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ALCS: Tigers' Austin Jackson relaxed at last goes 2-for-2 with 2 RBI

Jim Leyland's decision to push him down in the order paid off.

Ronald Martinez

Good morning, Austin. You're hitting eighth.

We can't be sure exactly what the text message from Lloyd McClendon that awakened Austin Jackson said Wednesday, but at least we can say it woke up his bat.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland wanted to take some of the pressure off leadoff batter after Jackson struggled to just 3-for-33 with 18 strikeouts through his first eight games of the postseason. So Leyland pushed him down to eighth in the order, instead leading off with Torii Hunter. "Just get him away from it a little bit, the magnitude of that lead‑off spot," Leyland said in meeting with the press before Game 4. "Hopefully relax him little bit."

It worked.

Batting eighth, and tested from the very first time he stepped to the plate, Jackson delivered. In the second inning, he faced Red Sox starter Jake Peavy with the bases loaded and no outs -- he walked to deliver the Tigers' first run. In the fourth inning, he came up with a runner on second. He reached again, this time on an infield single, making the score 6-0 and later coming around to score Detroit's seventh run. Jackson singled again and walked in the eighth. For the day, he went 2-for-2 a run scored and two driven in.

Leyland's plan worked. Jackson won't be kicked around anymore -- or at least for a day, anyway.

"It felt good to contribute to a win and just relax, really, just get a chance to go out there and not put so much pressure on yourself, just have fun and relax and just play the game like you know how," Jackson said.

Jackson said he started to relax as soon as he worked that second-inning walk on four pitches. "It was a big situation right there to try to get something done," he said. "And I think after I seen a couple of pitches I was able to kind of just take some deep breaths and relax a little bit. And not worry so much about the result, just try to get a good pitch, make sure you're seeing the ball and take some good swings when you get your pitch."

The Tigers' Game 5 lineup hasn't come out yet, but don't be surprised to see Jackson batting eighth again. "I really think you have to," Leyland said.

But will it be a one-day wonder or will it continue produce? That remains to be seen.

(quotes from ASAP transcripts)

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