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ALCS Game 3 Preview: Boston Visits Detroit

ALCS Game 3 Preview: Boston Visits Detroit

American League Championship Series – Game 3
Boston at Detroit
3:07 ET Fox
John Lackey (10-13, 3.52) vs. Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46)

Just when the Tigers thought they had a firm grip on this series as they were about to take a commanding 2-0 lead back home to Detroit for three games, a typical Red Sox game at Fenway Park broke out. Typical for the 2000s, anyway. Detroit’s pitchers were toying with Boston batters and had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning. But a double here, a walk there, a pitching change here, a pitching change there, a ground ball single here and a Big Papi grand slam there suddenly turned a dreary old ballpark into a vibrant baseball palace again. So onto Detroit we go with the series knotted at one game apiece.

Keys for Detroit
Forget about Sunday night. Justin Verlander must continue the dominance that the staff has shown over the Red Sox and the success that the righthander has enjoyed this postseason. As good as Verlander has been, the Tigers must be able to close out games when their starting pitching dominates. The Detroit bullpen has been the elephant in the room all season, and has once again become a problem for manager Jim Leyland. Last season, he turned to Phil Coke to close out games. He may resort to the lefty again. Of course, getting the series to Detroit is key in that Boston magic is less likely to happen outside of Fenway.

Keys for Boston
The Red Sox must get their offense going. They have yet to record a hit in the first through fifth innings. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino must jump-start this offense. Dustin Pedroia, hitting in front of David Ortiz, is a key to forcing the Tigers to pitch to Boston’s big slugger. If the Tigers are allowed to pitch around Ortiz, it could be another long night for the Boston bats. Starter John Lackey must be up to the task, expecting little run support. Manager John Farrell will be quick to go to the bullpen, but the Red Sox can’t afford to tax the pen too much and leave nothing for Games 4 and 5.

Tigers to Watch
As Leyland searches for answers in the bullpen, Joaquin Benoit may not have many opportunities left. Lefthanders Drew Smyly and Coke will likely get chances in high-leverage situations. Lackey may be able to keep Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter at bay, but expect the righthander to have trouble negotiating the Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder-Victor Martinez-Jhonny Peralta gauntlet.

Red Sox to Watch
Big Papi will be the center of attention for the Sox. He is the one hitter the Tigers can’t allow to beat them. Obviously, a key will be getting outs in front him. The big designated hitter has had success against Verlander and he truly loves to hit in the postseason.

Key Stats
Red Sox batters have struck out 32 times in 59 at-bats in the first two games… Ortiz with four RBIs is the only player for either team with more than one…The Tigers were 7-10 in Verlander’s 17 home starts this season; 0-8 when scoring four runs or less…Ortiz has 10 hits, including six for extra bases, in his 27 at-bats off of Verlander… Pedroia is 1-for-18 with a walk against Verlander…The former AL MVP has held Ellsbury to a .269 OBP…The Red Sox were 14-15 in Lackey’s 29 starts this season, but only 5-11 in 16 starts away from Fenway…The projected starting nine for the Tigers carries a .298 aggregate batting average against Lackey.