idea. Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax
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