Postgame notes: Jackson goes small ball
Austin Jackson isn’t really a big bunter for his speed. He had four bunt hits as a rookie last year, though his 29 infield hits tied him for eighth in the American League. The only AL players who had that many infield hits with so few bunt singles were Derek Jeter, Carl Crawford and Rajai Davis.
The way Jackson’s at-bats have been going lately, though, he isn’t picky about how he gets on, as his bunt single Sunday showed.
“I might have to start using my legs a little bit to find a way to get on track,” Jackson said.
It almost looked like a sacrifice situation, except that the Tigers were down too many runs to get away with moving runners over. Brandon Inge led off the eighth inning with a single, and Wilson Betemit dropped back at third when Jackson came up.
Jackson had flown out to center, shattered his bat on a groundout to second, and struck out swinging in the sixth. He didn’t need a hint.
“I was bunting on my own right there, seeing a good opportunity with no outs,” Jackson said. “Betemit was kind of playing me further back than he had been, so I just tried to take advantage of that.”
Manager Jim Leyland had no problem with that.
“It was a good play, obviously,” he said. “It kept a rally going.”
Manager Jim Leyland said Saturday night he was probably going to sit Jackson on Sunday, but he put him in the lineup after all. Jackson’s 4-for-10 history off Luke Hochevar and Magglio Ordonez’s day off with ankle soreness put him in a position to try to get a spark.
His first three at-bats showed some of the same problems Leyland has seen in recent days.
“Jackson right now is swinging at too many balls. That sums up the situation for me,” Leyland said. “Right now, he’s in one of those grooves where he’s probably anxious to get a hit, maybe a little overanxious to get a hit, and consequently he swung at some balls. But he’ll get out of that. He’s a grinder. He’ll figure that out.
“I don’t really think that’s a big issue. I think he’ll be absolutely fine. I think right now if you’re asking why he’s making outs, well he’s swinging at a lot of bad pitches.”
That said, Jackson went to full counts in each of his first two at-bats, so he’s still taking some pitches. He might have swung at a high fastball on a full count in his first at-bat, and he swung and missed at a 3-1 pitch off the plate in his second. He swung and missed at a potentially high fastball for a sixth-inning strikeout.
“Right now, I’m just doing my best to have quality at-bats,” Jackson said. “Obviously the results aren’t what I would like them to be. But at the same time, I’m going to go up there and keep battling, try to put good at-bats together.”
Asked why some of his good at-bats aren’t ending well, he said, “I wish I could answer that for you. It’s one of those things where, like you said, you get kind of anxious up there. You want to get base hits, and you might tend to swing at some bad pitches. You might put a pitcher in a better count because of that. I did that a few times today, put the pitcher back in a better count.”
He did not waste time on his bunt, laying down the first pitch and killing it along the third-base line, forcing catcher Matt Treanor to scramble. Jackson beat the throw to first.
“I just have to keep going up there and try to find a way to get on base,” Jackson said.
Bunting his way on is one of them.