Looking ahead to ALCS Game 1: Tigers-Red Sox

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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.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.