The score was 5-1 in favor of the Tigers, who were only five outs away from going up 2-0 in this best-of-seven series, and after having been dominated by Anibal Sanchez and his bullpen in Game 1 (1 hit and 17 strikeouts), the Red Sox had only managed two hits off of starter Max Scherzer. Scherzer left the game after seven innings, having struck out 13 Red Sox batters.
Absolutely nothing pointed to a Boston comeback, but with one out in the bottom of the eight the wheels started to come off for the Tigers. Jose Veras surrendered a double to Will Middlebrooks, Drew Smyly walked Jacoby Ellsbury, and while Al Albuquerque got the record setting 31st strikeout in two games, he allowed a single to Dustin Pedroia to load the bases.
Manager Jim Leyland brought in his closer, Joaquin Benoit, to save the day. His first pitch was a fastball to David Ortiz. Ortiz had never hit a home run off Benoit, but had been studying his pitch sequences very closely. It definitely seemed like he knew what was coming, because he launched that first fastball to deep right field, just out of the reach of right fielder Torii Hunter and over the outfield wall for a thrilling game-tying grand slam.
After a misplay by Prince Fielder and a wild pitch the Red Sox had the winning run on third base in the bottom of the ninth. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s single brought home the winning run and with that walk-off victory the Sox tied the series at 1-1.
Can Verlander continue the Tiger starters’ streak?
The last three games for the Tigers featured no-hitters taken into at least the seventh inning by their starting pitchers. Verlander started this streak himself in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Oakland A’s. As a matter of fact, in his last few starts he seems to have found his old groove pitching 28 straight scoreless innings, striking out 43 batters.
He could really do some damage against the cold Boston lineup. His manager Leyland will definitely hope he can go the full nine innings, since his bullpen has faltered on multiple occasions in the playoffs in recent years. The lineup and starting pitching for the Tigers have been right up there with the best teams in the league, the defense and bullpen though have really hurt the team. It will be interesting to see if Leyland decides to go with defense or offense at the shortstop position in Game 3. Iglesias, the better defender, and Peralta, the better hitter, have both started a game at short in the series.
Game 3 pitching matchup
Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46 ERA) vs. John Lackey (10-13, 3.52)
The stats for these two pitchers do not differentiate too much, but Verlander is clearly the better pitcher and like I said before, he is quite possibly the hottest pitcher in baseball at the moment. This postseason he is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 15 innings. In his only start against the Red Sox he pitched a forgettable five innings in which he gave up four runs. The only player Verlander really has to fear, naturally, is David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz. In 27 career at bats ‘Papi’ has hit .370 with 4 doubles and 2 home runs off of Verlander.
In the ALDS John Lackey earned the win in Game 2 even though he gave up four runs in 5.1 innings. He has had two very solid starts against the Tigers this year, but he will be facing a lineup with at least five players that have a career average of over .300 against him.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that with a red-hot Justin Verlander the Tigers are the heavy favorites (-150) in this game. And even though a winning bet on the Red Sox could earn you a lot (+135), I would advise against that.
My gut tells me this will be an easy victory for the Tigers in their own Comerica Park.