The stakes won't be quite that high for his next start, but the Detroit Tigers could certainly use another brilliant performance from their star right-hander after blowing a chance to take control of the AL championship series.
Detroit wasted a five-run lead Sunday night in Game 2, allowing the Boston Red Sox to even the series with a 6-5 victory. David Ortiz 's tying grand slam in the eighth inning snapped the Red Sox out of a hitting funk, and if Boston goes on to win the pennant, there may be little doubt about the turning point in this series.
Verlander's job is to steady the defending AL champion Tigers."Obviously that was a tough one," Verlander said. "At the same time you know this series is going to be a dogfight. Nobody is going to walk over anybody."
The Tigers looked like they were ready to roll through the series after they won the opener and took a 5-0 lead in Game 2. Anibal Sanchez held Boston hitless for six innings on Saturday, and Max Scherzer allowed a run and two hits in seven innings Sunday.
Boston trailed 5-1 in the eighth in Game 2 before a remarkable rally against four relievers. Ortiz tied it with a two-out grand slam off closer Joaquin Benoit ."I made a mistake that I take full responsibility for," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I should have just reminded him that we didn't want Ortiz to really beat us. He tried to make a great pitch. He tried to get it low and away out of the strike zone, but he didn't get it there."
Boston managed to win one of two at home despite striking out 32 times - eight more than the previous record for the first two games of an LCS, set by the Los Angeles Dodgers a day earlier. The Red Sox are hopeful their bats will come around, starting against Verlander in Game 3 at Comerica Park on Tuesday."I think we certainly gained some confidence in the last couple innings," Boston manager John Farrell said. "The work of Sanchez and Scherzer has been nothing short of spectacular. ... We feel like tomorrow's starter in Verlander is going to be a similar, if not a more difficult, challenge than what we faced already."
After a pedestrian regular season by his standards, Verlander pitched15 scoreless innings in the division series against Oakland, including eight in a winner-take-all Game 5. The Tigers have taken no-hitters into at least the sixth inning in three straight games, a remarkable feat even for a staff that set a major league record with 1,428 strikeouts during the regular season.
Detroit's starters have picked up where they left off during last year's American League playoffs, when the Tigers' rotation posted a 1.02 ERA through the division series and ALCS. Detroit won the AL pennant before being swept by San Francisco in the World Series."We've got a starting rotation that's relentless, and I said that before the series started. Every guy has their unique ability to shut down a team in their own way," Verlander said. "I'm just one of the four guys right now."
The Red Sox will send John Lackey to the mound to face Verlander. Lackey was able to make 29 starts during the regular season, posting a 3.52 ERA after missing all of 2012 following elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
Lackey will try to hold Detroit's offense in check and hope the Red Sox can become the first team this postseason to break through against Verlander."We've got a great lineup. I'm going into the game with a great group of guys behind me," Lackey said. "Those guys are going to fight him. He's kind of our lineup's problem. I've got my own problems with their lineup."
Leyland says he'll probably play Jhonny Peralta at shortstop for a second straight game, with Andy Dirks in left field instead of Don Kelly . Boston's Mike Napoli is expected to be back at first base in a lineup similar to what the Red Sox used in Game 1.
Those are minor adjustments, obviously. Don't expect too many drastic changes as this series progresses. Both teams rely on established stars who have played in their share of big postseason games."It's always nice to have Justin Verlander on the mound no matter what the situation is," Leyland said. "There won't be any carry-over for our guys from that game last night. That's over with."
|Boston Red Sox|
|September 01, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left hip contusion|
|August 29, 2013||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder irritation|
|August 17, 2013||Mike Napoli||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 05, 2013||Matt Thornton||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|September 26, 2013||Danny Worth||60-Day DL||Dislocated left shoulder|
|September 19, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Hand|
|September 19, 2013||Phil Coke||Day-to-Day||Elbow|
|September 04, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Bilateral shin splints|
|August 24, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|August 17, 2013||Omar Infante||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back stiffness|
DETROIT (AP) -- Once again this October, one run was enough.
The Boston Red Sox scored it - and now they lead an AL championship series that seemed to be slipping away last weekend.
John Lackey edged Justin Verlander in the latest duel of these pitching-rich playoffs, and Boston's bullpen shut down Detroit's big boppers with the game on the line to lift the Red Sox over the Tigers 1-0 Tuesday for a 2-1 advantage in the ALCS.
Mike Napoli homered off Verlander in the seventh inning, and Detroit's best chance to rally fell short in the eighth when Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder struck out with runners at the corners.
"This game had the feel it was going to be won or lost on one pitch," Boston reliever Craig Breslow said. "Lackey kept us in the game. Every inning where he was able to throw up a zero gave us a lift."
Despite three straight gems by their starters, the Tigers suddenly trail in a best-of-seven series they initially appeared to control. Game 4 is Wednesday night at Comerica Park, with Jake Peavy scheduled to start for the Red Sox against Doug Fister .
