A pitcher’s duel will be the main story when the Boston Red Sox host the Detroit Tigers in game one of the American League Championship series on Saturday.
The starters in this contest are top shelf. For the Tigers, Anibal Sanchez has been his club’s unsung hero. While Max Scherzer got tons of attention for winning 21 games, and Justin Verlander always attracts media as the club’s longtime ace, Sanchez quietly led the American League in ERA with a 2.57 mark in that category.
While Sanchez originally came up in the Boston organization, very few Red Sox hitters have experience against him. In fact, only three batters have more than 10 career games at bats versus the right-hander and none of them shined too greatly in their opportunities. Shane Victorino hit .233, Stephen Drew batted .250 and David Ross registered a .182 batting average against Sanchez (It should be noted that David Ortiz is has three hits in three at bats with two home runs lifetime against Sanchez – so the Tigers’ pitcher should be careful against him).
Still, overall, few hitters will be able to draw on personal experience against the hard thrower, which should be an advantage for a pitcher of Sanchez’s caliber. Moreover, the fact that Sanchez has a high-end fastball (it averages 93 mph) may pose a problem for Red Sox hitters. Against power pitchers (like Sanchez) Boston hit just .213, which ranked eleventh out of fifteen AL teams this year.
Matters won’t be any easier for Tigers’ hitters. Red Sox starter Jon Lester may not have as impressive overall numbers (he sported a year-long ERA of 3.75), but in the second half he was every bit the pitcher that Sanchez was.
In 13 starts after the All-Star break, the left-hander posted a 2.57 ERA. Also, the fact that this game will be at Fenway Park is a boost for Lester. He was 7-1 at home with a 3.09 ERA in 2013 (compared to 8-7 with a 4.21 ERA on the road).
Admittedly, he doesn’t have a good history versus the Tigers (they own a combined .378 batting average against the pitcher in 173 plate appearances), but Detroit are not firing on all cylinders at the bat as of late.
Before September, the Tigers had scored 5.1 runs per game; during the final month of the season they averaged 3.7 runs. In their American League Championship Series against the A’s they only scored more than three runs in one of the clashes’ five games. Bottom line: Lester is getting these opposing hitters at the right time.
Expect a low scoring game and take under 8.5 runs at 1.64.
Back under 8.5 runs between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit TIgers at 1.64
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