Tuesday, October 15, 2013
W2W4: ALCS Game 3 -- Sox vs. Tigers
By Kyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com
• When and where: Comerica Park, Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET
• Starting pitchers: Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46 ERA) vs. John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA)
• Scouting report on Verlander: Despite riding a streak of 27 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, covering a span of four starts beginning Sept. 23, Tigers ace Justin Verlander has been around long enough to know not to take any team for granted.
Especially the Boston Red Sox, one of only two teams with a winning record in the regular season (4-3 in 11 starts, 2-0 in three this year) against the 30-year-old former MVP.
“You know this series is going to be a dogfight, nobody is going to walk over anybody,” Verlander said. “These are the two best teams in the American League, we’ve made it to this point. At this point in the season, nobody is going to give in.”
Verlander has struck out 43 in his last 27 innings, a stat that bodes well against a Boston team that has struck out 32 times in 59 at-bats in Games 1 and 2 of the series. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he’s happy to have Verlander to turn to in Game 3 of the tied series, a result of Boston’s 6-5 walk-off win Sunday night.
“It's always nice to have Justin Verlander on the mound no matter what the situation it,” Leyland said. “There won't be any carryover for our guys from that game [Sunday]. That's over with. We probably should have won that game [Sunday], we probably should have lost the first one [Saturday]. We're probably exactly where we're supposed to be.”
Verlander is 7-4 in 14 postseason starts with an ERA of 3.48.
• Scouting report on Lackey: Faced with the task of maintaining Boston's momentum is Lackey, whose rebound story continues to unfold as the postseason wears on. Lackey got the win against Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
“I think the time off kind of got me a little bit, as far as the touch and feel and as far as pitches and stuff,” Lackey said. “My arm felt good as far as health-wise but the feel wasn’t quite as good.”
Lackey will be pitching on 10 days rest against the Tigers, a team he has gone 6-3 against with a 3.86 ERA in 12 career starts. Lackey faced Detroit twice this year, going 0-1 but throwing a quality start in each outing.
“It’s a deep lineup. One through nine, you’ve got to make pitches,” Lackey said. “They wouldn’t be playing at this point in the season if they’re not pretty good.”
Lackey is 4-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 15 postseason appearances (13 starts).
Three Tigers players to watch
• Torii Hunter, RF: No Detroit player was more vocally disappointed than Hunter after the team’s Game 2 loss on Sunday. Hunter was shaken up trying to make a play on Ortiz’s grand slam and has struggled in the postseason so far with four hits in 29 at-bats. The 38-year-old has 61 career plate appearances against Lackey, by far the most on the team, going 13-for-53 (.245) with two home runs.
• Victor Martinez, DH: Martinez has been the Tigers’ most consistent source of hits in the postseason with 11 in 27 at-bats. Against Lackey, Martinez ironically has 11 hits in 27 at-bats (34 plate appearances).
• Omar Infante, 2B: While the playoff struggles of several of Detroit’s other offensive players have been more publicized, Infante also has not enjoyed much success with only five hits in 25 at-bats. Infante has managed little production against Lackey, with three hits and six strikeouts in 15 plate appearances.
Three Red Sox players to watch
• Dustin Pedroia, 2B: Although Pedroia has typically had no problems succeeding against tough pitching in his career, Verlander has owned him to the tune of one hit in 19 plate appearances. Pedroia’s .056 batting average against the Tigers right-hander is the lowest -- and only one under .100 -- among players with at least 19 plate appearances against Verlander.
• Stephen Drew, SS: Boston’s least successful hitter this postseason (2-for-21, no hits in his last 14 at-bats) Drew also has struggled against Verlander in his career, going 3-for-15 (16 PAs) with 10 strikeouts, three fewer than his high of 13 in 49 PAs against San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum.
• David Ortiz, DH: If Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam to tie Game 2 on Sunday wasn’t enough to convince you that he’s worth keeping an eye on every game, his numbers against Verlander might. Ortiz has faced Verlander 30 times and has 10 hits (.333), two home runs and four RBIs to show for it.
Three key considerations
• Speaking to the media during Monday’s workout session in Detroit, Leyland announced that he’s leaning toward starting left-handed-hitting Andy Dirks in left field Tuesday night. Dirks, hitless in three postseason at-bats, would be making his first start since Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 4. Leyland also said he has no plans to drop struggling outfielders Austin Jackson (3-for-30 in postseason) and Hunter lower in his batting order for Game 3. Peralta will start at shortstop for the second consecutive game for the Tigers.
• Farrell also tipped his hand on his Game 3 lineup Monday, noting that a similar lineup to Game 1 should be expected. Mike Napoli (7-for-23 against Verlander) will return to first base while Farrell has yet to make a decision between Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes in left field. Farrell cited Gomes’ smarts and attitude during the game as something that could change a lineup on and off the field.
• An appearance in Game 3 will be Ortiz’s 64th in the postseason with Boston, setting a new club record.