By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Little surprises venerable Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, and even Leyland seems flummoxed by the disappearance of his team’s bats in the first three games of the American League Division Series.
All of Detroit’s scoring this series has taken place over two innings. Oakland held the Tigers scoreless in the other 25 frames.
What stands out to the Detroit skipper, though, is not so much a lack of hitting as a lack of hitting for power.
“That’s really how we operate and that’s how we’ve operated all year,” Leyland said. “That’s what happens that’s good for us. At the same time, you don’t want to sit up here and have your guys hear you saying, ‘Well, we need to hit home runs,’ so they’re sitting out there trying to hit home runs – because you normally don’t hit them when you’re trying.
“A little bit surprised we haven’t hit one in seven games? Yes, I am a little bit surprised,” Leyland continued. “Are we encouraging our guys to go hit home runs? No. We just want them to hit it hard. We really haven’t hit the ball that hard. That’s what’s surprising.”
A team that finished the regular season with a .283 average, got more hits than any other team and finished second in MLB in runs scored, Detroit has enjoyed excellent pitching, but its offense can be all-or-nothing.
In the regular season, that works out all right because there is always another game. In the small sample size of the playoffs, though, consistency counts, and the Detroit offense has not been able to catch any momentum so far.
“We get [leadoff man] Austin Jackson on base a couple times, moving around, we’re pretty dangerous,” Leyland said. “If we don’t, we’re not really a manufacture team. We’re a team that hits the ball in the gaps and over the fence. Thus far we haven’t hit one ball over the fence. We haven’t hit a home run in seven games. There’s not a lot of secrets to this.”
Leyland never makes any apologies for what the Tigers are. His description throughout the season has not wavered, and for the most part, the Tigers’ strengths have been enough.
“We are what we are,” Leyland said. “This is the way we play the game. This is who we are, and there’s really no tricks.
“Nothing to try to pull something out of the hat at this time of the year, something different,” Leyland added.
Facing elimination, Tigers fans will just have to hope that more of the same is good enough.