MLB playoff notes: Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter struggle at top of Detroit Tigers’ order


In seven postseason games thus far, Tigers leadoff hitter Austin Jackson has a .100 average (3 for 30). Manager Jim Leyland says at this point of the season, it’s hard to tinker around with lineups. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers have a problem at the top of their lineup, and Manager Jim Leyland has no solution. Leadoff man Austin Jackson and second-place hitter Torii Hunter are a combined 2 for 20 in the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox, striking out six times.

And when the Tigers face John Lackey in Tuesday afternoon’s Game 3, they’ll be right back in those spots.

“Obviously, they’ve been struggling a little bit,” Leyland said Monday. “I don’t know where you go at this point in time, this time of the year. You play somebody else, I don’t think that’s the answer. How to adjust or tinker with your lineup, I don’t really know who I would lead off in that case or who I would hit second.”

Jackson, who hit .272 with a .754 on-base-plus-slugging percentage during the regular season, is an abysmal 3 for 30 (a .100 average) with 16 strikeouts this postseason. Hunter is only slightly better: 4 for 29 (.138) with nine strikeouts.

Hunter, incidentally, said he was bruised but okay following his collision with the bullpen wall at Fenway Park as he chased David Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 2 on Sunday.

Nolasco still set to pitch

Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly reasserted after his team’s 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series that Ricky Nolasco, “as of right now,” remains on track to start Tuesday’s Game 4.

However, the Dodgers also have the option of bringing back Zack Greinke on three days’ rest. In a similar situation in the division series, Mattingly had Nolasco listed as his Game 4 starter until he switched to Clayton Kershaw on short rest. . . .

Cardinals third baseman David Freese left Game 3 in the fifth inning with tightness in his left calf, but Manager Mike Matheny said he expects Freese to play in Game 4.

Leyland turning to Dirks

Justin Verlander, the Tigers’ Game 3 starter, posted what was statistically his worst season since he went 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA in 2008 — highest ERA (3.46), fewest innings pitched (2181 / 3), highest walks-and-hits per inning pitched (1.315).

“I attribute it to we’re not robots, we’re athletes,” Verlander said. “. . . It was a grind for me all year. I could probably sit here and name 50 adjustments that I tried to make that didn’t quite work or did help. Who knows what helped along the way and what didn’t? but I really felt like the last month of the season, I started to kind of get it to click.”

In eight starts in September and October, including two in the postseason, Verlander has posted a 1.65 ERA, striking out 69 and walking just 12 in 542 / 3 innings. . . .

Leyland said he would likely give Andy Dirks his first playing time of the ALCS with a start in left field for Game 3, with Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, his more natural position. Dirks is 0 for 4 with one start and one substitute appearance this postseason. He’ll replace Don Kelly, who went 0 for 3 with a walk in his start in Game 2. Peralta started in left in Game 1, with Jose Iglesias — who made a key error in the decisive ninth inning of the second game — at short. . . .

Red Sox Manager John Farrell said he will reinsert Mike Napoli at first base after he rested Napoli, who had struggled against Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer, to start Game 2. Farrell said he is still weighing “the intangibles that Jonny Gomes brings” before deciding whether Gomes, who began Sunday night’s game-winning rally, will get another start in left field. Gomes is 0 for 9 with three walks and a sacrifice fly against Verlander.

Veteran umpire dies

MLB umpire Wally Bell, 48, who worked the division series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, has died. A veteran of 21 seasons, Bell died of an apparent heart attack.

Sheinin reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.
Dave Sheinin has been covering baseball and writing features and enterprise stories for The Washington Post since 1999.
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