The scene shifts to Comerica Park Tuesday afternoon as the Detroit Tigers host the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series (TV/Radio/Twitter: FOX, WEEI-FM and ESPN Radio, @RedSox_101).
With the series tied at one, and with Sunday’s ending still reverberating, here are a few things to keep in mind while watching the game:
–The pitching focus has been rightfully on Detroit’s starters.
The combination of Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer has scattered two hits, a run and 25, yes, 25 strikeouts in 13 innings.
What gets lost here is that Boston’s starters have been almost equal.
Forget Clay Buchholz’s bad sixth inning Sunday.
Buchholz and Jon Lester walked one batter in 13 innings, striking out 10. They pitched to contact and held the Red Sox in games they were dominated in by Tiger pitching.
–Even with the lack of hitting by the Sox, the Tigers WHIP (Walks and hits divided by innings pitched) is 1.000. Outstanding, but not as incredible as you might have thought.
Boston’s WHIP? 1.222.
–Mike Napoli has had a bad series, failing to put a ball in play in five plate appearances. Striking out four times and walking once, Napoli is lost at the plate.
Manager John Farrell either needs to move him down the batting order or use more of Mike Carp.
It is one thing to be in a slump, it is another to not be productive.
–Speaking of nonproduction, 32 of Boston’s 51 outs are by way of the K.
–Farrell made his first serious mistake of the playoffs Sunday leaving Buchholz in to get pounded in the sixth.
The Ortiz grand slam glosses that over, but Farrell was fortunate.
If the criticisms on 98.5 and WEEI are Farrell having too short a leash, fine.
You cannot give runs away in the playoffs. Leaving Buchholz in gave the Tigers at least two.
–All year, the biggest weakness the Tigers had was the backend of the pen.
In both games so far, that weakness was exposed.
Joaquin Benoit allowed the Sox only hit of Game 1 and Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2. (Ortiz was the one batter Benoit faced.)
Manager Jim Leyland has shown little confidence all year with his closer, either rookie Bruce Rondon, Jose Valverde—given a second chance after last year’s postseason struggles—or Benoit.
Rick Porcello was left to pick up the pieces Sunday and failed to get an out.
–You get the sense, even with this a tied series, that if the Red Sox beat Verlander then that could be the tipping point.
Teams win in October on confidence. After Sunday, Detroit’s has to be wobbly. Beating Verlander, not taking one off the pen when he is done, may make the Tigers feel desperate.
Teams in desperation make mistakes and lose.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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