"I tossed and turned with it today to play Berry or Raburn. I ended up playing Raburn," said Leyland, who made his final choice about five minutes before meeting with the media. "The thought process is, if Raburn doesn't help us against left-handers, then we have issues."
Raburn has 11 hits in 62 at-bats against left-handers this season, which is good for a .177 batting average. He is batting .176 overall, with a home run and 10 RBIs.
The skipper decided to give Raburn the nod in Wednesday night's 5-1 win over the Twins, but the 31-year-old was 0-for-4. In the fifth inning, he grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and second in a 2-1 game.
Berry's had a much better season, batting .295 and leading the team with 12 stolen bases. But his .219 average against left-handers isn't all that much better than Raburn's.
"Lefties are hitting [.324] off [Diamond]," Leyland said. "Raburn got the nod, Raburn's 2-for-6 off him. Berry's never seen him. But the one dimension that Berry has if Raburn's not going to hit, Berry has some speed. He might bunt or generate a run for you ... I'm kind of playing the string out right now to see if Raburn's going to do something."
Thursday's game marks the second of five straight for the Tigers against left-handers. The team is 9-13 on the year facing lefties, including Wednesday night's victory against Twins southpaw Brian Duensing. At 40-42 entering Thursday's series finale, they need to win their remaining four games to finish with an overall record above .500 at the All-Star break. To do that, they'll need more production from right-handed hitters not named Austin Jackson or Miguel Cabrera.
"Jhonny Peralta, Delmon Young and Ryan Raburn have to do something against left-handed pitching," Leyland said. "It's that simple. They were all in the lineup last night, and I don't mean this critically, I'm just making a general point about what the Tigers need if we're going to get rolling. We've got to get something out of those guys."
That trio went 2-for-12 in the game and was hitless off lefties. Peralta is batting .209 against southpaws, whereas the skipper might have been more focused on Wednesday night's game when speaking about Young, who is hitting .299.