Detroit blew a big lead in game 2, and now are in trouble
Once again this October, one run was enough.
John Lackey edged Justin Verlander in the latest duel of these pitching-rich playoffs, and Boston’s bullpen shut down Detroit’s big boppers with the game on the line to lift the Red Sox over the Tigers 1-0 Tuesday for a 2-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Mike Napoli homered off Verlander in the seventh inning, and Detroit’s best chance to rally fell short in the eighth when Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder struck out with runners at the corners.
“The runs are pretty stingy,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “This is what it’s about in postseason, is good pitching.”
Despite three straight gems by their starters, the Tigers suddenly trail in a best-of-seven series they seemed to control just two days ago. Game 4 is Wednesday night at Comerica Park, with Jake Peavy scheduled to start for the Red Sox against Doug Fister.
Starting to get the feeling that Detroit is done
The Tigers are headed to their third straight ALCS
Yes, Justin Verlander is back.
By the time he was done Thursday night in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, he had disposed of the A’s and was pitching against history.
Just when America wondered whether Verlander could meet his own postseason standards, let alone his Game 5 masterpiece in Oakland in last year’s ALDS, he returned to town and no-hit the A’s for 6 2/3 innings. They broke up the no-no, but not his shutout streak as the righty helped send the Tigers through to the AL Championship Series with eight shutout innings in a 3-0 win.
The Tigers advance to face the Red Sox Saturday at Fenway Park to open the ALCS (8 p.m. ET, FOX). The A’s, meanwhile, go home wondering what they have to do to get past Verlander.
If there was a year for the A’s to get him, this was it. They chased him after five innings and 104 pitches Aug. 27 at Comerica Park, having put up five runs on him. Though he shut down them for seven innings in Game 2 of this series, rookie Sonny Gray’s eight-inning masterpiece extended a scoreless duel into the ninth before the A’s pulled it out.
Of the four teams left, the Tigers have the longest championship drought. They last won it all in 1984. The Dodgers are next, with their last title coming in 1988.
Boston just had the Rays number
ST. PETERSBURG — By the time it was over, the stress of the night seemed like it never happened for the Red Sox. Instead, they mobbed each other in salute of their latest accomplishment — a trip to the American League Championship Series.
In a gritty performance all the way around, the Red Sox dispatched the pesky Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, in a tense Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
“That’s what our team is built on,” said Dustin Pedroia. “We’re going to find a way to beat you a thousand different ways. Tonight it was a wild pitch and an infield hit and [Shane Victorino] is flying down the line.”
With nine outs to go, Boston was down 1-0 and faced the very real possibility of having to face Tampa Bay ace David Price in a winner-take-all Game 5 showdown Thursday at Fenway Park.
Instead, manager John Farrell’s team can rest up in advance of Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday at Fenway Park. The opponent will either be the Tigers or the Athletics, who will play Game 5 of their ALDS on Thursday in Oakland.
This is the first trip to the ALCS for Boston since 2008. With another four wins, the Red Sox can get back to the World Series for the first time since ’07. It has been a surreal ride for a team that won 69 games a year ago, only to bounce back with 97 in the regular season, and then a 3-1 series victory against a solid Rays team.
The Detroit bats finally came to life
The Detroit Tigers are heading back to California with the help of Max Scherzerand some fans in right field.
Scherzer escaped a major jam during a relief outing to remember — one inning after two fans reached out to try to reel in Victor Martinez‘s disputed home run — and the Tigers rallied past the Oakland Athletics 8-6 on Tuesday to force a decisive fifth game in their AL division series.
Playing catch-up most of the way, the Tigers tied it first with Jhonny Peralta‘s three-run homer in the fifth inning and then on Martinez’s solo shot in the seventh. A couple of fans attempted to catch Martinez’s drive, and at least one of them bobbled the ball as he reached over the railing above the wall, preventing right fielder Josh Reddick from having any chance at a leaping grab.
Reddick and center fielder Coco Crisp immediately protested, pointing up at the stands in the hope of a fan-interference call. But umpires upheld the home run after a replay review.
Scherzer, making his first relief appearance since the 2011 postseason, gave up a run in the seventh and got in trouble again in the eighth. With the Tigers ahead 5-4, he allowed a walk and a double to start the inning, but after an intentional walk to load the bases, manager Jim Leyland left his 21-game winner on the mound.
The Dodgers looking for their first World Series trip since 1988
Juan Uribe slugged a two-run homer in the eighth inning as the Dodgers claimed their first NL Championship Series berth since 2009. The Braves had earlier overcome two Carl Crawford homers and outlasted Clayton Kershaw’s first career start on short rest before Uribe’s decisive shot.
Do not count the Rays out yet
ST. PETERSBURG — Jose Lobaton hit a walk-off homer in the ninth to give the Rays a 5-4 win over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
The blast came with two outs off Red Sox closer Koji Uehara and forced a Game 4, which will be played Tuesday night at Tropicana Field at 8:30 ET on TBS.
The home run was Lobaton’s third walk-off hit of the season and the Rays’ 14th, and it couldn’t have come at a better time after Fernando Rodney blew a one-run lead in the top half of the inning on a night that saw the Rays come back from an early three-run deficit.
“I was looking for something soft,” Lobaton said. “He threw it to me in a good spot, and I just hit it pretty good.”
Evan Longoria’s dramatic three-run homer off Clay Buchholz in the bottom of the fifth tied the score and set the table for the comeback. Until that point it had been all Red Sox.
Sets up a winner take all Game 5
PITTSBURGH — Not often one for hyperbole, Yadier Molina couldn’t contain his giddiness as he waited for the Cardinals to wrap up an early spring game along Florida’s east coast. He had just been behind the plate, catching three innings by a 21-year-old who wasn’t yet a year removed from college.
Singling out Michael Wacha’s pitches, poise and presence, Molina was bold in his assertion that day. “I think,” Molina said at the time, “that guy, right now, can pitch in the big leagues.” On Monday, the rest of the baseball world understood what Molina saw more than six months ago.
Wacha, who arrived in the Majors three months after that spring appearance, debuted on the postseason stage hoping to carry over momentum from the near no-hitter he threw in his final regular-season outing. What he did was nearly repeat it.
Supported by Matt Holliday’s sixth-inning homer, Wacha extended the Cardinals’ season by dazzling in a 2-1 Game 4 win over the Pirates. The victory came in front of 40,493 at PNC Park and sends this National League Division Series back to St. Louis, where the Cards have ace Adam Wainwrightlined up for a second win-or-go-home game Wednesday — 4 p.m. CT on TBS if the Dodgers and Braves have yet to decide the other NLDS, or 7 p.m. CT if it has been completed.