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Justin Verlander was Justin Verlander. Miguel Cabrera was Miguel Cabrera.
Verlander, after a sub-par season for his standards, gave a vintage performance when it mattered most. Cabrera, after an injury-filled September where he hit just one HR and seven RBI, stepped up in the biggest spotlight.
The Red Sox and the Tigers will clash for the right to play in the World Series, Game 1 set to start at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday at Fenway Park. There’s a general consensus from baseball fans wanting a Red Sox v. Dodgers World Series, but this is the best matchup you could ask for in the American League.
Interestingly enough, these teams started playing baseball around the same time the vacuum cleaner was invented and Australia became a country, (seriously), but they have never faced each other in the post season.
The Red Sox lost the season series with the Tigers 4 games to 3, but they also lit them up for 20 runs, including 8 long balls, on September 4th. Many of the Boston’s losses were started by a pitcher we will not see in this series, so that can give Boston fans a sign of relief. Jonathan Lester, who will start Game 1, is 2-0 against Detroit this season, but gave up 6 runs on 12+ innings pitched.
The great Earl Weaver once famously quoted “Momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher”. I’d like to hope that is the case here with Anibal Sanchez, who will get the start for Detroit. He has never faced the Red Sox in two years with the Tigers, but got torched for seven runs in his one career start vs. Boston back in 2006, which means absolutely nothing. Either way, a significant downgrade from Justin Verlander, who was filthy on Thursday night.
The Tigers certainly have the edge in recent years, reaching the ALCS for the third straight year, whereas the Red Sox haven’t been in this position since 2008. This may be a red flag for Boston fans, but it’s nothing to worry about. While the Tigers have been used to winning recently, veterans in the Red Sox clubhouse are no stranger to it either. It wasn’t long ago that a roster with Lester, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Ortiz etc. was considered the best in baseball. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that John Farrell guy, he was on those teams as well.
The key for Boston in this series is to capitalize on opportunities, and limit damage in key situations. There is no such thing as stopping Justin Verlander, there is no such thing as stopping Miguel Cabrera. What there are, however, are ways to limit their effectiveness.
When Cabrera is up, pitch him outside or throw him garbage. I’d much rather walk a guy than have him give a souvenir to a fan in the grandstands. When Verlander is on the mound, play small ball. Base hits, bunts, stolen bases all generate runs, and those will be at a premium. We saw in Game 4 of the ALDS how playing this way can win games.
Game 1 favors Boston heavily. More rest, at home, with Lester on the mound. It’s key that they jump out to an early 1-0 series lead, which I think they will. The true test will come in games 3-5 back in Detroit, facing Verlander & Co. at Comerica Park. If they can return to Boston up 3 games to 2, winning one at Fenway shouldn’t be an issue.
Official prediction: Sox in 6. Despite what we saw from Verlander on Friday night, and a healthy Miguel Cabrera who wields the most dangerous bat in all of baseball, the Red Sox have been the most complete team in the American League all season. While this is going to be a battle, and an exciting battle at that, (maybe not Brad Pitt in Troy, but something along those lines), I still think the Sox top to bottom have more than the Tigers, and they’ll return to the World Series for the first time since 2007.
The only hiccup: Aaron *bleepin* Boone, surprisingly, predicted the Red Sox to win the ALCS. Boone, the Red Sox, and the ALCS don’t exactly have the best of relationships. Is this the Kiss of Death? I hope not, but at least Boston fans have someone to blame should things not go our way.