Final, 1-0 Tigers: Things got interesting there, but the Sox came up short. Berry stole second with two outs after Drew flew out to right field, then Xander Bogaerts –who entered the game defensively earlier after Carp hit for Middlebrooks — stepped to the plate.
For Bogaerts, it was the biggest baseball opportunity of his life. He showed tremendous poise to lay off a low 2-2 pitch, but on 3-2, he popped out to shortstop for the game’s final out.
Great game. See you back here tomorrow night.
Bottom 9th, 1 out, 1-0 Tigers: The Red Sox have life.
Daniel Nava put on one heck of a battle with Benoit, and he ended up winning, with a single to center field.
Quintin Berry is on to pinch run. Will he go?
Middle 9th, 1-0 Tigers: That was not the type of inning we’re used to seeing out of Koji Uehara, but thanks to Stephen Drew, things turn out OK for the Red Sox.
Uehara gave up a leadoff single to Iglesias, and two batters later, Torii Hunter laced a double to left field. Koji then struck out Kelly Johnson — who had been inserted for Miguel Cabrera earlier — before Prince Fielder sent a high pop-up precariously between the infield dirt and the outfielders. It looked to surely be falling, but Stephen Drew had it sized up the whole time, and he made a nice over-the-shoulder catch for the third out. If that fell, that would have been it, but now the Sox at least have a chance.
Joaquin Benoit is on to try to close this one out for the Tigers.
End 8th, 1-0 Tigers: Sanchez, Alburquerque, Veras, Smyly — it doesn’t matter who’s pitching, because the Red Sox can’t hit any of them tonight.
Jose Veras started the inning, and he got Victorino to strike out swinging and Pedroia to strike out looking for Boston’s 15th and 16th strikeouts tonight.
Drew Smyly then came on to pitch to David Ortiz, who worked the count full but ultimately flew out harmlessly to center field to end the inning.
That’s eight of them now, and the Sox have zero hits. Now they have just one last chance to try to get it done.
They’ll likely get there with the 1-0 deficit intact, as Koji Uehara now comes on to pitch the ninth.
Middle 8th, 1-0 Tigers: That outing didn’t go quite as well for Craig Breslow as his outing in Tampa this week, but he nevertheless got through the eighth.
With a faster runner on base, Jhonny Peralta’s two-out double probably would have plated a second run for the Tigers. But Prince Fielder is not … fast, so he only made it to third on the smoked shot down the left field line.
Breslow then intentionally walked Omar Infante (he had been watched just eight times in 4,500-plus career plate appearances) to load the bases with two outs, and Alex Avila hit a towering fly ball to center field that had no chance to get out tonight in this wind.
Victorino, Pedroia, Ortiz due up in the eighth. Not much time now.
End 7th, 1-0 Tigers: Joe West has been a story line all night (he was trending on Twitter), and he just casually called a strike on what should have been Jacoby Ellsbury’s ball four. It upset Ellsbury enough to get him to chase strike three on the next pitch, and the Red Sox are now through seven without a hit.
Alburquerque got Mike Carp to ground out to shortstop and then got Jarrod Saltalamacchia (hitting for Ross) to stand and watch as strike three sailed in.
The Sox only have six outs to get something going offensively, but they’ll at least have 2-3-4 due up in the eighth. Craig Breslow, in to pitch the eighth, will try to get them there still down 1-0.
Middle 7th, 1-0 Tigers: Tazawa gets the job done, retiring Austin Jackson on a grounder to third and Torii Hunter with a fly ball to right.
Al Alburquerque now comes on for the Tigers, and Mike Carp will hit for Will Middlebrooks.
Top 7th, 1 out, 1-0 Tigers: And that’s the night for Jon Lester, who hit Jose Iglesias in the foot with a curveball with one out and was taken out by manager John Farrell.
Lester looked a bit disappointed, but he did a solid job tonight. He’d probably be feeling a lot better if he weren’t going up against a guy who didn’t allow a hit in six innings.
Junichi Tazawa is on for the Sox.
End 6th, 1-0 Tigers: Managers often struggle with the decision to pull a starter when he’s in the middle of a no-hitter, but it’s a different animal in the postseason. If a guy is running out of gas, he’s got to go, because there’s no room for error.
Yet Jim Leyland — who’s seen a baseball gmae or two in his day — stuck with Anibal Sanchez, even after he walked the bases loaded. With two outs, after Daniel Nava walked on five pitches, and with Sanchez’s pitch count at 111, Leyland left his starter in the game to face Stephen Drew with the bases loaded.
And it paid off.
Sanchez got ahead of Drew and then threw an 89 mph changeup on a 1-2 count, and Drew swung and missed, leaving the bases loaded and the Red Sox still without a hit.
