Friday, October 18, 2013
W2W4: ALCS Game 6 -- Sox vs. Tigers
By Kyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com
• Where and when: Fenway Park, Saturday 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: The tide has shifted since the beginning of the American League Championship Series. With Boston leading 3-2, Scherzer has had five days to adjust to what now seems to be a more potent Red Sox offense. However, Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia thinks that Scherzer has little, if anything, to change from his Game 2 performance.
"I don't see him making too many adjustments, he pitched pretty well," Saltalamacchia said. "[He] had a no-hitter going against us through five."
Indeed, Scherzer held the Red Sox hitless for 5 2/3 innings last Sunday, allowing only one run on two hits and striking out 13 in an eventual seven innings of work. The 29-year-old turned over a four-run lead to his bullpen in the eighth before Boston promptly scored four runs on a David Ortiz grand slam and walked off in the ninth against Rick Porcello on a Saltalamacchia single.
"I think we are going to be all right," closer Joaquin Benoit, who allowed the Ortiz slam, said of the bullpen heading into Game 6. "We've got a great group of guys and we have come in and out of tough situations pretty good."
Scherzer may need his bullpen to help keep his strong postseason alive Saturday night as the right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three games (two starts, both seven innings; one relief appearance for two innings). The Tigers won 25 of Scherzer's 32 regular-season starts.
• Scouting report on Buchholz: Red Sox manager John Farrell believes that current familiarity with Scherzer will serve as an advantage for his offense, but admitted Detroit's lineup could benefit in the same way.
"Recent experience gives some comfort level to the guys that go up to the plate each time to face them," Farrell said. "I think the same would be on the other side with Clay tomorrow and the Tiger lineup."
Detroit hitters needed no help dispatching Buchholz in Game 2, when the Tigers knocked him out of the game with five runs scored on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. Buchholz served up two home runs during his outing, the only home runs the Tigers have hit in 164 ALCS at-bats. Despite his lack of success in Game 2, Red Sox hitters still have plenty of faith in the 29-year-old Buchholz matching up against Scherzer.
"We've got all the confidence in the world in him," first baseman Mike Napoli said. "I would expect him to go out there and pitch well."
"Without a doubt, it's going to be another pitchers' duel," shortstop Stephen Drew said.
Buchholz remains winless this postseason, allowing eight runs and 15 hits in 11 2/3 innings pitched.
Three Tigers players to watch
• Miguel Cabrera, 3B: Cabrera's only home run of the ALCS came against Buchholz in Game 2, a solo shot over the Green Monster. The last two Red Sox victories have seen Cabrera neutralized by Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa in his final at-bat, both coming with runners on. Cabrera struck out with the go-ahead runs on first and third in Game 3 before grounding into a double play representing the go-ahead run in Game 5. Cabrera is 6-for-24 in 28 plate appearances against Buchholz.
• Jose Iglesias, SS: After Iglesias' defensive prowess was on display Thursday night, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Friday that Iglesias will start at shortstop for the Tigers in Game 6, shifting Jhonny Peralta back to left field. Iglesias didn't start Game 2 against Buchholz and has never faced his former teammate in his career.
• Austin Jackson, CF: Since being moved to the No. 8 spot in the Tigers lineup, Jackson has flourished, going 4-for-6 and reaching base six times consecutively before grounding into a double play in the sixth inning of Game 5. Jackson was held hitless by Buchholz in three Game 2 at-bats and is 5-for-22 in 24 plate appearances against the Red Sox right-hander.
Three Red Sox players to watch
• Mike Napoli, 1B: If there's anything Napoli proved in the 2011 postseason with the Texas Rangers it's that when he gets hot, pitchers need to look out. In 17 playoff games that year, Napoli hit .328 (19-for-58) with three home runs and 15 RBIs in the middle of a potent Rangers lineup. The past three games have seen Napoli produce strong numbers for the Red Sox as the first baseman went from 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS to 6-for-12 with two home runs and two RBIs in Games 3-5. Napoli was kept out of the starting lineup against Scherzer in Game 2 and is 1-for-13 in 14 plate appearances against him.
• Shane Victorino, RF: Victorino hit left-handed against Anibal Sanchez in his first three at-bats of Game 5 before returning to batting right-handed against righty relievers Jose Veras and Al Alburquerque. It was his first time hitting left-handed since Sept. 3. Victorino said he's going back to an all-righty approach, but for his career he is 3-for-12 in 13 plate appearances against Scherzer (1-for-2 in Game 2). And he's mired in a 2-for-21 (0-for-5 in Game 5) ALCS slump. Farrell said Friday that he has considered dropping Victorino in the lineup.
• Stephen Drew, SS: Game 6 might be Drew's last chance to hold a starting spot in the Red Sox lineup as the left-handed hitting shortstop has been held to one hit in 17 ALCS at-bats, 16 of which were against right-handed pitchers. Eight of those 16 at-bats ended in a strikeout. Drew struck out once in two Game 2 at-bats against Scherzer and is 2-for-13 off him in 14 career plate appearances.
Three key considerations
• Scherzer and Game 7 probable starter, if necessary, Justin Verlander made 19 starts back-to-back during the regular season, all of which came before the All-Star break. In those starts, the Tigers won both games seven times, split the two 11 times and lost both just once.
• In 12 postseason Game 6 appearances, the Red Sox are 9-3 all-time, 5-0 at Fenway and 5-0 in the sixth game of an ALCS.
• Tigers catcher Alex Avila remains a game-time decision for Saturday's contest after being removed from Game 5 in the fourth with a sprained left knee he suffered in a second-inning home-plate collision with Red Sox catcher David Ross. Avila has started all 10 of Detroit's postseason games behind the plate, going 5-for-27 with a home run and four RBIs. The home run and three of his RBIs came in Game 2 against Buchholz, against whom Avila is 5-for-11 in 14 career plate appearances.
Leyland said designated hitter Victor Martinez as a consideration to catch if Avila can't play. Martinez, a full-time catcher for seven years from 2004-2011, started only three games at the position in 2013.