DETROIT -- The Tigers have spent the past couple years balancing the potential to use Austin Jackson's speed on the basepaths with the reluctance to run themselves out of innings with Miguel Cabrera and other All-Star sluggers due up. Saturday was a perfect example of how Jackson can change a game on the bases without a steal attempt.
Once Jackson's leadoff walk in Saturday's first inning put him on base, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett clearly saw him as a threat to steal or run, throwing to first no fewer than five times over the next two batters. Beckett still had the concentration to retire Brennan Boesch, but when Beckett made a mistake to Miguel Cabrera, he paid for it with a two-run homer.
Asked if Jackson made a difference, manager Jim Leyland said absolutely.
"I think that they were paying quite a bit of attention to him," Leyland said. "You get guys uncomfortable. That happens to us, too, when guys [on base] can run. It happens to everybody. You just have to try to keep that to a minimum. But you're right, I think it looked like maybe it was divided attention. When you get dividend attention with a big hitter up there like that, it can be costly."
Jackson finally took off on the pitch that Cabrera hit out. He ended up being able to trot home.
"It's one of my jobs as a leadoff hitter to make the pitcher worry about me a little bit over there when I'm on the basepaths," Jackson said. "Anything I can do to disrupt his timing a little bit, kind of get in his head that I'm going to steal a base, can work out just as well as stealing a base."