OAKLAND -- The Tigers have stayed alive in this American League Division Series in no small part by getting Jhonny Peralta back into their lineup, putting their Opening Day shortstop in left field. For Thursday's winner-take-all Game 5, manager Jim Leyland took his chances with Peralta back at short.
Don Kelly, who put up two infield singles against A's Game 5 starter Sonny Gray in his Game 2 gem, got the start in left field. Jose Iglesias, Detroit's everyday shortstop since early August, was on the bench, though Leyland said he could enter at shortstop for the late innings if the Tigers have a lead.
It's Peralta's first start at shortstop since Aug. 4, the day before he accepted a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. He returned from the suspension for the final series of the regular season in Miami, starting all three games in left field, but moved to shortstop for a couple innings in each of the last two games.
Peralta started Games 3 and 4 at Comerica Park in left and drove in a total of five runs.
"It's simple -- we've gotta to try to score," Leyland said. "So that pretty much sums that up."
Actually, there's a little more to it, the starting pitcher being one of them.
Leyland said Thursday afternoon he had considered making the move earlier this series. He did not do it behind ground-ball pitcher Doug Fister in Game 4. With Justin Verlander starting Game 5, he changed his mind.
Verlander has quietly put up a bizarre streak of strikeouts, popouts and flyouts. He has not had an out recorded at first base in his last three starts, covering 19 innings. His only ground-ball out in that span was a fielder's choice Sept. 23 at Minnesota, in which Twins baserunner Alex Presley took off from second on a grounder hit right to short.
Kelly put up two of Detroit's four hits against Gray last Saturday. One of the others came from Iglesias on a ground ball to short, which is Iglesias' only hit since he returned to the Tigers lineup two weeks ago after a 95-mph fastball struck him on his left hand.
Leyland tried to downplay the move, calling it "no big deal to me at all."
At the same time, he emphasized that this was his decision to make.
"This is on me," he said. "I thought about this lineup. ... All I know is we were here at the same time last year [for Game 5] and our shortstop was Jhonny Peralta."