Peavy set the tone Tuesday during a pregame news conference, when he sounded miffed that so much of the attention was focused on Verlander before Game 3.
"It's been funny for me to watch all the coverage of the game coming in," Peavy said. "Almost like we didn't have a starter going today. Our starter is pretty good, too."
Lackey backed that up and then some.
He allowed four hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out eight without a walk in a game that was delayed 17 minutes in the second inning because lights on the stadium towers went out.
"I think that little time off gave him a chance to slow down a little bit. He was excited and pumped that first inning," Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "Kind of getting excited with his slider, throwing a little too hard and leaving it over the middle, but he was still pretty effective."
It was the second 1-0 game in this matchup between the highest-scoring teams in the majors. Dominant pitching has been a running theme throughout these playoffs, which have included four 1-0 scores and seven shutouts in the first 26 games.
"The runs are pretty stingy," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "This is what it's about in postseason, is good pitching."
After rallying from a five-run deficit to even the series in Game 2, Boston came away with a win in Detroit against one of the game's best pitchers. The Tigers had a chance for their own comeback in the eighth when Austin Jackson drew a one-out walk and Torii Hunter followed with a single.
But Cabrera, who failed to reach base for the first time in 32 postseason games for the Tigers, never looked comfortable against Junichi Tazawa , swinging and missing at the first two offerings and eventually chasing an outside pitch for strike three.
"To me, I (got) myself out. I was swinging at a lot of balls out of the strike zone," said Cabrera, who has been banged up for a couple of months but homered in Game 2. "When you swing at balls, you're not able to have success."
Fielder looked even more overmatched against Koji Uehara , striking out on three pitches.
Uehara also worked the ninth for a save, ensuring that Lackey's fine performance wouldn't go to waste.
Lackey pitched poorly his first two seasons in Boston after signing an $82.5 million, five-year contract in December 2009. Then he missed all of 2012 following elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
He's been better this season, and he kept the defending AL champions off balance Tuesday by effectively changing speeds.
"He just never gave in," Saltalamacchia said.
Napoli's first at-bat in the majors was against Verlander on May 4, 2006, at Comerica Park. He homered then, too.
"He's tough. He was on his game tonight. He was keeping all of us off balance," said Napoli, who rubbed his bat on teammate Jonny Gomes ' beard before going up to the plate. "I got to a 3-2 count and put a good swing on a pitch, was able to drive it."
In the last two games, the Tigers have started Verlander and 21-game winner Max Scherzer - and the Red Sox won both.
Throw in Anibal Sanchez 's outstanding effort in the opener, when the Red Sox managed only a ninth-inning single in a 1-0 loss, and Detroit's three starters in the ALCS have combined to allow two runs and six hits with 35 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Still, the Tigers have fallen behind because their bullpen blew a four-run lead late in Game 2 and the offense came up empty at home on Tuesday.
Detroit stranded runners on first and third in the first, then wasted Jhonny Peralta 's leadoff double in the fifth. Peralta reached third with one out, but an overanxious Omar Infante struck out and Andy Dirks grounded out.
Verlander needed every bit of focus after Jacoby Ellsbury 's one-out single in the sixth. The Tigers have not held runners well this year, but a number of pickoff throws helped prevent a steal. At one point, Verlander appeared to be pointing at his wrist, as if to ask the dugout if his delivery to the plate was quick enough.
Amid all that, Verlander got Shane Victorino on a flyout, and after Ellsbury moved to second anyway on a wild pitch, Dustin Pedroia grounded out to end the threat.
Napoli's homer was the first run allowed by Verlander since Sept. 18 - he pitched six scoreless innings in each of his last two starts in the regular season before blanking the opposition for 21 innings in the playoffs.
Lackey was pulled with one on in the seventh. Breslow came on and walked Alex Avila , but Infante's groundout ended the inning.
The Red Sox appeared to be in deep trouble when Detroit led 5-0 in Game 2 at Fenway Park, but David Ortiz tied it with an eighth-inning grand slam off closer Joaquin Benoit , and Boston won it in the ninth.
Verlander looked ready to halt any notion of momentum for the Red Sox. He struck out six straight in the second and third, matching a single-game postseason record.
Lackey did his best to keep pace, retiring 10 in a row before Peralta's double.
The Tigers had taken no-hitters into at least the sixth inning of the previous three games. Verlander fell an out short of extending that streak when Gomes hit a roller up the middle for an infield single in the fifth.
"We won a game with four hits tonight. It says a lot about this team," Gomes said.
NOTES: Detroit reliever Phil Coke struck out seven straight over multiple outings during last year's World Series against San Francisco, according to STATS. ... DTE Energy said the lighting outage was because of a cable failure in the area near the stadium. ... The last time there were four 1-0 games in one postseason was 1991, according to STATS. There were three in the NLCS and another when Minnesota beat Atlanta in Game 7 of the World Series.