BOSTON -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland does not believe in personal catchers for pitchers, preferring that his pitchers grow comfortable working with everybody behind the plate. To some degree, though, he has two shortstops he can tailor to his starting pitcher, if he wants.
For the second time in three games, the Tigers started a pitcher who finished with one of the five-highest fly-ball ratios in the American League in ALCS Game 2 on Sunday against the Red Sox. For the second such game, Detroit started Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, his old position, and sat Jose Iglesias, his replacement.
Game 2 starter Max Scherzer doesn't have as strong of a fly-ball tendency as Justin Verlander, who went three games without a ground-ball out at first base. However, Scherzer had the higher fly-ball ratio in the regular season, second only to Oakland's A.J. Griffin among AL starters.
That said, Leyland fiercely defends Peralta's ability to play at short. His decision, he said, has to do with the hitters he can use to generate offense.
"Jhonny Peralta is no donkey," Lelyand said. "He's made the All-Star team twice for me as a shortstop in the last few years. He's a very good shortstop. We're trying to get another bat in there, and we felt it would be the best way to do it.
"This guy is a bona fide Major League shortstop. This is not a utility guy you're playing there. This is a top-notch shortstop. He doesn't have the range Iglesias has, but this is a very, very good shortstop."
Peralta's strength is in his reliability to convert the ground balls he reaches into outs. Iglesias' biggest strength is his range. Offensively, the comparison isn't between Peralta and Iglesias, but Iglesias and the left fielder Leyland can play with Peralta at shortstop. Starting Peralta at short on Sunday, Leyland said, allowed him to get another left-handed bat (left fielder Don Kelly ) into the lineup against Boston starter Clay Buchholz.
Leyland goes with Kelly over slumping Dirks
BOSTON -- Don Kelly made just 11 starts in left field during the regular season. Between Andy Dirks as a left-handed bat and Matt Tuiasosopo from the right side, there weren't many other starts to go around.
With Sunday night's start in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, however, Kelly has started three of Detroit's seven games this postseason in left. That's two more than Dirks, who hasn't started since the AL Division Series opener against Bartolo Colon.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland made clear Sunday's what's behind the shift.
"Donnie Kelly probably wouldn't be playing in left field tonight if Andy Dirks was swinging good," Leyland said Sunday.
Those struggles go back before this postseason. Dirks ended the regular season in a 2-for-18 slump after hitting a three-run homer Sept. 21, then went 0-for-3 in the ALDS opener against Colon, a pitcher he had previously hit well in his career.
Dirks entered Game 4 of the ALDS as a defensive replacement, walking and scoring twice.
The current stretch doesn't necessarily banish Dirks to the bench for the rest of the postseason. Leyland hinted he could try to get him a start at some point and give him a chance to jump-start his offense.
"There's no secrets," Leyland said. "You just decide if you want to give Dirks his shot at some point."
Alburquerque utilizing fastball as counter to slider
BOSTON -- Considering how badly Red Sox hitters looked swinging against Anibal Sanchez in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, it made sense that Al Alburquerque and his swing-and-miss slider followed Sanchez with a perfect seventh inning. For a change, however, he didn't fire a barrage of sliders.
In fact, Alburquerque threw half sliders and half fastballs. The latter is a pitch that had all but disappeared from his arsenal the last few weeks as he continued to get good results from his sliders, but a pitch Tigers coaches had been encouraging him to throw more often for a while.
Alburquerque wasn't pitching to his strength so much as he was pitching against the scouting report.
"Everybody in the league knows he is a slider guy," manager Jim Leyland said. "It's probably a bit of a surprise last night that he used that [fastball] a little bit more than a slider."
The bigger surprise was that Alburquerque threw it for strikes, five of them out of the six fastballs he threw. The Red Sox, playing to the scouting report, didn't swing at any.
That's a stark contrast to the regular season, when he threw just 51 percent of his fastballs in the strike zone, according to STATS.
• Though the Tigers added Phil Coke to their roster for the ALCS in part to take advantage of his track record against David Ortiz (2-for-18 lifetime off him), Leyland turned to fellow lefty reliever Drew Smyly to face Ortiz in the eighth inning Saturday night. Leyland indicated that the time Coke lost to injury, having gone three weeks without pitching in a game, played a factor.
• Leyland complimented catcher Alex Avila for helping Anibal Sanchez through Saturday's six-inning, no-hit performance with his pitch selection. "You really kind of go with what you see, what he's getting over, what he's not getting over," Leyland said. "I thought he nursed him through it pretty good, to be honest with you."
• Somewhat lost in Saturday's 1-0 win was the ability of Victor Martinez to beat a throw to first base and avoid what would've been an inning-ending double play in the sixth ahead of Jhonny Peralta's RBI single. "He busts his butt. He just can't run fast," Leyland said of Martinez, who lost what little speed he had following knee surgery last year.
• After a late-night flight out of Boston and a Tuesday afternoon start time for Game 3 (4 p.m. ET, FOX), the Tigers will hold an optional workout late Monday afternoon at Comerica Park.