Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS wasn’t short on drama. Not when you had a near no hitter, game tying grand slam, and improbable comeback all within the same nine innings of baseball. You could use any number of adjectives in order to describe the events that unfolded on Sunday night, but none could probably do enough justice. It was fantastic, mind blowing, and completely awesome.
For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, then shame on you. I am of course talking about David Ortiz‘s game tying grand slam in the bottom of the eighth off of Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit. It was a magical moment, the type of moment they make movies and write books about. It was made even better by the fact that the Red Sox were able to complete the comeback and push the winning run across the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
Now it is up to the Tigers, heading home for game 3 and with Justin Verlander on the mound, to right the ship and take back control of the series. This, of course, is a task that is more easily said than done. After silencing Red Sox bats for a game and a half, they will need to find a way to squash that momentum. For lack of a better term or phrase, the Red Sox appear to have their swagger back. With one swing of the bat their confidence was re-instilled and they are ready to go.
The Unsung Heroes: Give credit to the Red Sox bullpen. After Clay Buchholz gave up five runs, the bullpen shut down the Tigers over the final 1.1 innings of work and made it possible for the Ortiz grand slam to happen. If not for Brandon Workman, Felix Doubront, and Koji Uehara, the ALCS could very well be a 2-0 Tigers lead.
Key Moment: What else is there to really say? This was the key moment of the game.
Who’s starting game 3: The Red Sox will send John Lackey to the mound this afternoon against the Tigers. Lackey, who is coming off of a disastrous 2011 season in which he posted a 6.41 ERA and 2012 Tommy John surgery, finally looks like his former self. All it took was time for the hard throwing righty to get back to form. This season he has been much better and worth the money the Red Sox are paying him by posting a respectable 3.52 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He may be the underdog in this fight, but expect him to hive the Sox a punchers chance against a potent Tigers lineup.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will counter with their ace, Justin Verlander. After struggling at various points throughout the year, Verlander finally looks like he has figured out whatever mechanical issues that may have been causing problems. He is coming off of two starts in the NLDS in which he gave up no runs, six hits, two walks, and struck out 21 in 15 innings. He was marvelous. Can he repeat that type of performance against the Red Sox? He was roughed up in his lone start against Boston this season, but this is different. This time it’s the postseason and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
X-Factor for Game 3: For both teams, the x-factor in today’s game is going to be the starting pitching. As a whole, the Red Sox have not posted good numbers against Verlander. Knowing this, Lackey will have to be on top of his game as runs will be at a premium. If Verlander can pitch like Verlander the Tigers should be in a good position to win this game. It all depends on how well Lackey matches his performance in order to get into a weak Tigers bullpen.
Game 3 Prediction: There is no reason to believe that Justin Verlandet won’t put the Tigers on his shoulders today in order to will his team to victory. I expect him to dominate and for the Tigers to roll to an easy victory in front of a sell out crowd at Comerica Park. Lackey will struggle and the Red Sox bullpen won’t be able to stop the bleeding as the Tigers coast to an 8-2 victory to take a 2-1 series lead.