The 2013 American League Championship Series starts tonight and it features two teams that Indians fans know pretty well, as they should seeing as they all play in the American League and this is the ALCS. The Detroit Tigers, the bitter division rival of the Indians, will travel to Boston to take on the Red Sox in a best of seven, winner take all series for a trip to the World Series.
Both teams are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. These are two of the most potent offenses which should make for some potentially high scoring games. After all, the Tigers sport a lineup with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Prince Fielder while Boston can trot out Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli, among others. That assuming the pitching doesn’t show up, which seems unlikely. Does anyone expect Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz etc. to get lit up? Really, this series could go either way and be a slug-fest or a series of hard fought, nail biting, pitcher’s duels.
How they got here: If Indians fans can take anything away from the Tribe’s loss in the AL Wild Card game, it’s that they escaped what could have been a drubbing at the hands of the Red Sox. They made it to this year’s ALCS thanks to an impressive performance against the Rays that saw them win three of four games in impressive fashion. In what has been a rather surprising rebound year in 2013 for the Red Sox, they look like the best time in baseball right now.
Meanwhile, the Tigers… Oh how I loathe them… are in the ALCS after edging the Oakland A’s by the most narrow of margins. After five hard fought games that featured what might have been a terrible instant replay decision going in their favor and a near legendary game five start by Justin Verlander, the Tigers get the chance to play in the World Series for the second straight year. If you recall, they were swept by the Giants in last year’s World Series.
Who’s starting Game 1: With Justin Verlander unavailable thanks to his outstanding game five start, the Tigers will hand the ball over to Anibal Sanchez in game one. He’s coming off of another spectacular season in which he went 14-8with a 2.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 202 strikeouts. While not an ace, Sanchez is by no means a slouch. As for the Red Sox, they will get to use their ace Jon Lester in game one. He’s a phenomenal pitcher coming off of another great season in which he went 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Needless to say, this one has the makings of a phenomenal pitchers duel. Which means… expect a slugfest.
Offensive players to watch: This one is pretty self-explanatory. For Detroit, everything begins and ends with Miguel Cabrera. He’s struggled at the plate for the past month and didn’t do much against the A’s until his two run home run in game five. Is that a sign that perhaps he is about to break out of this prolonged slump, or was it just smoke and mirrors? It may not matter in the end. With the way Victor Martinez has been hitting the ball all over the park, the Tigers don’t necessarily need Cabrera to go bonkers to be victorious.
For Boston, pay particular attention to Shane Victorino. While it’s easy to point to David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia, Victorino has had a tremendous bounce back season for the Sox, .294/.351/.451, and is always finds a way to be in the center of everything. His hustle is infectious and often leads to an extra run scored here and there. He shouldn’t be overlooked. But just for good measure, and so I don’t end up looking like an idiot, pay attention to David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia anyway.
X-factor for Game 1: The success and failure for the Tigers in tonight’s game will lie squarely on the shoulder of Anibal Sanchez. How effective he can be at keeping the Boston lineup in check while matching Jon Lester will be crucial. He has shown throughout his career that he can rise to the occasion in big moments and he certainly has the arsenal of pitches to be successful, but how will he react to facing the Red Sox, in Fenway, with that crowd in October. It’s going to be very interesting to watch.
Ex-Tribe Pride: On the Detroit side of the diamond there are two former Indians that will play a critical role in the outcome of this series, Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez. Peralta is fresh off of a 50 game PED suspension while Victor Martinez finally looks to be 100% recovered after missing all of 2012 with a knee injury. Like the Dodgers, the Red Sox do not currently employ anyone who has previously spent time with the Indians.
Game 1 prediction: The Red Sox have had time to regroup and get prepared for this series. Meanwhile, the Tigers were forced into a do or die game five all the way out in Oakland and then had to fly back across the country to Boston. The Red Sox have the luxury of throwing their ace in game one. The Tigers do not. For those two reasons, I see the Red Sox jumping out to an early lead by scoring runs in the first three innings. As the game settles in, Detroit will threaten and push a couple of runs across the plate, but Boston will respond in the later innings with a few insurance runs and take game one easily, 7-2.