BOSTON -- It was inspiring, David Ross said, to tour the trophy room in David Ortiz’s house the other day.
“We saw all his awards, my wife and kids,’’ Ross said. “Silver Sluggers, shadow boxes with newspaper clippings when he won the World Series. The owners gave him a framed plaque when he hit his 400th home run listing every home run he’d ever hit, the pitcher and the date.
“I started reflecting on the cool things in my career, and said to my wife, ‘This is probably not the best place to reflect on my career.’’’
Ortiz’s long list of accomplishments are enough to humble most players, but Saturday night, Ross added another notch to his own personal set of highlights: Red Sox manager John Farrell tabbed him to catch left-hander Jon Lester in Game 1 of the ALCS. The 36-year-old Ross, who broke into the big leagues with the Dodgers in 2002 and has also played for the Pirates, Padres, Reds, Braves and Red Sox (twice), will be making his first ever ALCS appearance.
Farrell said he chose Ross over Jarrod Saltalamacchia primarily because of the success Lester had with Ross behind the plate against the Tigers on Sept. 3 in Fenway Park, when Lester outdueled Max Scherzer in a 2-1 Sox win. Lester allowed a run on six hits in seven innings, and most impressively did not walk a batter while striking out nine.
“That was definitely factored in,’’ Farrell said Saturday in a meeting with the team’s beat reporters in his office. “There’s [also] some familiarity with [Anibal] Sanchez, even though he’s tougher on righties.’’
Sanchez pitched only once against the Red Sox, and that was in 2006, when he was a rookie with the Florida Marlins. Only five Sox batters have faced Sanchez, with David Ortiz the only player to have faced him in that ’06 game. Ortiz homered in each of his first two at-bats and went 3 for 3.
Ross faced Sanchez when both were in the National League and is 2 for 11 with a home run, the deep ball coming in 2009.
Behind the plate, Ross threw out 34.5 percent of runners who attempted to steal (10 of 29), but his ability to shut down the running game is not a major factor against the Tigers, who stole a major-league low 35 bases. They attempted only 55 steals, or one fewer than Boston’s Jacoby Ellsburyt did when he led the majors with 52 stolen bases. Austin Jackson led the Tigers with 8 stolen bases, in 12 attempts.
The Tigers attempted three stolen bases in the division series against Oakland and were unsuccessful in all three, with Jose Iglesias, Torii Hunter and Prince Fielder all erased.
Ross was the only change in the lineup that Farrell employed in three of the four games he used in the division series against the Rays. Ross was slotted in the ninth spot in the batting order, with shortstop Stephen Drew and third baseman Will Middlebrooks moved up to the seventh and eighth spots, respectively.
As expected, Tigers manager Jim Leyland restored shortstop Jose Iglesias to his starting lineup, with Jhonny Peralta, who had played short in Game 5, moving to left field.
Peralta, a shortstop by trade, forced the Tigers to seek a replacement when he was suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal. Hours before the trading deadline, Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski engaged with the Red Sox and became part of the three-team deal in which the Tigers acquired Iglesias and the Red Sox acquired veteran pitcher Jake Peavy from the White Sox, with Detroit sending highly regarded outfielder Avisail Garcia to the White Sox.
Peralta returned from his suspension near the end of the regular season and played three games in left field, handling two chances. He was used as a pinch-hitter in Game 1 of the division series against Oakland, and sat in Game 2 until Leyland gave Peralta back-to-back starts in left field. He went 1 for 4 with 2 RBIs in Game 3, then hit a big three-run home run in Game 4. Peralta started at short in Iglesias’s place in Game 5 and had two more hits, giving him a .417 average for the series.
Against left-hander Lester, the right-handed hitting Peralta was batting sixth and playing left. Iglesias (1 for 12, .083) was batting ninth and playing short.
The Red Sox took advantage of Sean Rodriguez's unfamiliarity with Fenway's left-field wall in the division series, Rodriguez letting a couple of balls carom over his head. But Leyland downplayed Peralta's inexperience with the Monster, and the ladder that runs up the middle of the wall over the scoreboard.
"We're not making too big a deal out of that,'' Leyland said. "Everybody is making a big deal out of it. Heard somebody talking about the ladder. Carl Yastrzemski, who played the ladder, was one hell of a man. When it hits that ladder, I don't think any Red Sox, Tiger, Kansas City Royal or anyone else knows where it's going.
"It is a little tricky to play the Wall. And the Red Sox do that better because they're used to it. As far as getting carried away, talking about the ladder, that's ridiculous, nobody knows what it's going to do when it hits that thing. Just do the best you can with it.''