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Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Tigers 7, Red Sox 3

By Gordon Edes



DETROIT -- You don't get any more old-school than Jim Leyland. He began in pro ball 50 years ago last month, when JFK was still president. His first job as a big league manager came in 1986, during Ronald Reagan's second term. He managed Tim Wakefield, who played 19 years in the big leagues and is now retired, when Wakefield was a rookie.

Leyland is 68 years old, still sneaks butts in the dugout runway, and has a baseball face, as the scouts would say, one that would look at home with McGraw, McCarthy or Stengel. He has managed 3,499 games, most of any of his brethren currently active in the majors, and if he occasionally sounds like he's from another time and place, well, he is.

One of those times came before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday afternoon in Comerica Park, with Leyland's explanation of why he shook up his lineup, dropping leadoff man Austin Jackson, who had 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats, to the eighth spot in the order, and replaced him with Torii Hunter, who hadn't started as anyone's leadoff hitter since 1999, when he was with the Minnesota Twins.

"We're going to take a shot," Leyland said. "If nothing else, when guys look at the lineup card they kind of look at it a little bit. And maybe it wakes you up a little bit. Not that they've been sleeping, they've been great games. Just a little something to, you know, churn up the butter a little bit."

Um, churn up the butter? That doesn't exactly resonate with the Cuisinart, Keurig and DeLonghi crowd. But dadgummit, it worked, as the Tigers' reconfigured offense scored five times in the second inning, tacked on a couple more runs in the fourth, and this time kept David Ortiz in the ballpark in beating the Boston Red Sox 7-3, to square the ALCS at two games apiece. A series that had had three straight one-run games had its first one-sided outcome.

Jackson drew a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk that forced home Detroit's first run of the game, singled off Dustin Pedroia's glove to drive in a run and came around to score, singled again in the sixth and walked in the eighth. Hunter, meanwhile, doubled and scored in the second, while Miguel Cabrera, who moved up a spot in the order as part of the Leyland machinations, had two RBI singles.

The Tigers' cause was helped immensely by Sox starter Jake Peavy, who was knocked out without retiring a batter in the fourth and was charged with all seven Detroit runs, Peavy's control deserting him in a three-walk second inning. Second baseman Pedroia also contributed an unintentional assist, his momentary bobble of Jose Iglesias's ground ball depriving Peavy of what would have been an inning-ending double play with only one run on the board.

The Red Sox, held without a hit in each of the first three games until the fifth inning at the earliest (Game 3), broke that funk with Pedroia's two-out single in the first. But despite a total of 12 hits, four by Jacoby Ellsbury (triple, double and two singles), the Sox were held at bay by the off-speed assortment of Tigers starter Doug Fister, who allowed a run on eight hits and a walk in six innings, and four Detroit relievers. The 12 hits Wednesday matched Boston's cumulative total for the first three games.

The ninth inning featured a reprise of Ortiz batting against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, who gave up the game-tying slam Sunday night. This time Ortiz lofted a high fly ball to right for the game's final out.

Boston has scored a total of 10 runs in four games in this series, four coming on Ortiz's grand slam in Game 2, six coming in the eighth inning or later. In Thursday's swing game, the Sox will send left-hander Jon Lester to face Anibal Sanchez, who no-hit them for six innings while striking out a dozen in Game 1 (he also walked six).

A butter churn, by the way, is a device used to convert cream into butter. Leyland didn't mention whether he prefers the crock churn, plunge churn, knocker churn, paddle churn, barrel churn, rocking chair churn, or Dazey Churn. For what it's worth, there is a baseball connection to butter churns, though it's a bit of a stretch -- Hillerich & Bradsby, the company that makes Louisville Sluggers, almost didn't get into the bat business. It was too busy making swinging butter churns instead.