Don’t get caught up in the hype – the Detroit Tigers will return home on Tuesday and defeat the Boston Red Sox in game three of the American League Championship Series.
Boston won game two in dramatic form, tying up the best-of-seven series and giving members of the Red Sox Nation hope that they’d grabbed the upper hand. After all, they were down, 5-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning before storming back to win 6-5, thanks in large part to a grand slam home run by David Ortiz.
But there is an old baseball cliché that you’re only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher and when you look at who the Tigers send to the mound for this one it suggests that they are still the team to beat.
Detroit goes with its ace Justin Verlander, who has put aside his mediocre regular season (by his standards) and has looked incredibly sharp in the post-season. Verlander’s numbers in his two American League Division starts against the Oakland A’s were simply astonishing. He pitched 15 innings and gave up zero runs and only six hits. He walked two batters and struck out 21.
Tigers’ starting pitching dominated Red Sox hitters in the first two contests of this series. Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer combined to pitch 13 innings, allowing just two hits, one run and eight walks while striking out 25. There’s no reason to believe Verlander won’t match that dominance.
Of course, the concern is that the bullpen will cough up a big lead again like it did in game two. It’s true that the Detroit relief corps is weak, but the reason Boston’s game two comeback was so dramatic was that it was such a rarity. There is no way to anticipate a similar situation in this contest.
On the other hand, there is enough data to expect the Tigers’ batters to perform. They’ve logged a respectable 17 hits in the first two games (compared to the Red Sox total of eight). Moreover Boston starter John Lackey is vulnerable at this moment. He pitched reasonably well against the Tigers in two starts this season, posting a 3.14 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. But what is most telling is his recent run.
In his past four starts he’s put up a 5.33 ERA. In his one post season appearance in the American League Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, he gave up four runs and seven hits in only 5 1/3 inning pitched. Most troubling is the fact he’s been slammed for five home runs in his past 27 innings pitched. With the Tigers swinging the bats with some force again (they hit two home runs in game two), that’s not a good statistic.
Best bet: Take the Tigers, who are on at 1.62, to win