BOSTON (CBS) – The Red Sox have outscored the Detroit Tigers by just one run over the first three games of the ALCS, but own a 2-1 lead after their 1-0 win in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
The bats are still relatively quiet for Boston, but their pitching has been outstanding. John Lackey and Boston’s trio of relievers (Breslow, Tazawa and Uehara) shut down the Tigers in Game 3, out-dueling Detroit’s Justin Verlander to give Boston their first lead of the series.
The Turning Point
This game was following the same script as the first two games, with the Red Sox batters struggling to get anything going against a dominating Tigers’ starter.
Boston managed just four hits, but one of them made all the difference; Mike Napoli’s seventh inning solo homer off Verlander.
After looking bad with a pair of strikeouts in his first two at-bats, Napoli didn’t give in when facing a full count in his third at-bat. He unloaded on a 96-mph fastball from Verlander and deposited it over the fence in left-center for the only run of the game, lifting Boston to their 1-0 victory.
“I’ve been feeling comfortable, not searching for anything. For me it’s just all about being on top,” Napoli said after the game. “He got me twice earlier in the game, and threw me four sliders which he’s never done against me before. I was able to get it 3-2 and got a pitch I could handle.”
Napoli had been 0-for-6 with six strikeouts before the homer, but will have a little more confidence on his side heading into Wednesday’s Game 4.
After listening to people talk about how good Verlander has been (and don’t get me wrong, he’s been great), Lackey went pitch-for-pitch with the Detroit ace and came out on top.
Lackey twirled 6.2 innings of shutout ball, allowing just four hits and striking out eight – a new playoff career-high for him. He had four 1-2-3 innings, sitting down 10 straight in the middle of the game.
Lackey twice worked out of jams with a runner in scoring position; getting Victor Martinez to fly out in the bottom of the first with Torii Hunter on third, and then getting Omar Infante to strike out and Andy Dirks to ground out with Jhonny Peralta on third with one out in the bottom of the fifth.
It’s never easy to go against an ace like Verlander with such a small margin of error, but Lackey was more than up to the challenge in Game 3.
The Tigers had a great chance to score in the bottom of the eighth inning, as their two big bats came up with runners on second and third with one out.
Both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder both came up empty against the Boston bullpen. Cabrera struck out on four pitches against Junichi Tazawa, with Fielder striking out on three pitches against Koji Uehara.
The two went 1-for-8 in Game 3 with three strikeouts and left five runners on base.
Things are looking good for Boston, as they grab their first lead of the series. Detroit starters have allowed just two earned runs and have 35 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched, but the Tigers still find themselves in a 2-1 series hole.
Jake Peavy is on the mound for Boston on Wednesday, opposed by Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67 ERA) for Detroit.
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