That has to be the night for Sanchez, but he certainly did his job. Six innings, no hits, 12 strikeouts, six walks and, of course, no runs. A weird line to be sure, but he got it done tonight.
Shane Victorino has to be wondering “what if?” right now, as he led off the inning — oddly — with a bunt to first base. It went straight to Prince Fielder, who tagged him out. Three walks and a strikeout followed, so giving that out away (why not bunt toward the hampered Miguel Cabrera at third?) in that spot didn’t help matters.
Middle 6th, 1-0 Tigers: Jon Lester found himself in a bit of trouble in the sixth, and he nearly got out of it unharmed. Instead, the Tigers strike first.
After a one-out walk to Miguel Cabrera and an inside pitch that hit Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez chopped one to short. Stephen Drew had to charge, field and pivot all in one motion to fire to second for one out, but Martinez just barely beat Pedroia’s throw to first for what would have been an inning-ending double play.
Jhonny Peralta stepped to the plate with two on and two out, and on a 2-2 count, he hit a soft line drive to center that landed just short of Jacoby Ellsbury’s range. Cabrera scored from third for the game’s first run.
Omar Infante hit a grounder to third, which Middlebrooks corralled before firing to first for the third out.
Lester’s now at 102 pitches, so he might have one more inning in him. He was about 3 inches from saving himself 10 pitches and, more importantly, the game’s first run. That type of play typically ends up making the biggest differences in games like this one.
Now, the Red Sox are going to try to get their first hit. That’s been a tough task thus far.
End 5th, 0-0: Three more up, three more down for Anibal Sanchez.
Will Middlebrooks grounded out to second, David Ross popped to second base, and Jacoby Ellsbury checked his swing but foul-tipped a pitch into the mitt for a most-unfortunate strikeout.
Sanchez now has 10 strikeouts in five innings, and the Red Sox are still without a hit. The good news for Boston is that with Sanchez at 88 pitches, he has just about a zero percent chance of going the distance tonight. Still, 10 K’s, no hits … the Red Sox look ice cold right now. Jon Lester’s going to have to try to match it, though he’s caught a few fortunate breaks thus far.
Middle 5th, 0-0: That was certainly an odd inning, mostly due to some suspect decision-making on the basepaths by the Tigers.
Jhonny Peralta led off the inning with a double to left-center field. Expecting the bunt, Mike Napoli played on the infield grass with Omar Infante at the plate. However, Infante swung away, but he smoked a ball right at Napoli. The former catcher looked like a lifetime first baseman as he fielded the ball, pivoted to second to check on the runner and fired a dart to Stephen Drew at the bag. The shortstop applied the tag, and though replay showed it may have been a touch late, second base umpire Ron Kulpa called Peralta out.
Mike Avila followed that up with a single to right field which Shane Victorino booted for no apparent reason, allowing Infante to get to third on the error. Then, Jose Iglesias grounded sharply to third base, and Infante was off with the pitch. Middlebrooks fired home for a relatively easy out, and just like that, the Tigers had given Lester two big outs on the bases.
Austin Jackson then worked a full count with two on and two out, and he got into a 3-2 pitch to right field. Victorino had plenty of time to camp out underneath it though, and the Sox and Tigers head to the bottom of the fifth still in a scoreless tie.
End 4th, 0-0: I think it’s safe to say we have an official pitcher’s duel going on here at Fenway Park. Sanchez’s stuff is all over the place tonight, and in a good way, as hitters can’t touch and even catcher Alex Avila has had some trouble handling some of those pitches.
Sanchez struck out the side in order in the fourth, though he did get some help from first base umpire Rob Drake on a Mike Napoli check swing that probably shouldn’t have been called a strike. Nevertheless, Napoli K’d to open the frame before Nava got caught looking and Drew went down swinging.
Sanchez now has nine strikeouts in just four innings, and he still hasn’t allowed a hit. His pitch count has evened out somewhat too, at 78.
This guy got rocked his last time out, but he’s come back with a special something for the Red Sox tonight.
Middle 4th, 0-0: Lester pitches a clean inning in the fourth against the meat of the Tigers lineup. Cabrera and Fielder both grounded out to Pedroia at second, and Martinez lined a 3-2 pitch right at Victorino for the third out.
It’s been quite the pitching battle thus far.
End 3rd, 0-0: There’s the quick inning Sanchez needed. He got it by filling up the strike zone against Victorino, who watched as strike three passed by him on the sixth pitch of the at-bat. It was a nasty pitch that actually missed the target but caught the black on the inside of the plate. Pedroia then lined out on the first pitch of his at-bat, and Ortiz grounded to Cabrera, who was over near the shortstop position, for the third out. It took just 10 pitches, which Sanchez needed badly.
