The Detroit Tigers finally got some offense going in their American League Championship Series with the Boston Red Sox. Now, they'll try to seize control of the series when they play a pivotal Game 5 at Comerica Park.
After managing just six runs through the first three games, Detroit manager Jim Leyland shook up his lineup on Wednesday and the moves paid off, as the Tigers erupted for five runs in the second inning, knocked Jake Peavy out in the fourth and let Doug Fister and the bullpen do the rest in a 7-3 triumph.
Torii Hunter replaced Austin Jackson in the leadoff spot and contributed a two-run double, while Jackson, perhaps motivated by the demotion to the No. 8 spot in the order, went 2-for-2 with two walks, two RBI and a run scored to help the Tigers even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Miguel Cabrera, batting second instead of third, also had two hits, knocked in a pair and even stole a base for the reigning AL champs, who saw Fister (1-0) scatter eight hits and a walk over six innings of one-run ball.
"I think something had to be done (but)...this has nothing to do with Jim Leyland, this is about the players. They executed, they came out, they played well," Leyland said.
One Tigers player who couldn't get it going was Prince Fielder, who was 0- for-4 and failed to drive in a run in 16 straight postseason games dating back to Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS. It is the 16th longest streak of all-time.
The first LCS start for Peavy (0-1) was a forgettable one. The former Cy Young Award winner surrendered seven runs on five hits and three walks and was pulled without recording an out in the fourth.
"No excuse. It's on me," Peavy said of his rough start. "I can promise you this, we'll be back tomorrow as a ballclub, as a unit."
Boston's bullpen, though, did not allow a run after that, stretching its scoreless streak to 16 2/3 innings. The unit is pitching to a 0.74 ERA this postseason.
The Red Sox managed 12 hits -- four from Jacoby Ellsbury -- but they were 2- for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base.
Hits may be harder to come by for the Red Sox on Thursday when they go up against right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who didn't allow one over his six scoreless innings of work in Game 1.
He also struck out 12, but walked six and became the first pitcher to do that in a playoff game since Hall of Famer Walter Johnson did so in 12 innings for the Washington Senators against the New York Giants in Game 1 of the 1924 World Series. Sanchez was also only the second pitcher with at least 12 strikeouts in no more than six innings in a postseason game.
"My pitches were moving really good that day," said Sanchez, who led the AL with a 2.57 ERA this season. "I was ahead in some counts, that helped me striking them out. That was the key. That helped me that day."
The walks were a bit out of character for Sanchez, as he averaged 2.67 walks per nine innings during the regular season. In fact, over 173 career starts, he has walked five or more batters just 11 times.
"Every game is different, the pitches could be moving a lot or something like that," Sanchez said. "But I need to work on throwing strikes. The last time I threw too many away, and I don't want to do that in my next outing."
Boston, meanwhile, will hand the ball to lefty Jon Lester, who was outdueled by Sanchez in Game 1. Lester gave up just one run in 6 1/3 innings of that one, but was tagged with the loss.
He is now 0-3 lifetime in five ALCS games (3 starts) with a 3.97 ERA.
Lester has been one of the best pitchers since the All-Star break, going 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA in his final 14 starts of the season, then allowing three runs over 14 innings (1.93 ERA) against the Rays and Tigers in two postseason starts.
"Not to make it too simple, but it's been his fastball command," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And as he's gained that consistency and the confidence with it, I think he's become a more relaxed pitcher on the mound, which enables him to pitch more freely from a physical standpoint. I think that's why we're seeing the velocity climb, and it's made his pitches more effective."
The Tigers were 4-3 against the Red Sox in 2013, winning three of four at Comerica Park in June.