MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

You have to credit Jim Leyland for trying. His offense struggling, the Tigers’ manager shuffled his lineup, moving his traditional leadoff hitter Austin Jackson to the eight spot and sliding the rest of the hitters up one spot. This meant Miguel Cabrera in the second spot and Victor Martinez to clean up.

And it work! The Tigers pushed across seven runs, thanks in no small part to his new #2 man, Miguel Cabrera. MIggy drove in two runs, making him the all-time Tigers postseason RBI leader, or something. But Jim Leyland pulled the strings and the lineup responded. That’s what good managers do?

Moving Austin Jackson to the 8th spot looks like a stroke of genius when it accompanies four safe trips to first base, a breakout performance that we can attribute to…well, just about anything. Depending on the narrative strands dangling before our greedy eyes, we can say AJax finally relaxed at the bottom of the order, freeing himself up from the pressure of being a prototype leadoff hitter (read: nonwhite player with speed {SIO}) and allowed him to just play his game.

Or we can attribute the Tigers flurry of runs to the revamped, more SABR friendly lineup. “Hit your best hitter second!”, is the oft-repeated but not entirely correct mantra. Hit your best hitter with power cleanup, goes The Book. Cabrera should really hit fourth in this lineup, if you want to get technical. Those looking to advance their particular school of thought will cling to this burst of runs as proof positive that proper lineup construction makes all the difference.

Whatever magical powers you want to assign Jim Leyland, his team leveled the series at two games apiece. The tinkerman was at his tickering best late in the game, burning through relievers before Drew Smyly finally entered the seventh inning and settled matters. With a six run lead, there was no thought to using Smyly to start the inning, rather than a scuffling LOOGY? Whatever, Leyland. You’re the master.

Power jolt for NLCS

Such is the nature of this postseason that, even when runs come in bunches, it seems as though nobody will ever score again. Despite the Red Sox mounting a furious comeback in Game Two of the ALCS, all leads seem insurmountable. Once the Dodgers jumped ahead of St. Louis on Adrian Gonzalez‘s first to two home runs, it felt like the game was over.

Obviously that isn’t true but, as the second and third homers left the park, it made the unlikely comeback appear ever so slightly impossible. The Cardinals did mount a mini rally in the ninth, scoring twice against closer Kenley Jansen but it was not enough, thanks in no small part to the add-on runs provided by Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis.

Another factor contributing to the seemingly insurmountable lead? Zack Greinke‘s quiet excellence. After a rocky start to the game, Greinke didn’t allow a base runner after Matt Adams singled with two out in the third inning. He wasn’t dominant but he sure was effective.

Pedroia Powered

Dustin Pedroia is a good baseball player. A very good baseball player, in fact. His play in the field is excellent and his commitment to his teammates is admirable. Many times, Pedroia played hurt or when he otherwise could have put his feet up for a few weeks. Sometimes, this determination came at the expense of his productivity.

Right now, Dustin Pedroia appears mostly healthy. His injured left thumb is a still an issue, one that might require off-season surgery. Only Pedroia himself knows how much this wound hurts his ability to produce with the bat, but the results suggest his hurting more than he lets on. The Red Sox number three hitter is struggling, picking up singles from time to time but simply appears unable to swing that bat as we all know he can.

Making matters worse, the usually sure-handed second baseman made a crucial misplay last night, one generous neighbourhood play short of being a completely botched double play.

Later in the game, Pedroia stood in and turned a lovely double play – taking a pretty solid knock in the process. The score at this point was 7-1, sadly. It didn’t quite have the same effect as the earlier miscue. Full marks for bravery, however.

Via @CorkGaines

The Red Sox need more from Pedroia than just head-patting effort and gutsy double plays when the game is all but over. They need their “sparkplug” to “provide” something more tangible than good hustle down the line on a slow roller. The hustle is appreciated but the slow roller? Ick. Maybe a Laser Show is in order? Just saying.