Middle 3rd, 0-0: One way to limit pitch counts? Get the double play, of course.
Lester needed a little help after surrendering a one-out line drive single to left field from Austin Jackson. And he got it, as Stephen Drew fielded Torii Hunter’s ground ball and flipped to Pedroia, who fired to first base to catch the still-quick Hunter for the inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Lester is at 45 pitches through three, which isn’t great, but it’s better than his counterpart.
The Red Sox have the heart of the order due up here, so things won’t get easier for Sanchez. And he’ll be facing a very, very angry David Ortiz, who feels an at-bat was stolen from him in the first.
End 2nd, 0-0: Anibal Sanchez is through two innings, but he’s not going to make it very far at this pace. He’s needed 51 pitches to record six outs, thanks in part to the wild pitch strikeout in the first and in part to a pair of walks issued in the second inning.
His stuff has been good — unhittable, maybe — but he’s on pace to not even last through the fifth if he can’t get guys out in quicker fashion.
Ellsbury ended the inning with a hard-hit ball to shortstop which caused the always-surehanded Jose Iglesias to bobble it a bit. But the good ones know how to keep the ball right in front of them, which Iglesias did before firing to first for the inning’s final out. Drew and Ross had walked earlier in the inning, with Nava striking out and Middlebrooks flying out to left.
Middle 2nd, 0-0: Jon Lester didn’t mess around in the second, getting Jhonny Peralta to ground out to third to start the inning before striking out Omar Infante (swinging through a curveball) and Alex Avila (looking at a cutter) to get through the inning in just 13 pitches.
Nava, Drew and Middlebrooks are due up for Boston.
End 1st, 0-0: Vegas doesn’t have odds for things like that, but if it were possible to lay down $50 on Anibal Sanchez recording four strikeouts in the first inning of the ALCS, someone somewhere would be a rich man.
Sanchez caught Ellsbury looking to lead things off before Victorino swung at a pitch in the dirt. However, Alex Avila couldn’t block the pitch, and it scooted all the way to the backstop, allowing Victorino to reach. Dustin Pedroia then worked a work, before David Ortiz worked a full count before just barely swinging at a pitch that was called a ball by home plate umpire Joe West. Ortiz was irate that third base ump Alfonso Marquez rung him up, but it appeared to be the right call. (No matter which call Marquez made, he would have been both wrong and right. It was that close.)
Up stepped Mike Napoli with two on and two out, and Napoli — as he is wont to do — struck out swinging.
Sanchez needed 26 pitches to get through the first.
Middle 1st, 0-0: Jon Lester sure looked ready to start this one, getting Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter to strike out swinging in back-to-back at-bats to start things off.
Miguel Cabera stepped up and smoked a pitch the opposite way toward Pesky’s Pole, but it curved just in front of the foul pole. Two pitches later, Cabrera hit a ball about 900 mph to left field, and Daniel Nava misplayed the carom, but Cabrera has no speed and still only got a single out of it. Prince Fielder then smoked a low line drive to center field, and Jacoby Ellsbury couldn’t decide if he wanted to make a diving attempt or play back. Instead, he got caught in between, and the ball bounced off his leg and got away. Again though, the lack of speed kept things to just first and second.
David Ross went out for a mound visit prior to Victor Martinez’s at-bat, and Lester then got ahead 1-2. With the capacity crowd on its feet, Lester thought he threw strike three on a 2-2 count. It was certainly close, but Lester didn’t get the call. No matter, as he was able to get Martinez to roll to shortstop on the full count. Stephen Drew charged and cut the ball off in front of the second base bag and fired to first in plenty of time to make the third out.
Shaky start for Lester, Nava and Ellsbury, but they got out of the first unscathed.
Top 1st, 0-0: Jon Lester’s first pitch to Austin Jackson is a strike right down the pipe, and Game 1 is officially under way at Fenway Park.
8 p.m.: The place is absolutely filled, and Nomar Garciapparra just got all the fans fired up by heading to the mound in his No. 5 jersey and delivering the ceremonial first pitch.
The real first pitch is now just minutes away.
7:26 p.m.: Because you may be interested, here is Boston’s lineup for tonight:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Stephen Drew, SS
8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
9. David Ross, C
And here’s the lineup for Detroit:
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Torii Hunter RF
3. Miguel Cabrera 3B
4. Prince Fielder 1B
5. Victor Martinez DH
6. Jhonny Peralta LF
7. Omar Infante 2B
8. Alex Avila C
9. Jose Iglesias SS
7:14 p.m.: I tried to snap a photo earlier to give an idea of what the rain was like, but this guy ran right into the middle of my shot. How rude, huh?
