Jackson rewarded for escaping jam

Jackson rewarded for escaping jam

DETROIT -- When Jim Leyland made a visit to the mound in the eighth inning on Thursday, starter Edwin Jackson had thrown 110 pitches and had just walked the Rangers' David Murphy on five pitches. It looked like a seemingly logical time to go to the bullpen.

Yet the Tigers manager had no intentions of pulling his starter. He simply calmed him down, and went back to his place in the dugout. He stayed there as Jackson gave up an RBI double that tied the game at three, and he didn't go to the bullpen when the go-ahead run moved to third base.

Leyland left Jackson on the mound until he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the eighth on his 132nd pitch of the day. His teammates paid him back in the bottom of the inning by manufacturing a run on a Miguel Cabrera RBI single, to win the game 4-3.

For Jackson, the 25-year-old Tigers newcomer who leads the team with 60 innings pitched and a 2.55 ERA, there was no intention of coming out. Jackson (4-2) told Leyland before the eighth inning that he felt fine to go, and Leyland sent him out.

"Every once in a while you get those games where you say, 'You know what, he deserves to be there,'" Leyland said. "'I just can't take him out. I can't in good faith take him out.'"

Jackson's win was sealed when, with men on first and third in the top of the ninth, closer Fernando Rodney induced Michael Young to hit into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.

With that, Comerica Park erupted as the Tigers won their sixth consecutive game, Detroit's longest win streak in nearly a year, and its 11th consecutive home game over Texas.

After the game, Leyland went up to Jackson in the dugout and jokingly offered to give his workhorse the next start off. No way, Jackson responded, even though his 132 pitches were the most for a Tigers pitcher in the Leyland era, and the most since knuckleballer Steve Sparks threw the same amount on Aug. 21, 2003.

"There wasn't a chance," Leyland said of his starter leaving the game. "He was going to be out there until they were ahead. I felt that he deserved it, that's just the way it goes. If you don't do it, you don't do it."

Jackson, who set a career high for pitches Thursday, said he's aware of his pitch count during a game, but he doesn't dwell on it. He goes more by feel. His pitches seemed to improve as the day went on -- his fastball touched 98 mph in the middle of the game, and his last pitch of the day was a 97-mph fastball.

When Leyland went out for his eighth-inning mound visit, Jackson noticed he didn't signal to the bullpen on his way out.

"It would have been easy to go to the 'pen and pull me out," Jackson said. "But to leave me out there definitely shows that he has confidence in me."

It might have been easy for that confidence to wane in the early innings, when Jackson gave up a home run to the Rangers' second hitter, David Murphy. Jackson put men on first and third in the second inning, but was saved when right fielder Clete Thomas gunned down Nelson Cruz as he tried to tag up on a fly ball. That ended the inning, and the Rangers' last real threat until the eighth.

Jackson said his fastball was running more than usual in the early innings, so he changed his release point and settled down. His teammates, meanwhile, took the lead when Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer to right field.

That 3-1 count held until the top of the eighth, as Kevin Millwood had an impressive start of his own, going eight innings, giving up six hits and four runs.

But in the end, to Jackson, most numbers don't faze him. Not the .210 the Rangers were batting against him going into the game. Not the three-game win streak he's now on. And not the 132 pitches he threw Thursday.

"If you leave it to a guy who really wants to compete, he doesn't care what his pitch count is," third baseman Brandon Inge said. "He wants to go out there and try to be able to help his team win."

Kyle Austin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.