For a team to beat Justin Verlander when he’s pitching as he has in this season-ending stretch is a major challenge.
But the Boston Red Sox are familiar with such tasks, given their comeback from five runs down in Game 2 of the ALCS.
In their 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 3, they managed to do just enough to win.
Napoli comes through
Mike Napoli was 2-for-19 in the postseason and 0-for-6 with six strikeouts in the ALCS before before his seventh-inning homer put the Red Sox ahead.
How John Lackey Won
6 2/3 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 8 K
The home run came on a 96-mph fastball. In the last two seasons, Napoli homered only once against the more than 200 pitches he saw that were thrown at least 96 mph-- against Evan Reed of the Tigers on Sept. 4.
Verlander could not have been much better
Verlander finally allowed a run, ending his scoreless streak at 34 innings and his postseason scoreless streak at 21 innings.
He has an 0.39 ERA and 0.57 WHIP with 31 strikeouts and three walks in his three starts this postseason. The Tigers are 1-2 in those games.
Verlander struck out 10 in defeat. His six double-digit strikeout games are a postseason record. He’s also the first pitcher in postseason history with 10 or more strikeouts and four or fewer hits allowed in three straight games.
Turning Point: Cabrera and Fielder strike out
The Tigers had a great opportunity to score in the eighth inning, but relievers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to escape the jam.
Cabrera had nine swinging strikes in the game. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is a single-game career-high for Cabrera in either the regular season or postseason.
A brief history of 1-0 postseason games
This was the 46th 1-0 game in postseason history. It was the fourth 1-0 game this postseason, matching the most in a single postseason (there were also four in 1991).
There were only three 1-0 postseason games in the last 11 years.
Lowest Team BA, 1st 3 LCS Games
This was the third 1-0 postseason win for the Red Sox in their history, with the other two being in Game 1 of the 1918 and 1986 World Series.
The Tigers had never lost a 1-0 postseason game until this year and now they’ve become the first AL team to lose two in the same postseason (the 1991 Pirates and Braves are the most recent teams to lose two). Both losses came in games started by Verlander.
This was the first 1-0 postseason game decided by a home run since Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, when Jorge Posada homered to give the Yankees a 1-0 win over the Athletics (better known as the Derek Jeter “flip” game). It’s the first time the Red Sox won a postseason game in such a fashion and the first time the Tigers lost a postseason game in such a fashion.
Game 3 of the ALCS was very similar to Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, when the visiting Yankees beat the Braves, 1-0.
• The Yankees rallied from six runs down to win the previous game. The Red Sox rallied from five down to win their previous game.
• The Yankees beat a pitcher who would win the Cy Young that season in John Smoltz. The Red Sox beat a pitcher who has previously won the Cy Young in Verlander. Verlander is the first pitcher to lose a game in which he allowed one run and struck out at least 10 since Smoltz that day.
• The Yankees survived a situation in which the Braves had a man on third with one out in the ninth inning. The Red Sox escaped a situation in which the Tigers had a man on third with one out in the eighth inning.
The Yankees went on to win that series without losing again.
The Red Sox have a little ways to go to match that.