The Red Sox lead the ALCS 2-1 and you can thank David Ortiz and John Lackey for that. Ortiz’s game tying grand slam changed this series the minute Torii Hunter flipped over the right field fence on Sunday. The momentum shift carried over, surprisingly, as John Lackey was able to match Justin Verlander almost pitch for pitch Tuesday afternoon. In the end it was Verlander who blinked first by surrendering a solo home run to Mike Napoli that proved to be the difference.
For the Tigers, all is not lost. However, they can’t possibly like the position they find themselves in right now. They’ve lost control of the series after wasting spectacular starts from Max Scherzer and Verlander. They know it too. The real question is how do they respond to this adversity. We know this isn’t a team that will just roll over and die, but will they whither under the pressure of trying to make something happen? They have the talent and the offensive fire power to take back control of this series, but that guarantees them nothing heading into a must win game 4.
Unsung Hero: John Lackey, the once ostracized pitcher, came up huge for the Red Sox last night. The Red Sox needed a huge pitching performance to counter what was sure to be a focused Justin Verlander and he did not disappoint. Lackey shut down the Tigers high-octane lineup and kept things close until Mike Napoli could hit the game winning home run.
Key Moment: In the bottom of the eighth with the Tigers threatening to push the tying run across the plate, Boston’s bullpen came through with nerves of steel. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder back to back to end the inning. If the Red Sox go on to win this series or even the World Series, those two at bats will be remembered as one of the most important moments of these playoffs.
Who’s Starting Game 4: The Tigers will send lanky right hander Doug Fister to the mound tonight in a near must win situation. Fister is capable of shutting down the Red Sox. Based on what we’ve seen it’s a question of whether or not he’ll get the proper run support, something you never would have thought to ask about a team with Miguel Cabrera.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox will counter with Jake Peavy. It’s for situations like this that Boston went out and traded for Peavy prior to the July 31 trade deadline. He’s got a set of brass balls and won’t be afraid of the spot light tonight. And while he may not be the same pitcher he was during his peak in San Diego, his #veteranpresents and experience are both in his favor. He’ll find a way to get through at least six innings tonight.
X-factor: For the Red Sox, their x-factor tonight will be the bullpen. We saw last night the impact they can have on a game. All postseason long they have been tough as nails. If they can continue this run, the Red Sox stand an excellent chance of winning the late innings and, therefore, tonight’s game.
For the Tigers, they need Miguel Cabrera to do something. He’s not getting much help from the guys ahead of him, but if the Tigers want to win tonight and regain control of this series, they need him to be great. Stiking out with the tying run 90 feet away and less than one out, or his new found warning track power won’t cut it.
Prediction: Tonight’s game is decided in the late innings after solid starts from Fister and Peavy. However, tonight’s the night that the Red Sox bullpen falters. Cabrera and or Fielder will connect for a very long home run that will prove to be the difference. The Tigers take game 4, 6-3, and tie the series up at 2-2.