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.

Max Scherzer will not be ready for Opening Day

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Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.

[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.

He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.

Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.