Prince Fielder continues to struggle in heart of Tigers’ lineup

October 17, 2013

Prince Fielder stands at home plate after striking out in the eighth inning of Game 3. He was 1 for 4 with a strikeout in Game 4, when he switched from fourth to third in the lineup. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Somehow, the Detroit Tigers’ new-look lineup Wednesday night worked for everyone except Prince Fielder.

The $24-million-a-year first baseman was the only player who didn’t benefit in Game 4 from Manager Jim Leyland’s lineup shuffle. Moving up from fourth to third in the order, the left-handed slugger went 0 for 4. Three of his at-bats ended innings, and two came with a man on base. The Tigers still won, 7-3, to even their ALCS against the Boston Red Sox at two games apiece.

Fielder grounded out twice, had a foul-tip strikeout and flied to center field as he struggled to make hard contact, which he has in the postseason since last year’s World Series. He went 1 for 14 with no extra-base hits as the Tigers were swept by the San Francisco Giants. This October he’s 8 for 33, including 3 for 15 in the ALCS, with one double against Boston and no other extra-base hits.

With the ALCS down to a best-of-three starting with tonight’s matchup between AL ERA champion Anibal Sanchez and Red Sox stalwart Jon Lester, the Tigers could sure use help from Fielder’s bat. In his two years with the Tigers, he has 55 regular season home runs and a .491 slugging percentage without missing a game.

The way the Game 4 lineup worked, Leyland said he’ll stick with it tonight. The Tigers hope Fielder will get going the same way Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson did last night as hitters 1, 2, 4 and 8. Each had two hits, two RBI or both in last night’s victory.

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TODAY’S GAME

ALCS Game 5; Boston at Detroit, 8 p.m.; WTTG (Channel 5) and WBFF (Channel 45); WSPZ (570 AM).

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Kelyn Soong · October 16, 2013

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