Leyland: Dirks pinch-hit for Jackson to try to draw walk
Once the Indians took a 6-4 lead into the ninth inning, everyone expected Chris Perez to take the mound and close the game against the top of the Tigers lineup. Manager Jim Leyland’s counter-move was very much unexpected: Andy Dirks pinch-hitting for Austin Jackson, whose job as leadoff man is to get on base for the middle of the order.
Left-handed batters hit 50 points higher than right-handed ones against Perez, but at .229 to .179, it’s not necessarily a vast difference. However, that wasn’t the reason for Leyland to make the move.
“It was very simple,” Leyland said. “That guy, obviously, has been throwing very well. But at times, he can get wild, and I felt like Dirks had a better chance to walk than Jackson. We were taking strike one, obviously to try to get the tying run to the plate, and just felt that he had a better chance to walk maybe than AJ.
“You know, AJ might have gotten a line-drive base hit. Who knows? I just felt like in that situation, that guy gets a little wild, then I think he’s got a better chance to get a walk, get on base. I’m trying to get one guy on there for the big guys coming up.”
For what it’s worth, Perez’s splits show left-handed hitters drawing 10 of Perez’s 12 walks on the season, an imbalance that far outweighs the at-bat difference. For the season, though, Jackson’s walk rate is just about equal to that of Dirks since the Tigers called him up last month, albeit with far different sample sizes.
Perez was among the surprised, and he wasn’t shy talking about it.
“I was,” he said. “I’ll take it. Jackson is a better hitter than Dirks, in my opinion. But I’ll take it. I know my splits against lefties or righties aren’t the best, but it doesn’t matter. I’d much rather face a rookie in Andy Dirks than Austin Jackson, who finished second or third in the rookie of the year voting last year. And he’s seen me six times so he knows what I’ve got. Dirks had never seen me before so I think the advantage was me.”
Dirks struck out on three pitches, with a swing and miss at a slider.