Reporting Dan Roche
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BOSTON (CBS) – The Red Sox-Tigers ALCS has a chance to be one epic series.
Both teams have above average starting pitching, and that’s usually a good place to start in a playoff series.
The Tigers will roll out Anibal Sanchez in Game 1 followed by Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander (who was brilliant in the ALDS vs Oakland), and Doug Fister, while the Red Sox will likely roll out Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy. On paper, great match-ups all the way through.
The Tigers won the regular season series 4-3, but much like the Tampa Bay series, I think you have to look at the series played in the second half of the season when the Red Sox had become the team they are now. In fact, a look at the September games at Fenway may give an indication of what we will see.
READ: ALCS Schedule
The Tigers won the opener of that three game set at Fenway 3-0. Doug Fister held the Sox to four hits and walked four over the first seven, while John Lackey was solid for Boston, giving up three runs on seven hits over 7.1 innings while taking the loss. Boston went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position while Detroit was just 1-for-12.
The Sox won the second game as we saw a classic pitching duel. Lester gave up only one run, scattering eight hits over seven innings while striking out nine. The bullpen combo of Workman, Breslow, Tazawa, and Uehara closed it out. Will Middlebrooks was the difference-maker on offense with a two-run single off of Scherzer in the fifth inning. Scherzer was solid other than that, giving up only five hits while striking out eight. He took the loss to fall to 19-2 on the season, as Boston won 2-1.
The finale was all Boston as the Sox hit eight home runs en route to a 20-4 win. This is the type of breakout game that either team can have in a series like this, as they both have more than capable offenses that could explode at any time.
The one big — and I mean BIG — difference in that series was that Miguel Cabrera only played in one game while nursing an injury. Yes, he’s still dealing with the groin and abdomen issue, but just his presence in the line-up can be a factor. We also saw Miggy deliver the big hit in Game 5 on Thursday night, blasting a two-run homer against the A’s.
The Tigers offense is deep with a deadly start of Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta. Hunter was a huge free agent signing this past off-season as he brings so much both on and off the field. He was a guy brought in to get them a World Series title. Martinez is red-hot at the dish right now, going 9-for-20 with three extra-base hits and two RBIs in the ALDS.
The Sox offense is no slouch as we’ve seen (they scored 853 runs to Detroit’s 796 in the regular season, 1-2 in MLB) all year. I also like the bottom third of the Boston order better than Detroit’s.
Detroit’s defense is OK, especially if Peralta plays short stop over Jose Iglesias. Cabrera can’t move well at third base due to injuries, so if Iglesias is off the field the Red Sox might be able to exploit that left side of the Detroit infield. Boston’s defense is solid all over the field.
Both managers are a perfect fit for their clubs. Jim Leyland fits in great with a veteran-loaded Tigers team that expects to win the World Series. Farrell was arguably the most second-guessed manager ever over a two-game span after Games 3-4 against the Rays, but he came through shining. It will be interesting to see the moves he makes as the stakes get higher too.
READ: More From Dan Roche
Overall, I think this can be an instant classic before the World Series. Both teams are evenly matched and the Tigers have been together for a couple of years now.
However, top to bottom, I like the Red Sox as the better overall team. I’ll take them in seven hard-fought games.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.
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