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The Walkoff: Mike Napoli’s Early Offense Powers Red Sox To 4-3 Win In Game 5

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Mike Napoli (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Things looked grim for the Red Sox after Game 4, when they were knocked out early and had little hope for a comeback all night long. But by the second inning of Game 5, the Sox turned the tables on the Tigers, on their way to a 4-3 win to take a 3-2 series lead in the ALCS.

Mike Napoli got the scoring started with an absolute moon shot over the center field fence in the second inning, and he scored the team’s fourth run in the following frame. The Tigers made things interesting, with Boston needing Koji Uehara for a five-out save, but those runs held up through nine innings for the Red Sox.

Anibal Sanchez, whom the Red Sox couldn’t touch in Game 1, was much more human in Game 5. He allowed four runs, three earned, on nine hits over six innings while striking out five. Jon Lester wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but he fought through 5 1/3 innings while keeping his team in the game. The bullpen – Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Uehara – did the rest, and the Sox now have themselves a 3-2 series lead, one win away from the World Series.

The Key Moment
Miguel Cabrera may be the best hitter in baseball, but he’s not the best base runner and certainly not the best defensive third baseman.

The reigning AL MVP ran right through a stop sign in the bottom of the first inning, getting thrown out at the plate by 10 feet for the final out of the inning. His bad night was just starting.

After Napoli’s home run in the second inning, Jonny Gomes hit a routine grounder to third base. Cabrera, not known for his defense, let the ball bounce off his hand and through his legs, allowing Gomes to reach on an error.

Just as Dustin Pedroia’s bobble proved costly for Boston the night before, Cabrera’s mishandling of the grounder bit the Tigers immediately.

Xander Bogaerts and David Ross hit back-to-back doubles to left field, scoring Gomes, before Jacoby Ellsbury smoked a line drive off Sanchez’s glove for an RBI infield single. The Sox led 3-0 and never looked back.

Had Cabrera made the play, the inning — and the game — would have been shaped completely differently.

The Man
Nationally, you can’t talk about the Red Sox without talking about their beards. And it was the biggest beard of them all that got all the face time on Thursday night.

Mike Napoli absolutely demolished a 3-1 fastball from Anibal Sanchez in the second inning and sent it high and deep over the center field wall to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. It was listed as a 460-foot shot, but it sure looked a lot longer.

That wasn’t it for Napoli, though. He jumped on a high and inside changeup from Sanchez in the third, sending it to left field for a ground-rule double. He advanced to third on a groundout by Jonny Gomes, and he scored on a wild pitch with Stephen Drew at the plate to give Boston a 4-0 lead.

The Goat
Typically, a 1-for-3 night with an RBI and a walk wouldn’t qualify someone for “Goat” status, but exceptions can be made for American League MVPs.

Cabrera had the aforementioned gaffes on the base paths and in the field in the first two innings, but he had a chance to make up for his errors when he stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and nobody out in the bottom of the seventh. He did drive in a run, but it came on a double play ball to second base, clearing the bases and killing what could have been a major rally for Detroit.

It was the Red Sox’ former MVP who made the costly mistake in Game 4, and it was the Tigers’ MVP who hurt his team in Game 5.

The Outlook
Saturday, either in the mid-afternoon hours or after 8 p.m., the Red Sox will stand one win away from reaching the World Series. It’s as simple as that.

It won’t be easy, as they’ll have to face Max Scherzer, who was almost unhittable in Game 2. But the Red Sox recovered to score four times off Sanchez after he no-hit them in Game 1, so they won’t be short on confidence heading into Game 6.

The Red Sox will also have their best pitcher in Clay Buchholz looking for redemption.

It will be October baseball at its finest.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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