SEATTLE -- Want a clue as to why the Tigers have had a propensity for clutch hits in comebacks? One thought might be two strikes.When the Tigers began their Spring Training schedule, one thing manager Jim Leyland emphasized was a two-strike approach, encouraging guys to take a few at-bats in a particular game or two and approach as if they had two strikes from the start. The idea was to get guys to shorten their swings and cut down on strikeouts. It hasn't worked for everybody, but it's working enough for a few key guys that the Tigers can notice the difference. Two-strike hits are at the heart of Miguel Cabrera's early surge. He entered Friday's series opener against the Mariners batting 7-for-15 in those counts this year, compared to 7-for-19 in every other situation. He has talked about remaining aggressive in those counts, but maybe cutting down a little on the swing. Cabrera can't keep up this kind of hitting for a full season, but for comparison's sake, anything respectable with two strikes is an upgrade for him. He hit .217 in two-strike counts last year, and .215 in 2008. Magglio Ordonez hit .249 in two-strike counts in 2009, but he's 4-for-13 in those situations this year. Brandon Inge is 3-for-13 with two strikes, which isn't overwhelmingly impressive until one considers that Inge batted just .135 with two strikes last year. Not everyone is doing nearly that well, leading to a .203 team average with two strikes entering Friday. Still, they haven't finished a season batting better than .200 with two strikes since 2007. "I think we've done a pretty good job," Leyland said. "Like I've said, I think we've gotten some big hits. And when you get big hits, you've probably got some two-strike hits."
Inge's streak finally comes to an end
SEATTLE -- Not in the Comerica Park era had a Tigers player reached base safely as many games as Brandon Inge. But Friday night's combination of Felix Hernandez and the Mariners' bullpen held Inge hitless for the first time this season.Inge hit safely in each of the first nine games, the longest season-opening streak by a Tigers player since Bobby Higginson hit in 11 straight to open the 1997 campaign, according to research on baseball-reference.com. Juan Encarnacion hit in his first 11 games in 1998, but he didn't reach Detroit until August of that year. Among players who actually began the season in the Opening Day lineup, Gee Walker holds the Tigers record with a 27-game hitting streak to open the 1937 season. Ron LeFlore hit safely in his first 30 games with a plate appearance in 1976, but his first plate appearance didn't come until the Tigers' fourth game that year. Add in Inge's hits from the final two games in 2009, and his hitting streak actually reached 11 games. Even at nine straight, his 2010 beginning was a far cry from 2007, when he opened the season in an 0-for-20 slump.
Jackson honored to don Jackie's 42
SEATTLE -- Tigers rookie Austin Jackson has never had the chance to wear Jackie Robinson's No. 42 as a pro. Friday was his chance.As a young African-American player, Jackson is following in the legacy of many greats before him. But the legacy started with Robinson, who was honored across baseball on Thursday. Since the Tigers and Mariners were both off Thursday, they remembered Robinson and his contributions Friday by having every player wear No. 42. That included Jackson, who is well aware of what Robinson means not only to the game, but to society. "What he did for African-Americans in baseball, that's something that I take a lot of pride in," Jackson said. "He did a lot, and he's a big part of why we're playing this game. That means a lot to me, and to go out there and wear No. 42, that's an honor." When critics cite declining numbers among young African-Americans playing baseball, Jackson is one of the exceptions. Though he was a multi-sport athlete in high school, he had a clear interest in baseball. He got involved in the game watching his older brother play, but he also picked up his interest while idolizing Ken Griffey Jr., now with the Mariners. "I don't know how I got really just fixed on him," said Jackson, who met Griffey a few years ago and was so nervous he was almost speechless. "I met him when he was with Cincinnati two years ago in big league camp. Had a million things to say to him, and then when I finally met him, I couldn't say anything. I got stuck. I think I walked up to him and introduced myself, and I was like, 'Can I get a bat?' It was a weird thing to ask somebody you don't know."
Everett's patience paying dividends
SEATTLE -- Adam Everett admits it wasn't easy to stick with some of the hitting techniques he was trying in Spring Training, not after a 4-for-44 camp performance that he says was by far the worst of his 10-year Major League career. But he did, and at 5-for-17 entering Friday's series opener against the Mariners, he feels like he's reaping some of the benefits so far."I was frustrated," Everett said, "especially there toward the end. It got to the point where everybody was talking about it. [Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon] kept telling me, 'You're fine. You've been through enough Spring Trainings.' But you also want to prove to people that you can still do it, that you're not completely incapable of doing stuff. "More than anything, I think it was kind of good motivation for me, especially to have that game I had in Milwaukee [when he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts]. I said, 'OK, that's behind me. Let's just go out and play.'" The delineation for Everett came on Opening Day with a line-drive single in his first at-bat against 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. He carried it from there to the point where he was 4-for-9. He's 1-for-8 since, but that one hit was a double Wednesday off Kansas City's Kyle Davies to start a game-tying rally. "I just think things are totally different from Spring Training to the season," Everett said. "A great example is [Mark] Teixeira had a tremendous spring, and then he starts the season 0-for-16. Last I checked, he's a pretty darn good hitter." Manager Jim Leyland said he's very happy with Everett, but that people shouldn't become fixated on offense from him when it isn't the strong part of his game.
Top prospect Jacob Turner gave up a run on five hits over four innings in his second professional start on Thursday for Class A West Michigan. Turner struck out four and walked none in the matchup against Bowling Green (Ky.). ... Austin Jackson has hit safely in eight of his nine games this season and leads all Major League rookies with 13 hits. ... The Tigers entered Friday tied for the American League lead with 14 double plays turned, but they didn't turn any Friday.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.