John Lackey and Mike Napoli help Red Sox defeat Justin Verlander in Game 3 of ALCS

43 Comments

Tigers ace Justin Verlander whiffed 10 batters and allowed just one run on four hits over eight innings in Tuesday’s ALCS Game 3 against the Red Sox, becoming the first pitcher in postseason history to fan 10 batters and yield four-or-fewer hits in three consecutive outings. But that’s not the story here.

The Red Sox got a solo home run from first baseman Mike Napoli in the top of the seventh inning to snap Verlander’s shutout bid and rode that to a 1-0 win over host Detroit at a cold and gray Comerica Park.

Boston starter John Lackey did his own Verlander impression, yielding just four hits over 6 2/3 frames while fanning eight. He did not issue a walk and was visibly frustrated when Boston manager John Farrell decided to go to the bullpen with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. But that move worked out.

Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combined to keep the Tigers scoreless, navigating in and out of a couple tight jams. The Red Sox — who battled back from a 5-0 deficit to win Game 2 at Boston’s Fenway Park — now boast a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Game 4 of the ALCS is scheduled to get underway Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.