Detroit's Torii Hunter celebrates after being driven in on a single by Miguel Cabrera in the second inning. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Detroit — If you want to say it was the new lineup, fine.
Austin Jackson drew a productive four-pitch walk batting eighth, after all, and had two singles, including one that drove in a run, after previously hitting 3-for-33 with 18 strikeouts in the postseason.
A lot of other Tigers broke out in their new spots as well.
But there’s always more than one reason an offense suddenly comes to life, as the Tigers did Wednesday night in a 7-3 victory over the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park.
While tying the series 2-2, the Tigers were no doubt smarter at the plate than they’ve been — swinging at better pitches.
And, Doug Fister, with six strong innings in which he allowed just one run, was able to keep the lead comfortable once it began to look comfortable.
Making what he knew would be his only start in the ALCS, Fister didn’t allow a run until the Tigers led by seven.
So the Tigers pitchers pitched in, too. In fact it has been excellent in most of this deadlocked Championship Series.
But a high percentage of games which end up being decided relatively early aren’t won by lineup moves that were made as much as much as they are by pitches one of the starters didn’t make.
Hello, Jake Peavy.
“No excuses, this one’s on me,” the Red Sox starter said.
You never want to say a pitcher was just flat-out dreadful.
But Peavy came close. With the Red Sox hoping to take a 3-1 edge, Peavy didn’t get out of the fourth inning.
He gave up a couple four-pitch walks, including one to the struggling Jackson.
“I had to make him swing the bat,” Peavy said. “But I had trouble reeling in my sinker, throwing it where I needed to throw it. My stuff was falling out of the zone.”
He also gave up a couple costly singles on 0-2 pitches.
“I couldn’t make that big pitch to minimize the damage,” Peavy said.
In short, Peavy was flat-out ... not good.
The big inning for the Tigers was their five-run second, which Peavy made a mess of — with an assist from Dustin Pedroia, who misplayed the double-play grounder to second that could have held the Tigers to one run.
“That’s not on him,” Peavy said of Pedroia. “I had to make better pitches. There’s no one in this world I’d rather have the ball hit to than him.”
Of the gifts from the Red Sox, such as the walks, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said: “We took advantage of them. But that’s a sign of a good team.”
Peavy’s first mistake was to give up a single on an 0-2 pitch to Victor Martinez.
His second mistake, a four-pitch walk to Jhonny Peralta, soon followed.
“I think he pitched a little too fine,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
The Tigers have wasted first-and-second chances before, however. They wasted better chances than that, as you’ll recall, in Game 3.
But not this chance.
The at-bat that turned it into a genuine problem for Peavy, and a golden opportunity for the Tigers, was the walk to Alex Avila that loaded the bases after the walk to Peralta.
Peavy got ahead of Avila with a 1-2 count, but when the count went to full, Avila fouled off two strikes. On his third full-count pitch to Avila, Peavy walked him to load the bases with no outs
With one out, though, and the bases still loaded, but the struggling Jackson coming up, one could envision the Tigers coming away empty.
Peavy, however, walked Jackson on four pitches to hand the Tigers their first run.
The scoring should have ended right then and there because Iglesias’ grounder to second was hit hard enough for the Red Sox to turn a double play had Pedroia played the ball cleanly.
He did not, though, and while getting Jackson at second, Pedroia’s mistake allowed Iglesias to reach first easily, and Peralta to score the second Tigers run.
At 2-0, the Tigers were having themselves a nice inning, one that already served as a contrast to their problems of Game 3.
But a bigger contrast was on its way when Hunter doubled in Avila and Iglesias to make it 4-0.
Hitting second instead of third, Miguel Cabrera singled in Hunter on an 0-2 pitch..
The summary of the second served as a five-run reason the Tigers weren’t about to lose this game: Two four-pitch walks, two 0-2 singles, a full-count walk after Avila fell behind 1-2 and a blunder by Pedroia that didn’t show up in the box score as an error.
Unlike Game 2, there were no such collapses this time.
Instead they tacked on two more runs to blunt the impact of the three that the Red Sox scored later.