October 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Lynn Henning

Tigers' decision to play Jhonny Peralta was the correct one

Detroit — More munchies left over from Tuesday’s playoff classic at Comerica Park:

The tsk-tsking over Jhonny Peralta’s playoff spot was silly.

Peralta belonged with the Tigers once he paid his debt for dallying with the Biogenesis clinic in Florida and its romance with performance-enhancing drugs.

He was punished sufficiently. A big league player banished for 50 games has been whacked with an astonishingly severe penalty. Factor in his forfeited salary (in Peralta’s case, more than $2 million), and the consequences of fiddling with performance-enhancers is clear to the offender and to the game’s fans and followers.

Some have argued that he should have been exiled for the year, or even longer.

I never bought it. He did his time, as it were, and deserved a clean start, which you can probably guess isn’t likely to include any more brushes with PEDs.

And, because he paid a heavy price, with public ridicule to match, he earned his shot at returning to baseball and making a difference in Tuesday’s dramatics at Comerica Park.

Austin Jackson needs to nail down that front foot.

Jackson was a strike from one of the nastiest boos avalanches in Comerica Park history before he plopped a go-ahead single to right in the seventh inning Tuesday.

Good timing. For several reasons.

Notice how streaky has been the Tigers center fielder in 2013. Or, maybe you have noticed. And maybe you’ve ruined a few television screens after throwing shoes through them.

When he has hit, Jackson resembles Magglio Ordonez, with his power and knack for crunching the ball to all fields. At other times, as too often has been on display the past few weeks, Jackson has been an assembly line of strikeouts.

It all has to do with that troublesome left foot that has been at issue with Jackson since his days as a Yankees prospect.

The Tigers thought they had it ironed out following the 2011 season.

Jackson and Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon spent a meaningful winter and spring. And, suddenly, Jackson was back rapping the ball and beating up on fastballs that too often ride past him when his foot and timing aren’t in synch.

Jackson is 26. He isn’t yet in his prime. But he knows he has to get his foot down and his bat locked into gear in 2014. The Tigers can’t have their lead-off batter meandering in and out of these blackout modes.

He acknowledged after Tuesday’s game that in-season fixes are difficult. He said, “You don’t want to try and invent something that you haven’t been doing.”

But figure on Jackson making the adjustment and hammering it into his muscle memory during the coming months. This time, perhaps, for keeps, as a potential All-Star grows more into the polished star he could, and should, yet become.

Pitching order. Batting order. So little difference.

These are fun discussions: Who should you bat second? Or fifth? Or wherever. And when you have a choice between Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who should be your pick for Game 1 of a five-game Division Series?

I never thought it made a bit of difference whether Jim Leyland went with Scherzer or Verlander as his Game 1 choice. You were going to get two well-pitched games that were likely to be settled by other factors, beginning with Detroit’s hitters.

That was how the script played out last weekend in Oakland. And it was apparent Leyland was comfortable either way when he brought in Scherzer to pitch relief Tuesday, which begat two of suspenseful half-innings of relief pitching.

“I don’t want to sit here and tell you we planned on doing it,” Leyland said after Tuesday night’s theatrics, “but it was an option.”

Now, he has Verlander set to go Thursday night, which the Tigers will consider money in the bank when it was all but a toss-up whether to start him or Scherzer in Game 1.

It’s the same with a batting order, for the most part, anyway. Some guys belong at the top or the order. Some in the middle. But, apart from obvious choices — Verlander and Scherzer 1-2 or 2-1, Miguel Cabrera No. 3, etc. — you can almost go with a random order and be equally effective, or ineffective.

It all depends upon your personnel. And whether they’re performing. Batting and rotation orders are fun to debate. But they’re often irrelevant in deciding a game. Or even a playoff series that, for the Tigers, is still going after Tuesday’s comeback.


Detroit's Jhonny Peralta, who returned at the end of the regular season after serving a 50-game suspension, has perked up the Tigers' offense as evidenced by his three-run homer in Game 4 Tuesday. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News
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