June 19, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson's slide reverses field from pattern

Detroit — Austin Jackson never does anything statistically that’s easy to understand.

It’s been that way his entire career. If he improves one category, he struggles in another where he wasn’t struggling.

This year is no exception, and it’s not about his rather flat .253 average but how that has been put together.

Since he joined the Tigers in 2010, Jackson has hit right-handed pitching better than left-handed, even though he’s a right-handed hitter.

Sometimes the difference has been vast.

In 2013, for instance, a year in which he hit .272 overall, Jackson hit right-handers to the tune of .296, but his average against lefties was .213.

In 2012, his best overall season as a hitter and his only .300 season, the margin between the two was closer — .305 vs. right-handers, .289 vs. lefties.

But this year, he’s reversed his stats.

Including the single he had Thursday off Royals starter Danny Duffy in a 2-1 victory, Jackson is hitting left-handers (.333, 20-for-60) better than right-handers (.225, 39-for-173).

In fact, it is continues this way, it will be his worst season against right-handers after hitting .300 the last two years combined.

But it will be his best season against lefties.

So his numbers are backward — from where they’ve always been, anyway.

“We have to get him going,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “By putting him second again ahead of Miggy (Miguel Cabrera), we thought he might get a few more pitches to hit.

“We’re trying something to get us rolling. Austin is a piece of that puzzled. He shows signs, then tails off, shows signs, then tails off.

“Maybe this will help him be more comfortable.”

Finding the middle

Even with Thursday’s victory, the Tigers are in the midst of a 10-20 run, and only will get back to winning consistently with good baseball.

“It’s tough to force your way out of something like this,” Ausmus said. “It’s almost as if you have to work your way through it. And if you don’t work your way through it, maybe you’re not as good as you thought you were.

“When you look at the players on this team, we’re way better than this. You can take the first month and a half and the last month, and you have two completely different teams. We need to be at least somewhere in between those two teams.”

Sleepless nights

It’s not getting to sleep that’s been a problem for Ausmus the last couple of weeks.

It’s staying asleep.

“I think about the game here (at the park), then get in my car to drive home and I’m OK,” he said. “But I’ll wake up at five in the morning and lie there thinking about it for two hours. That’s what happens.

“It’s five in the morning. It’s dark out still and I’m going over yesterday’s game.”

Around the horn

Ausmus was happy to see his former Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw throw a no-hitter Wednesday against the Rockies.

“He’s one of the best I’ve caught, one of the teammates I played with, and one of my favorite people,” Ausmus said. “Good person, good teammate, hard worker.”

And someone who’s justly confident in himself.

“If he’s at 120 pitches and there are two outs in the ninth with the bases loaded, he thinks he’s the best option to get the next guy out, which is tough to teach,” Ausmus said.

Ausmus also would like to see Kershaw pitch well his next time out, too — in Kansas City next week.

... Ausmus, on the possibility the players are working too hard: “These guys, almost to a fault, work. We were even talking about backing some of them off because maybe they are working too hard. But if they want to hit, it’s hard to tell them they can’t hit.”

tom.gage@detroitnews.com
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Nick Castellanos reaches over the railing by the photo box to catch Omar Infante's foul pop-up in the sixth inning. / Robin Buckson / Detroit News