The Boston Red Sex defeated the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night, 4-3, and are now one win away from a date with the winner of the National League in the World Series.
Led by a gutsy performance by Jon Lester on a night in which he didn’t have his absolute best command, the Red Sox have put themselves into prime position to make their third World Series trip this millennium. Up three game to two, they will now get to travel back to Boston with two opportunities to close out the Tigers. It won’t be easy, though. Detroit will counter those next to games with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. But, that is a discussion for another day. Right now is a time to talk about how the Red Sox outlasted the Tigers for the third time this series.
Jon Lester lasted only 5.1 innings on Thursday night thanks largely in part to an inability to command the zone or get the Tigers out. Although he surrendered only two runs on the evening, Lester also scattered seven hits and walked three. He was lifted in the sixth after throwing 98 pitches. His catcher, David Ross, would say later that Lester battled his way through command issues and just found a way. That’s what ace pitchers do. They find a way to put their teams in a position to win even when they aren’t on their game. Kudos to Lester for a job well done in that department.
The Red Sox offense staked Lester to an early lead, which helped things considerably. In the second inning, Mike Napoli connected for a solo home run, his second of this series. David Ross then followed a few batters later with an RBI double and then scored a third run on an infield single by Jacoby Ellsbury. The Sox added their fourth run of the game in the third inning when Mike Napoli came around to score on a wild pitch by Tigers’ starter Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez, who was close to perfect in game one, struggle in game four. He allowed four runs to score on nine hits in six innings of work.
The Tigers clawed their way back into the game by scoring in three straight innings starting in the fifth. Miguel Cabrera singled home Austin Jackson for the Tigers’ first run of the game. In the sixth, Brian Pena slapped a single to let to score Victor Martinez. In the seventh, Jose Iglesias scored when Miguel Cabrera hit into a double play. Again, the story for the Tigers was wasted opportunities, particularly in the sixth.
While the Tigers were able to plate one run in the sixth inning, their chance to break things open went for naught. Austin Jackson, who had broken out of a prolonged slump in game four, stepped to the plate looking to make something happen. Instead, it was just the opposite. He hit an easy grounder to Xander Boegarts at third and proceeded to turn the 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Miguel Cabrera’s double play ball, which did score a run, also proved to be costly as the Tigers never got any close to scoring from that point on.
Following solid relief work from Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa, John Farrell called upon Koji Uehara for a five out save. It was a bold move, but with Uehara’s crazy ability to throw strikes on the upcoming off day, there seemed to be no reason why not to bring in his best reliever. The move paid off. Uehara was dominant and retired all five batters he faced in order.
With the Red Sox now in control of the series up 3-2, both team will have an off day today before game six on Saturday at Fenway. The scheduled starters for that game will be CLay Buchholz for the Red Sox and Max Scherzer for the Tigers in a rematch of game two. As of right now, first pitch is scheduled for 4:30 pm but may move to 8 or 8:30 should the Dodgers and Cardinals not need to play a game seven.
Also worth noting, the Tigers could be without their starting catcher on Saturday night. Alex Avila was beaten up during this game. He took a collision at the plate and a foul ball off the face mask before leaving in the fourth with a strained knee.