After the Red Sox defeated the Rays in four games and the Tigers needed five games to finish off the Athletics, the two teams will now square off in the ALCS. Amazingly, this will be the first matchup ever between these two teams in postseason play. Game 1 will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET at Fenway Park in Boston and will be broadcast on FOX.
With first pitch still a few hours away, here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:
The Tigers used Max Scherzer in relief in Game 4 of the ALDS while Justin Verlander went eight innings in Game 5, so Anibal Sanchez will get the Game 1 assignment against Boston. That’s not such a bad thing, as Sanchez led the American League with a 2.57 ERA during the regular season. Still, he’s coming off a shaky outing in Game 3 of the ALDS during which he allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits (including three home runs) over just 4 1/3 innings. Keep in mind that he gave up just nine home runs in 182 innings during the regular season.
The Red Sox are unsurprisingly going with Jon Lester to open the series. After posting a 3.75 ERA during the regular season, the 29-year-old southpaw allowed two runs (on two solo homers) and struck out seven over 7 2/3 innings in a Game 1 victory in the ALDS. He’ll be going on seven days’ of rest.
While the Tigers used Jhonny Peralta at shortstop in Game 5 of the ALDS, Jose Iglesias will be back at the position for the series opener. This means that Peralta will have to contend with the unique quirks of the Green Monster in left field, but he said yesterday that despite his inexperience in the outfield, he “doesn’t think it will be tough.”
With Sanchez on the mound for Detroit tonight, we should see Daniel Nava in left field for Boston. The Tigers will only throw right-handed starters during the series, so John Farrell will have to pick his spots for Jonny Gomes.
Mark Buehrle last pitched in 2015, for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was still pretty effective and toyed with the idea of pitching last season, but he never signed anywhere and is, for all intents and purposes, retired.
Now at least his number will be retired officially. It will be done by the club for which he had the most success and with which he is, obviously, most associated:
Buehrle pitched for the White Sox for 12 years. He was the model of consistency and durability in Chicago, logging over 200 innings a season in every single season but his rookie year, when he was primarily a reliever. He was a solid defender, a multi-time All-Star, tossed a perfect game in 2009 and helped the Chisox to their first World Series title in 88 years in 2005.
He was also one of baseball’s fastest workers, so I’m going to assume that, in his honor, the number retirement ceremony will last, like, a minute 20, after which everyone can get on with their dang day.
Terry Francona just won the American League pennant, the Manager of the Year Award and his Cleveland Indians will likely be among the favorites to win it all in 2017. Between that and his 17-year track record as one of the best managers in the business, he will have a job, somewhere, for as long as he wants one.
He said yesterday, however, that his body will likely limit how long he manages:
“It gets harder and harder physically. It really does. It takes me longer to recharge every year . . . I’ve had a lot of surgeries, a lot of health problems. It just takes a toll on you. I love [the game of baseball]. I really do, but I can’t see myself doing something else. But there is going to come a day when I feel like I’m shortchanging the team or the organization. That’s not fair.
“Even now, during batting practice, I’ll come in and get off my feet a little bit. I think everybody understands. But when there comes a day when it gets in the way, I’m going to have to pull back, and it’s not because I don’t love managing. You have to have a certain amount of energy to do this job right.”
Francona experienced some chest pains and had an elevated heart rate that caused him to leave a game early last season. In 2005 a similar episode caused him to miss three games while managing the Red Sox. He also has a history of embolisms and blood clots, some of which have hospitalized him.
With multiple World Series rings there isn’t much more in baseball that Francona can accomplish, but here’s hoping he sticks around and accomplishes a lot more before he trades in his baseball spikes for golf spikes and calls it a career.