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So, where do we stand now?
Up until this point in the series, these two teams seemed about as even as even gets. Each game a one-run difference. Runs at a premium, with batting averages for both teams at a historic lows (the Red Sox at .133, the lowest through three LCS games in MLB postseason history). Pitching on both sides has been dominant, but these are the top two offensive teams in baseball, and we knew at some point, the dam of low scoring would give.
Then, it did, and it was the Tigers bats busting through.
Jim Leyland, who has been old enough to collect Social Security for six years and smokes like a chimney, made a few subtle changes to his lineup, and it ended up being the key move that helped even the series for Detroit.
With Torii Hunter batting leadoff for the first time since I was 11 years old, the best hitter in baseball swinging 2nd, and a struggling Austin Jackson getting bumped down to 8th, the Tigers pounded Red Sox pitching to the tune of seven runs, the most they’ve give up this entire postseason.
Jake Peavy, a key acquisition for the Red Sox rotation during the regular season, broke down in the Motor City, giving up seven earned runs in 3+ innings pitched. It was his first start in a Championship Series, and if John Farrell is smart, which he is, it will be his last. He’s now 0-3 with a 10.31 ERA in the postseason. Yes, 10.31.
So, here we are, all even. One game left in Detroit, two in Boston. If you told me on Sunday the Red Sox would head into Game 5 tied 2-2 after facing Scherzer and Verlander, I would have been OK with that. But having watched virtually every pitch of this series, the feeling of 2-2 is very unsettling.
In a series waiting to see which team would crack first, it was Boston who gave way. The Tigers needed to make adjustments, but they finally started driving in runs like we anticipated both teams to be doing from the start. Boston, however, stayed cold.
So maybe it’s time for the Red Sox to do a little shaking up of their own lineup? I mean, it can’t get any worse, right? The key area that jumps out to me, and has also gotten the attention of Farrell, is the left side of the infield. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks and shortstop Stephen Drew are a combined 2 for 23 in this series. That’s bad, really bad. Rookie Xander Bogaerts is a potential replacement for one of the two during tonight’s game. His sample size is miniscule (one hit, two walks in four plate appearances) but he can provide a spark for this lineup they’ve been void off all series. With a right-handed Sanchez taking the mound, the most logical situation would be left-handed Drew at 3B, Bogaerts at SS. However, I’m not a fan of logic, so I would go with Middlebrooks at 3B instead of Drew (unless his brother decides to fill in for him tonight. We miss you, JD).
Anibal Sanchez takes the mound again after throwing 6 innings of no-hit ball in Game 1. I can’t expect him to do the same tonight, but I can’t imagine he will get lit up either. Runs are going to be difficult to come by tonight on both sides, with Lester taking the ball for Boston. While this may not be another 1-0 game, it’s tough to believe we will see an 8-7 game either. Then again, with the way this series has gone, you’re probably going to get the opposite of what you expect.
Boston needs to wake up, and wake up now if they want a chance to win this series. They are obviously not out of it should they lose tonight, but they need to show the fans, and more importantly themselves, some sort of positive sign to head back to Boston with. Another near no hitter or pitching meltdown could be disastrous for this ball club.
One positive to take away from last night heading into tonight: Because the game was so out of hand early, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara all had the night off. They’ve been concrete pillars in the bullpen for Boston, and if this game shows any sort of similarities to Game 1, Boston is going to need them to step up big tonight. The extra day of rest could really help there.
The Yankees and Red Sox have a reputation of playing not only some of the most intense games in baseball, but also some of the longest. Friday night, (and into Sunday morning), certainly did nothing to help that reputation.