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.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.