08/21/11 1:30 PM ET
Leyland doesn't want to be left short-handed
By Jason Beck and Chris Vannini / MLB.com
While Don Kelly lost playing time at third base with Brandon Inge, he regained a spot as a defensive replacement in the corner outfield spots late in games with a lead. Inge, when he isn't starting at third, will be a late-game replacement at the hot corner. Ramon Santiago has done the same at second on days when Ryan Raburn starts.
That accounts for three of the Tigers' four reserve spots. If it's a close game in which the Tigers don't take the lead until late, the other slot would've been lost to a pinch-hitter.
"To be honest with you, we've had to defense for too many people," Leyland said. "If you're just defensing for one, that's fine. But we've defensed at third, we've defensed at second, we've defensed in the outfield. That makes it tough as a manager, because at some point -- like the other night, nobody said anything the other night, but I played the end of the game without an extra player. I didn't have an infielder if somebody got hurt."
That would have been on Wednesday, when Leyland used Wilson Betemit to pinch-hit for Kelly and Raburn to pinch-hit for Austin Jackson at designated hitter in the ninth. Leyland could have moved Raburn into the infield if need be, but he would've lost the DH slot. He was out of position players, so a pitcher would've had to bat in that spot behind Miguel Cabrera had the Tigers scored off Joe Nathan and sent the game into extra innings.
Jackson's patient approach cutting down K's
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson doesn't remember his last strikeout, but he tries not to think about them. Fans probably don't remember Jackson's last strikeout either, and that would be understandable.
The last time Austin Jackson struck out was Aug. 11 against the Indians' Fausto Carmona in Cleveland. Since then, Jackson has gone eight games without a punchout, doubling his previous career long.
The streak saw Jackson fall to eighth in the Majors in strikeouts. Last season, Jackson led the American League with 170 strikeouts. He's at 128 this year, on a pace to finish at 165.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland pointed to Jackson's recent attention on bunting for hits as help for his focus.
"I think whenever you work on bunting, it helps you track the ball better and your concentration is better," Leyland said.
Leyland used former Pirates infielder Jay Bell as an example of how bunting helped decrease strikeouts. Bell led the National League in sacrifice bunts in 1990 and '91 while batting second in the lineup under Leyland and he had about 100 strikeouts each of those seasons.
"I did it for a reason: because he struck out a lot and I wanted him to learn how to track the ball, and at one point in his career, he hit  home runs," Leyland said.
Power isn't part of Jackson's game, but the hope is the concentration from bunting will continue to help Jackson put the ball in play more often.
A big improvement for Jackson has been in two-strike counts. In the last eight games, Jackson has had just 12 two-strike counts and is 4-for-11 (.364) with a sacrifice fly in those situations. On the season, his average with two strikes is .159.
"I definitely feel more relaxed," Jackson said. "I'm just trying to be patient and take my at-bat and try to use it as my time and not go up there and let the pitcher dictate how long that at-bat is going to be."
Tigers hit two million mark at Comerica
DETROIT -- With Sunday's crowd, the Tigers pushed past the two million mark in attendance, measured by tickets sold each game. They've hit that mark every year since 2005, the season in which the Tigers hosted the All-Star Game, and the season before Detroit went to the World Series.
So far, the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins and Angels are the only other American League teams to hit the two million mark in each of those same seasons. The White Sox and Mariners have streaks going, but haven't hit two million yet this season.
The Tigers have 18 home games left after Sunday, starting with next week's homestand against the Royals and White Sox. At the rate they've been drawing lately, it appears likely they'll surpass last year's attendance of 2,461,237, as well as their 2009 attendance of 2,567,165.
Manager Jim Leyland noted the atmosphere in the ballpark. He had friends in town from out of state on Saturday, and the skipper said they were amazed at the electricity in the park. Leyland believes that makes a difference with players as well.
"The electricity is so great sometimes, I think it does make guys concentrate better," Leyland said.
The flip side is that it could make for an abrupt transition from the crowds of the last few days to the upcoming series at Tampa Bay, where the Rays have struggled to draw friends for much of the year. Tampa Bay entered Sunday ranked last in attendance despite owning the American League's fourth-best record.
Avila keeps rolling along at the plate
DETROIT -- The fear about the wear and tear of playing every day on catcher Alex Avila has changed to amazement about the tear Avila has been on since his last game off two weeks ago. That's now reaching league-wide proportions.
With Victor Martinez's balky left knee showing no signs of allowing him to catch anytime soon, Avila continues to plug away behind the plate. He entered Sunday leading all American League players in the three major percentages -- a .442 batting average, .567 on-base percentage and .788 slugging percentage.
With 10 days left in August, it's shaping up as arguably the strongest month by a Tigers catcher since Ivan Rodriguez hit .500 for the entire month of June 2004.
Saturday was a day for the on-base percentage. With three walks, a single and a double, Avila reached base safely every time he stepped to the plate. Add in his home run in his final at-bat on Friday, and Avila had reached base six straight times.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.