June 22, 2011: Game Over, Man
It was getaway day in Los Angeles, and manager Jim Leyland gave Jackson the day off. Casper Wells started in center in the finale of the three-game series with the Dodgers. The Tigers dropped the first two but had a chance to escape with a win in the finale. Detroit led, 7-5, heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Leyland reconfigured his outfield for the final frame. The dependable Austin Jackson got the call to beef up the defense behind closer Jose Valverde. Jackson took his usual spot in center field. Wells slid over to right, replacing Brennan Boesch. Valverde had successfully completed all 16 of his save opportunities to that point, but the Dodgers weren’t going to make this one easy for him. In between the first two outs of the inning, Los Angeles loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk.
With the game on the line, light-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro stepped in against Valverde. Down to his last strike, Navarro hit a fly ball deep to center. Jackson hustled back to the warning track and made an over-the-shoulder catch to snuff out the Dodgers’ threat and end the game.
Don Mattingly, the Dodgers’ rookie manager, and James Loney, who was the runner on first base, were both caught by surprise. Each of them said they thought the ball was going to soar over Jackson’s head. Navarro, after watching a replay, acknowledged that Jackson “took a great jump.” The Tigers’ infrequent interleague opponents from L.A. must not have been too familiar with Austin Jackson. For the Detroit centerfielder, the catch was just business as usual. Jackson commented,
"“With the situation, it was probably a better catch than it really was. I got a pretty good jump on it and a good read on it. I felt the warning track, and I knew how much room I had. That’s why they put me in there – to try to make a big catch.”"