6:55 p.m.: These late starts on Saturdays sure do make it seem like the game is being played at midnight, but we are indeed getting closer and closer to first pitch here at Fenway Park.
The rain has ceased, and it’s now just your standard issue cool October night. The Tigers are out on the field for BP right now, and once they clear out, it will be time for final preparations.
6:07 p.m.: Here are some comments from manager John Farrell, who spoke to the media in the past hour here at Fenway.
On the comfort of returning to Boston: “Yeah, and it doesn’t stop with the players. I think Ben and I were able to hit the ground running with the number of challenges and decisions that had to be made in the offseason last year. Whether it’s he, Mike Hazen, Brian O’Halloran, a number of guys that were here that we’ve worked with and met some challenges along the way. We’ve been able to, I don’t want to say picked up where we left off, but have an understanding of what makes one another tick.”
On Jon Lester’s return to form this year: “Fundamentally he’s gotten back to a delivery that has been more consistent, probably more conducive to him being able to execute on the mound as he’s capable. We saw for about three or four years where he was always in the conversation of one of the top left‑handers in the game. And it was more a matter of adjusting delivery, that he already started toward the latter part of last year. And some of those changes really took hold in Spring Training, and from there his confidence probably has returned to the levels prior to the time you’re talking about. So setting aside about a six‑ or seven‑start span in the season he’s had a very consistent year for us.”
On Craig Breslow’s intelligence: “He uses words in a normal conversation that I’m not used to. But I think the intelligence clearly plays out on the mound. This is someone who’s been a very good performer for us, whether it’s against right‑handers, left‑handers, and because of his ability to keep things emotionally under control on the mound is another reason why he’s so trusted, by all of us, late in the game and some high leverage situations. Yeah, I think there’s some comments down in the clubhouse that probably are better suited for other places than here, when he starts to speak, and some guys might not think along with him.”
On the potency of the Boston lineup when both Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks are hitting: “Anytime you have guys contributing up and down the lineup it’s going to make it that much more difficult on the opposing pitcher. It’s going to give us probably more scoring opportunities. Both have shown some streakiness in games played. In the time off that we’ve gone through prior to a series opening up has played into that a little bit. Because both benefit from everyday play. We’re hopeful that the four games just concluded is the foundation and the basis for ‑‑ we’ll need them. And hopefully that bridges that gap at the end of the season to where we are today.”
As for Clay Buchholz, Game 2’s starter, here’s the most important thing he said: “This is what baseball is all about. This is where you want to be.”
5:05 p.m.: Clay Buchholz just spoke to the media, and most of the questions had to do with his injury this year and his work to get back on the mound. I’ll have some quotes in a little bit.
Clay is out in the outfield along with his fellow pitchers throwing, as the Sox are about to start BP.
A quick weather update: It’s sprinkling a little more now, for whatever that’s worse. Again, it’s nothing that would threaten the game, but it the conditions just aren’t ideal.
4:30 p.m.: I’m all checked in here at Fenway, and it’s uhh … not exactly ideal baseball weather.
It’s a bit chilly, which is to be expected, but it’s also misting a bit and very cloudy. Tonight might be a little raw.
Off the top of my head, I feel that may be bad news for Shane Victorino, who’s been dealing with a bum thumb for weeks now but has gutted his way through it. If he catches one off the end of the bat that sends a sting through his hand in weather like this … ouch. But he’ll deal with it, because he’s a pretty tough dude.
Here’s what it looks like right now at Fenway:
2:30 p.m.: A fall chill is in the air and there is baseball at Fenway Park. You’d have a hard time convincing many folks around here that anything’s better than that.
The Detroit Tigers are here to take on the Boston Red Sox, and there’s plenty of reasons for both sides to feel optimistic. The Red Sox finished the year tied for the best record in baseball, and they made short work of the Rays in the ALDS by knocking them off in four games.
The Tigers for much of the year looked to be in contention for baseball’s best record, but a Miguel Cabrera injury in the final month really hampered that quest. Nevertheless, the Tigers won 93 games and were able to edge the 97-win Oakland A’s in five games in the divisional round.
Tonight, Detroit send former Sox farmhand Anibal Sanchez to the mound. He’s coming off a rough outing against the A’s, when he allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits and two walks over just 4 1/3 innings in what would turn out to be a 6-3 Tigers loss. You know the Red Sox’ hitters have to be licking their chops in anticipation of keeping that going tonight.
The Red Sox will send Jon Lester to the mound. He allowed two runs over 7 2/3 innings in Game 1 against the Rays.
I’ll have the lineups posted here soon, as well as a word from Game 2’s starter, Clay Buchholz, and of course I’ll be updating all night long, with first pitch coming just after 8 p.m.
Baseball, October, Boston. Let’s do this.