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Thursday, October 17, 2013
W2W4: ALCS Game 5 -- Sox vs. Tigers

By Kyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com

• Where and when: Comerica Park, Thursday at 8 p.m. ET (listen on ESPN Radio)

• Starting pitchers: Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA) versus Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

Sanchez
• Scouting report on Sanchez: The 29-year-old ERA champ threw six hitless innings in Game 1, with 12 strikeouts and 18 swinging strikes. The good news for the Red Sox? It’ll be tough to top that performance in tonight’s Game 5.

“I don't worry too much about anything, especially when I go to the mound or face a team like Boston,” Sanchez said Wednesday. “I try to be focused on what I [am] going to do [Thursday] and get ready for it.”

Sanchez set the tone early for Detroit in Game 1, striking out four batters in the first inning to become the first Tiger to ever do so in a postseason game. His eventual win evened his postseason record at 1-1 and lowered his postseason ERA from 10.38 to 4.35.

He was lifted after six because his pitch count got high due to the number of strikeouts (12) and walks (six) in the outing.

“I know the situation [series tied 2-2],” Sanchez said. “But [Thursday] is one day; I’m not going to think too much where we’re at or what we’ve got. I think I need to go out there and throw good ball for another win.”

Last Friday was Sanchez’s first career start against the Red Sox.

Lester
• Scouting report on Lester: On the opposite end of Sanchez’s dominance in Game 1 was Lester, the losing pitcher after 6 1/3 quality innings pitched with only one run allowed. Given a shot at redemption on Thursday, Lester hopes the quick turnaround will serve as an advantage facing the same Tigers hitters.

“I know we'll come up with our game plan, whatever that is, and try and go and execute it and I'm sure they're going to do the same thing,” Lester said. “Just an intense series, pitch to pitch.”

Game 1 saw Lester hold the Tigers to six hits, the lowest number he has given up against Detroit since Opening Day of the 2012 regular season. In that game, Lester was able to keep up with 2011 MVP winner Justin Verlander, a testament to his ability to rise to the occasion when pitching, as manager John Farrell described.

“He's had a couple of opening game assignments in a playoff series, but he's earned them because of the way he's performed over the course of a year,” Farrell said. “His work between starts, that's what allows Jon to perform with the consistency and at the level he does.”

Lester is 3-4 with a 2.41 ERA in 10 postseason appearances (eight starts).

Three Tigers players to watch
Jackson
Austin Jackson, CF: Moved from the leadoff spot to eighth in the order Wednesday, Jackson responded by going 2-for-2, nearly equaling his postseason hit total from the eight previous games (3 for 33). In total, he reached base in all four of his plate appearances Wednesday (two walks, including one with the bases loaded). Jackson had one hit in three at-bats against Lester in Game 1.

Jhonny Peralta, SS/LF: Game 4 was Peralta’s first postseason start in which he was held hitless (0-for-2). Peralta had two hits in three at-bats against Lester in Game 1; his second hit drove in Detroit’s only run in a 1-0 win.

Victor Martinez, DH: The postseason’s leader in hits (15), Martinez was kept quiet in Game 1, going 0-for-4 with three at-bats coming against Lester. Since then, Martinez has put together three straight two-hit games, scoring three times in the process.

Three Red Sox players to watch
Bogaerts
Xander Bogaerts, 3B/SS: Brought into Wednesday’s game as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, Bogaerts doubled off Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit for his first career postseason hit. The 21-year-old continues to remain poised in his first taste of playoff baseball, making himself a candidate to start in place of a struggling Will Middlebrooks (1-for-10, 5 K’s in ALCS) or Stephen Drew (1-for-13, 6 K’s). Bogaerts has never faced Sanchez.

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: Ells has been Boston’s most dynamic player in the postseason, leading the team in hits, runs scored and extra-base hits. He was 4-for-5 in Game 4 but was held hitless in three at-bats against Sanchez in Game 1.

David Ortiz, DH: Wednesday marked a low point for Ortiz this postseason: 0-for-5 with five runners left on base. The designated hitter’s only hit of the ALCS has been his game-tying grand slam in Game 2. Facing Sanchez in Game 1, Ortiz struck out twice in three at-bats.

Three key considerations
Despite the success shuffling his lineup had for Jim Leyland, Farrell is in no rush to do the same with his lineup for a spark with the series tied. Although the Red Sox only scored three times Wednesday night, their 12 hits and 10 runners left on base were their highest totals for each in the ALCS.

Game 4 was the first game of the series not decided by one run (1-0 Detroit win Game 1, 6-5 Boston win Game 2, 1-0 Boston win Game 3).

Benoit needed 21 pitches to ineffectively retire the side in the ninth inning of Game 4, putting his availability in question for Game 5. In six appearances (5 2/3 innings), Benoit has allowed seven hits and four runs this postseason.