video thumbnail

ALCS Gm5: Lester, Sanchez meet in Detroit for Game 5

DETROIT -- Going into Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, it looked like the tight, intense matchup between the Red Sox and Tigers would continue to be all about pitching.

Then again, it's October in southern Michigan and New England. The leaves are changing, the autumn winds are shifting, and with every inning of these games, the script is being ad-libbed by wily managers and played out in real time by actors with bats and gloves in their hands.

Wednesday at Comerica Park brought what has been an ALCS outlier: a five-run second-inning outburst by the Tigers, a 7-3 win, and a clean series slate: we're at 2-2 now, with a guarantee of a trip back to Fenway Park for at least a Game 6, and who knows what else to expect in a series that's still impossible to predict.

Thursday night's Game 5, which will be broadcast on FOX at 8 p.m. ET, will offer an anticipated rematch between Game 1's brilliant starters, Jon Lester of the Red Sox and Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers.

They combined to give up one run on six hits in 12 1/3 innings of Game 1, with 16 strikeouts. Sanchez didn't give up a hit and fanned 12. Lester wasn't shabby, either, giving up only one run.

But things can change fast the second time around.

The hitters might be more accustomed to the stuff of Sanchez and Lester. More video has been watched. More scouting information has been absorbed. There could be a comfort level.

There could be … offense, and possibly even offense in abundance?

"When you see a guy more than once, you feel better against the guy," Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "They've done a great job of maintaining and keeping it down in the zone and keeping us from having those big innings.

"We're going to take that same approach. We're trying to get to the starting pitcher, get some runs on the board and get to the bullpen."

Detroit will try to repeat the collective effort at the plate that was generated on Wednesday, scoring seven runs in two innings: a five-run second and a two-run fourth against Red Sox starter Jake Peavy.

Prior to the game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland orchestrated what he referred to as a surprising lineup change: having Torii Hunter bat leadoff, moving Miguel Cabrera from third to second, and putting struggling former leadoff man Austin Jackson in the eight-hole.

It worked for everyone, except the Red Sox. Jackson drew a full-count, bases-loaded walk and ended up with two hits and another RBI. Hunter doubled home two runs.

In other words, Leyland will go to the same configuration in Game 5.

"I really think you have to," Leyland said. "You have seen good pitching. It's not that easy. If you look at all the series, I think it's remarkable.

"If you looked at some of the batting averages from all the teams involved in the playoffs, and I'm including the National League, it's pretty shocking sometimes. It's just not that easy. It's hard. But I will go with this lineup tomorrow for sure."

Meanwhile, the Red Sox will look for encouragement in the fact that they outhit the Tigers in Game 4, 12 to nine, and had plenty of chances to score.

"The one thing when we've been in stretches like this, we continually do a very good job of creating opportunities," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We did that tonight. We haven't done it so much in the first three games, but that's a tip of the hat to the pitching that we've been facing.

"But the one thing that we've maintained is a constant approach with the lineup and not creating further uncertainty. And I think our guys have responded well to that. I thought overall it was a very good offensive approach tonight. Unfortunately, the two-out base hit was elusive and any kind of extra-base hit with any men on base."

Thursday's Game 5 brings about the rematch of a duel that observers of the game will likely remember for a long time.

Most will remember the fact that Sanchez's six-inning, no-hit, 12-strikeout, six-walk work, but Lester was very good, too, going 6 1/3 innings and giving up only one run on six hits while striking out four and walking one. The hit that did him in was a soft line drive to center field by Jhonny Peralta.

Despite the loss, there was ample evidence yet again that the Lester the Red Sox have come to expect in October is back, and the veteran left-hander said it's not difficult to pinpoint how he's been able to rebound from a disappointing 2012 and inconsistent early 2013 campaign.

"I think any time you have fastball command, it sets everything up," Lester said. "That's the name of being a pitcher. You've got to have good command of your fastball down the zone on both sides. For whatever reason, whether it was just that little extra time after the break, I just physically felt better within each game."

For Sanchez, despite the feat of having rendered the Red Sox hitless for six innings in Game 1, there's room for improvement.

The right-hander, whose 2.57 ERA was the lowest in the American League, said he would try to not walk so many batters and lower his pitch count in the process. That would lead to an outing of more than six innings.

"I need to do my job," Sanchez said. "And I have to control what I can control. ... But when I don't have control … then I can't do too much."

Red Sox: Bogaerts to start?
• Rookie infielder Xander Bogaerts entered Game 4 as a pinch-hitter and doubled in the ninth inning, becoming the youngest Red Sox player, at 21 years old, to record a postseason hit. After the game, Farrell was asked if Bogaerts would get the start in Game 5, presumably at third base or shortstop, where Will Middlebrooks (1-for-9 in the series) and Stephen Drew (1-for-13 in the series), respectively, have scuffled.

Farrell wouldn't commit to it, but he didn't say no, either.

"We're struggling a little bit to get production out of that [left] side," Farrell said. "So it's something that's being considered, for sure."

• Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury had four hits in Game 4, giving him five games in his postseason career in which he's had at least three hits, passing Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz for the most postseason games with three hits in team history.

• Boston has a 0.74 bullpen ERA (two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings) this postseason, with 22 strikeouts.

Tigers: Fielder still struggling
• Even though the Tigers scored seven runs in their Game 4 victory, slugger Prince Fielder was not a part of the action. The big first baseman took an 0-for-4 night with a strikeout and is hitting .200 (3-for-15) with no home runs or RBIs in the ALCS and only one extra-base hit, a double. He has struck out four times and drawn one walk.

"That's just part of it," Leyland said. "Like I've always said, when he stands in the batter's box, you think something big could happen at any time, and I still feel that way. Will it happen? I don't know. … But I don't want to put any pressure on anybody, say, 'You have to go up and hit a home run.'"

• Tigers starting pitchers have registered a quality start in eight of the club's nine games thus far during the postseason. Detroit starters have compiled a 1.97 ERA (13 earned runs in 59 1/3 innings) and 81 strikeouts during the nine starts. The Tigers led the Major Leagues with 108 quality starts during the regular season.

• Designated hitter Victor Martinez has hit safely in seven of the nine postseason games and has collected multiple hits in six of the nine. He is hitting .429 (15-for-35) with four doubles, a home run and three RBIs during the postseason.

Worth noting
• Through the first 36 innings of the ALCS, the Red Sox have been tied or behind after 32 innings, having only led after Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off single in the ninth inning of Game 2 and after Mike Napoli's solo home run with one out in the seventh inning of Game 3.

• With Doug Fister's seven strikeouts in Game 4, Tigers starting pitchers have 42 strikeouts in four games. The Atlanta Braves starters hold the LCS record with 49 strikeouts in the 1991 LCS, and the Arizona Diamondbacks hold the postseason record with 51 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings by their starters in the 2001 World Series. Both the LCS and postseason records were set in series that went seven games. Comments