Matthew Pouliot

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Two

Tigers lose the momentum, but still have an edge


It’s not going to be the joyous plane ride home the Tigers were looking forward to, but achieving a split in Fenway, with Justin Verlander about to pitch in Game 3, is a great place for Jim Leyland’s team to be with up to five games remaining in the ALCS.

There’s something to be said for the way the Tigers lost on Sunday night. Up 5-1 in the eighth, victory seems all but assured. That was particularly true in light of the fact that the Red Sox had struck out 30 times and scored once in 16 innings up that point.

But, as the Red Sox showed tonight, momentum counts for so little in baseball it might as well not exist at all. They went from left for dead to Gatorade bathings in the blink of an eye. The Tigers are practiced at coming off tough defeats. They just came from 2-1 down to beat the A’s in the ALDS. Last month, they lost 20-4 to the Red Sox, then came out and drubbed the Royals 16-2 in their next game,  The last four times they were shut out in the regular season (not including that Henderson Alvarez no-hitter in game No. 162),  they won their next game).

Sure, the Red Sox are feeling much better about themselves after David Ortiz’s grand slam. They know the Tigers bullpen is vulnerable. But they knew that going in. They were the favorites two days ago, and they could still be considered the favorites now.

The Tigers’ starting pitching, though, is completely unblemished, and Verlander is coming off two dominant performances against the A’s. To win this series, the Red Sox still need at least two more wins in games started by Verlander, Sanchez and Scherzer, and it’s not like they’re any sort of cinch to win Game 4 with Doug Fister on the mound.

What the Tigers do need is some sort of threat from the top of their lineup. Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter are both 1-for-10 after two games, and Hunter, in particular, has looked awful at the plate. Because of their struggles, neither Miguel Cabrera nor Prince Fielder ever got to hit with a man on base in Game 2. As much as the Red Sox’s offensive impotence was the story for most of Saturday and Sunday, both teams now have scored in exactly three of the 18 innings played.

Game 3 should be fascinating. John Lackey has been rock solid for the Red Sox, but he’s probably going to give up two or three runs, at least. If the Tigers are up 3-1 after seven, will Jim Leyland push Verlander in response to what happened tonight? Verlander is better equipped to go the distance than Sanchez or Scherzer, but he hasn’t completed a game this year and, if nothing else, the Red Sox will probably drive up his pitch count. How the Tigers handle a Game 3 save opportunity could well swing the rest of the series.

Red Sox make no adjustments in ugly loss

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Three

How is the best way to deal with an inconsistent, pitcher-friendly strike zone?

Apparently, it’s to keep the bat on one’s shoulder or maybe just swing halfway and hope for the best.

The Red Sox succeeded in running up Anibal Sanchez’s pitch count in Saturday’s 1-0 loss, but that was their only victory of the night. Even though they were no-hit until there was one out in the ninth, the outcome wasn’t finally decided until Xander Bogaerts’ popup to short.

It was just the 10th ball put into play by the team all night.

Mostly, the Red Sox relied on umpire Joe West in the hopes of reach base via the walk. It worked six times, and with another ump, they might have been the beneficiary of one or two more free passes. But putting the game in the ump’s hands is never the best of plays.

It’s no surprise the Red Sox were a bit rusty after three days off, and while the Tigers may call Sanchez their third starter, the guy did lead the AL in ERA this year. It was no easy assignment with the way Sanchez’s slider was working. Still, the Red Sox took more half-swings than swings in the first six innings. It was a poor display from the team that led the AL in runs scored this year.

The Red Sox also took zero advantage of the terribly hobbled Miguel Cabrera at third base. Only two players showed bunt in the game. David Ross did it twice in an at-bat, pulling back both times before coaxing a walk. Shane Victorino finally dropped one down in the sixth, but incredibly, he pushed it down the first line and did it terribly, giving Sanchez an easy, one-pitch out. Cabrera, the likely AL MVP, looks like he can hardly move out there, but the Red Sox never tested him.

The Red Sox will probably come out better in Sunday’s Game 2, but with Max Scherzer on the mound, the runs won’t come much easier. It’d help to get on the board early, maybe by putting bat to ball once in a while.

Down 2-0 in NLCS, Dodgers appear doomed

Carl Crawford

Not even 24 hours into a seven-game series, the Dodgers’ World Series hopes are already on life support. By failing to secure either of the first two games with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, they’ve become huge long shots to defeat the Cardinals in the NLCS.

If there’s any reason for the Dodgers to take heart, it’s that the matchups haven’t dictated the series so far. The Dodgers figured to have the edges in the first two games, even with the series in St. Louis, because they had their big two going and the Cardinals were starting Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha. Obviously, it didn’t work out as they’d like. But they can psyche themselves up by claiming their own underdog status now, especially against Adam Wainwright in Game 3.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers now have to beat Wainwright once if they’re going to win the series. And Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t appear up to that kind of task during a shaky NLDS start against the Braves. Rumored to be battling elbow and/or back problems, he gave up four runs in three innings in that one.

But Monday’s Game 3 will be practically a must-win game against a pitcher who is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a 57/7 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 career innings in the postseason. A victory will be even more improbable if Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers’ best hitter, can’t go after injuring his ribs on a HBP in Game 1 and missing Game 2. Ramirez’s absence played a huge role in Saturday’s 1-0 loss; he’s performed as well as anyone in the National League when healthy this season.

Without Ramirez, the Dodgers could well go down quietly from here. Yasiel Puig seems lost at the plate, Andre Ethier is limited and Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco was a disaster at the end of the regular season. Things couldn’t possibly have broken better for the Cardinals.