Looking ahead to ALCS Game 6: Tigers-Red Sox

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After defeating the Tigers 4-3 in Game 5 on Thursday night, the Red Sox are just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 2007. They’ll attempt to finish things off in Game 6 of the ALCS tonight at Fenway Park in Boston. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET while the game will be broadcast on FOX.

Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:

Max Scherzer will be tasked with keeping the Tigers’ season alive. The AL Cy Young Award favorite took a no-hitter into the sixth inning back in Game 2 and ended up striking out 13 batters while allowing just one run over seven innings. Of course, the Tigers wasted his strong performance after David Ortiz hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walkoff single in the ninth. Scherzer has allowed four runs while striking out 26 batters in 16 innings of work this postseason, including two starts and one relief appearance.

The Red Sox will turn to Clay Buchholz to pitch them to a pennant. The 29-year-old had an uneven performance back in Game 2, allowing just one run over the first five innings before being tagged for four runs in the sixth. He gave up two home runs in that start, which are still the only homers by Detroit during the series. Buchholz has allowed eight runs on 15 hits and three walks in 11 2/3 innings over his two starts this postseason.

The big question for the Tigers is whether Alex Avila will be ready to play after he was forced to leave Game 5 with a left patellar tendon strain. If not, Tigers manager Jim Leyland could simply go with Brayan Pena behind the plate, though he told reporters yesterday that he hasn’t ruled out using Victor Martinez at catcher while having Miguel Cabrera start at DH and Ramon Santiago or Don Kelly at third base. We should know for sure later this afternoon.

According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Red Sox manager John Farrell said yesterday that Xander Bogaerts will make his second straight start at third base in Game 6. The 21-year-old stepped in for Will Middlebrooks in Game 5 and went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be back behind the plate for Boston after David Ross caught Game 5. Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes will get the nod over Daniel Nava in left field once again.

Bartolo Colon ain’t doing so hot this year

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If he wasn’t 44 years-old we’d just call it a slump, but the way Bartolo Colon is pitching right now makes you wonder if the end is nigh.

Colon was shelled this afternoon, giving up seven runs on ten hits and walking three in five innings of work to take the loss against the Pirates. That brings his ERA up to 6.96 on the year. He’s allowed five or more runs in five of his ten starts and opposing batters are hitting .320 against him. One of the big reasons he had been so effective into his 40s had been his low walk rate — he led the NL in this category for the past two seasons — but he’s walking more guys this year than last.

The Braves picked up Colon for the reasons a lot of rebuilding teams pick up veteran starters: to provide innings and stability until the younger arms of the future can mature. Colon, however, has been the weakest link of the Braves rotation.

At some point, every baseball player reaches the end. Almost all of them do it before the age of 44. One hopes, given his history and popularity that Colon is just experiencing a rough patch and that, by mid season, he’ll be reliably pumping strikes into the zone the way he has the past few seasons. But with each bad start he registers this year, that’s seeming like more and more of a stretch.

Braves designate Josh Collmenter for assignment

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Last night Braves reliever Josh Collmenter surrendered three homers and seven runs in the 10th inning of a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came into the game when it was tied 5-5 so, yeah, ouch. Today Collmenter is on his way to no longer being a Braves reliever as he has been designated for assignment.

Collmenter made 11 appearances for the Braves, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 17 innings. If he doesn’t latch on someplace else he can take heart that his final act in the big leagues was striking out former MVP Andrew McCutchen. If only he hadn’t surrendered consecutive homers to David Freese, Jose Osuna and Jordy Mercer just before that. Oh well. Take the good with the bad.

Right-hander Matt Wisler, who has been no great shakes in the bigs himself, was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett before today’s series finale against the Pirates. He’s currently throwing mopup duty for Bartolo Colon, who got shelled for seven runs in four innings.

Given how Colon is going, maybe the Braves will be thinking about some more transactions soon.