Sunday, October 13, 2013
W2W4: ALCS Game 2 -- Sox vs. Tigers
By Kyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com
• When and where: Fenway Park, Sunday at 8:07 p.m. ET
• Starting pitchers: Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA) vs. Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA)
• Scouting report on Scherzer: Whatever the Detroit Tigers’ Max Scherzer did last offseason to put himself in position to have the season he has had, manager Jim Leyland couldn’t be happier. In fact, Leyland and his bunch have been riding Scherzer’s success as far as it can take them since the start of the season.
“It happens now and then, guys get on a roll,” Leyland said. “Whether it’s the guy shooting three-pointers or a hot field goal kicker or whatever it is. In sports, guys get on a roll from time to time and he’s just been on a positive roll.”
Along with his regular-season numbers, Scherzer has picked up two of the Tigers' four postseason wins, one as a starter in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics and one in relief during Game 4. Overall, Scherzer has gone 4-1 with a 3.64 ERA in nine career playoff appearances (seven starts). Sunday will be his first playoff appearance against the Red Sox.
“They’re just a great team,” Scherzer said. “They can grind ABs out, they don’t chase a lot, they foul off pitches.
“It comes down to attacking the hitters and making sure I’m working ahead in the count. If I feel like I’m working ahead in the count, I feel like I can be successful.”
Scherzer hasn’t had much success against Boston in his career, going 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA in eight starts. However, in two starts opposite the Red Sox this season, Scherzer has gone 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA.
• Scouting report on Buchholz: From a distance, it seems the Red Sox matched up well against the Tigers on Saturday, holding their vaunted offense to only one run and getting a quality start from left-hander Jon Lester. However, Boston’s offense didn’t hold up their end of the deal, being held nearly hitless and striking out 17 times.
Despite being down 1-0 in the series, manager John Farrell is showing no concern moving forward.
“I think we'll be ready to go tomorrow night,” Farrell said after Saturday’s loss. “If you haven't been around us this year, we have the ability to put tonight behind us and we'll be ready to go.”
Perhaps there’s no one better than starter Clay Buchholz to have on the mound for Game 2. During the regular season, the Red Sox lost only two of Buchholz’s 16 starts, both coming to the Toronto Blue Jays. Buchholz will face the tough task of keeping Detroit’s lineup in check for the second consecutive game, mainly the oft-described “best hitter on the planet” Miguel Cabrera.
“He always finds a way to extend an at-bat and make you feel really uncomfortable in big situations while you’re throwing to him,” Buchholz said. “You have to mix up your pitches and hopefully he’s not sitting on the pitch that you throw and basically gets himself out.”
Buchholz has not only contained Cabrera in his career (5-for-21 with no home runs), but has pitched well against Detroit with a 2-1 record and a 3.58 ERA in eight starts, none of which came this season.
Sunday will be the 29-year-old’s first start in the ALCS or higher. In two ALDS starts, Buchholz hasn’t recorded a decision but has posted a 4.09 ERA.
Three Tigers players to watch
• Austin Jackson, CF: Hitting leadoff, Jackson has struggled to get on base for the Tigers during the postseason with three hits, a walk and 15 strikeouts in 25 at-bats. Jackson will hope to reverse his fortunes against Buchholz, against whom he has five hits in 21 plate appearances.
• Jhonny Peralta, SS/LF: In contrast to Jackson, Peralta has been Detroit’s hottest postseason hitter, going 8-for-16 and driving in the Tigers’ only run in Saturday’s 1-0 win. Peralta has similar success against Buchholz in his career with five hits and seven RBIs in 19 plate appearances.
• Alex Avila, C: Avila has three hits and three walks in his 11 career plate appearances against Buchholz. The 26-year-old catcher has started all six of the Tigers postseason games so far, managing only three hits in 19 at-bats.
Three Red Sox players to watch
• Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: Besides the 2011 season that saw him drive in 105 runs, Ellsbury has never been a strong bet for RBIs. However, Ellsbury has driven in five runs in 12 plate appearances against Scherzer, going 5-for-9.
• David Ortiz, DH: It’s impossible not to see Ortiz as a player to watch as the slugger has seven hits in 18 plate appearances against Scherzer, including three home runs. Ortiz is tied with two other players for the most career home runs off Scherzer.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: Presumably back behind the dish in Game 2, Saltalamacchia has five hits in 12 plate appearances against Scherzer. Saltalamacchia has been feast-or-famine so far this postseason with three hits and eight strikeouts in 11 at-bats.
Three key considerations
• The Red Sox were 8-3 following games they were shut out in this season, averaging 5.9 runs per game in those contests.
• The last time Scherzer started a game following an appearance in relief was Oct. 10, 2011, an ALDS Game 5 against the New York Yankees. Scherzer got the start four days later in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Texas Rangers, going six innings and allowing three runs in a no-decision.
• As Gordon Edes hypothesized before Saturday’s game, Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes and Xander Bogaerts all could be starters for John Farrell in Game 2. Asked about matchups on Friday, Farrell said, “We’ve got some things that we’re looking at in a couple of different spots.” Regular starters Daniel Nava (1-for-9, 2 K’s against Scherzer), Mike Napoli (1-for-13, 5 K’s) and Will Middlebrooks (1-for-6, 4 K’s) would be strong candidates for a day off against the Tigers right-hander.