Friday, October 11, 2013
W2W4: ALCS Game 1 -- Sox vs. Tigers
By Kyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com
• When and where: Fenway Park, Saturday at 8:07 p.m. ET
• Starting pitchers: Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)
• Scouting report on Sanchez: Most teams would be concerned to have their Game 3 starter a series earlier start Game 1 against the league’s best team. But, then again, most teams don’t have the starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers.
“I feel very confident in him,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Sanchez. “He led this league in earned run average. That’s pretty impressive.”
Indeed, Sanchez’s 2.57 ERA was the lowest in the AL during the regular season, a statistic lost in the shadow of Max Scherzer's Cy Young-caliber year and the usual fanfare surrounding Justin Verlander. With Scherzer throwing 47 pitches in relief in Tuesday’s ALDS Game 4 against the Athletics and Verlander starting Game 5, Sanchez will finally be given the chance to steal the show on Saturday night.
“[Saturday] is a big day for me, especially because I’m going to start the series,” Sanchez said. “I need to keep working, I need to be focused.”
Besides Detroit, the Red Sox are the only team Sanchez has never started against in his career. The 29-year-old right hander did make a relief appearance against Boston, giving up seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched.
Sanchez is 1-3 in four postseason starts with a 3.28 ERA. He was the only Tigers starter to not make it through the fifth inning in the ALDS against Oakalnd, allowing six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings pitched in Game 3.
• Scouting report on Lester: Facing the Tigers on Sept. 3, Lester arguably put together his best start of the season, throwing seven innings of one-run ball and striking out nine to outduel Scherzer and deny him his 20th win of the season.
“It was a big series for us,” Lester said. “It had that feel of, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance to play these guys in another month and let’s set the tone now.’”
Here the Red Sox are, just over a month later and turning to Lester to once again set the tone of the series, like he did in the ALDS. Lester overpowered the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1, hitting 97 mph on the stadium gun and going 7 2/3 quality innings for the win.
“He’s all business,” manager John Farrell said, “And that’s the way he carries himself on the field.”
In seven career starts against Detroit, Lester has gone 2-2 with an ERA of 4.63.
Three Tigers players to watch
1. Victor Martinez, DH: Martinez was Detroit’s hottest hitter in the ALDS, going 9-for-20 and scoring a team-high five runs. Against Lester, Martinez has six hits in 16 plate appearances, including a home run and three RBIs. Saturday will mark a return to Fenway for Martinez, who played for Boston in 2009 and 2010. In 111 games at Fenway, Martinez has a .317 batting average.
2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B: Like most pitchers, Lester’s line against Cabrera isn’t pretty. Cabrera has battered Lester in his career, with 10 hits in 19 at-bats (.526). No other hitter with 15 plate appearances against Lester boasts an average above .500. What’s not clear, however, is whether Lester will be facing a healthy Cabrera. The 2012 Triple Crown winner has been battling groin and abdominal injuries.
3. Prince Fielder, 1B: Fielder was held without an extra-base hit or an RBI in the ALDS, an alarming drop in output from the extra-base (61) and RBI (106) totals he put up in the regular season. Lester has held Fielder to only four singles in 16 plate appearances and has given up one RBI to the 29-year-old slugger.
Three Red Sox players to watch
1. Shane Victorino, RF: With twice the number of at-bats (43) than the rest of the Red Sox regulars combined (21) against Sanchez, Victorino will be counted upon in the two-spot to provide a source of familiarity facing the Venezuelan right-hander. Victorino has 10 hits, including a home run, in those 43 at-bats.
2. David Ortiz, DH: Right in the middle of Sanchez’s rocky relief outing against the Red Sox was Ortiz. The designated hitter launched two home runs and a double to drive in four of Boston’s seven runs against Sanchez.
3. Mike Napoli, 1B: The three days off to rest the plantar fasciitis in his left foot can only help Napoli heading into the ALCS. The 31-year-old managed just two hits in 13 at-bats against Tampa Bay in the ALDS, striking out four times.
Three key considerations
1. Before his home run Thursday night, Cabrera had gone deep just once since Aug. 27. The home run put an end to a 13-game homerless streak for Cabrera, six games short of his career-high (July 8-30, 2006). In the seven games following that slump, Cabrera went 11-for-26 with a home run and 9 RBIs.
2. Leyland said Friday afternoon that Jose Iglesias would start at shortstop for Game 1 over Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias went 1-for-12 in the ALDS compared to Peralta at 5-for-12. A novice outfielder, Peralta could play left field in front of the Green Monster in Game 1.
3. The starters for Games 2-4 of the series are as follows:
• Sunday, Oct. 13 -- Clay Buchholz vs. Max Scherzer, Fenway Park
• Tuesday, Oct. 15 -- John Lackey vs. Justin Verlander, Comerica Park
• Wednesday, Oct. 16 -- Jake Peavy vs. Doug Fister, Comerica Park