The Tigers escaped the ALDS against the A’s despite scoring more than three runs just once in five games. They’re going to need to do better than that against the Red Sox, and it will have to start at the top with leadoff man Austin Jackson.
Looking lost at the plate, Jackson went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts on Thursday to finish the ALDS 2-for-20 with 13 strikeouts and just one walk. He scored one of Detroit’s 17 runs in the series.
Jackson fared far better in the regular season against the Red Sox, batting .478 and scoring seven runs in the six games in which he played. Overall, the Tigers were 4-3 against the Red Sox, despite being outscored 43-34.
(20 of those runs the Red Sox scored came in one game, the last played by the two teams back on Sept. 4. The Tigers’ starter in that one, Rick Porcello, isn’t part of the postseason rotation.)
The rotations for the ALCS have yet to be announced, but they’ll probably shake out like this:
Games 1 & 5: Anibal Sanchez vs. Jon Lester
Games 2 & 6: Max Scherzer vs. John Lackey
Games 3 & 7: Justin Verlander vs. Clay Buchholz
Game 4: Doug Fister vs. Jake Peavy
Those pitching matchups are obviously the Tigers’ biggest advantage in the series, while the Red Sox hold edges offensively and defensively.
One way for the Tigers to even those up would be to have Jackson starting getting on base in front of Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers were 43-24 when he reached base twice in a game this year, which is actually a better winning percentage than they had when Miggy homered (.642 to .625).
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.