The Red Sox are one win away from yet another World Series. The Tigers are one loss away from yet another long offseason of disappointment and unfulfilled expectations.
That’s what’s at stake tonight when the Red Sox and Tigers take the field for game six of the ALCS. Up 3-2, the Red Sox can clinch a trip to the World Series and a rematch with the St. Louis Cardinals. If you recall, the Red Sox and Cardinals faced off in the 2004 World Series with the Sox sweeping the Cards on their way to ending the curse. If you’re a fan of the Red Sox, you have to like the chances that they will play for the title. They will have two chances to close out the Tigers with both games set to take place at Fenway.
As for the Tigers, they are officially on the brink of elimination for the second time this postseason. Trailing the A’s 2-1 in the ALDS, they managed to win the final two games to get to where they are now. They are by no means a stranger to adversity, but you have to wonder how many lives this team has left. If the Tigers can’t pull this one out and make their way back to the World Series it may be an offseason of change for the Tigers, but that is a conversation for another day.
Unsung Hero: Koji Uehara has been the most dominant reliever in baseball this season. His uncanny ability to continually throw strikes and force the issue with hitters is something we have never really seen. The bottom line is he doesn’t waste any pitches and paints the strike zone like a fine Renaissance artist. The main weapon in his arsenal is a devastatingly deceptive splitter that hitters can’t lay off of. It was all on full display during Thursday’s five out save. After watching the Tigers whittle away at a 4-0 lead, John Farrell called on Uehara to close things out in the eighth inning. He didn’t disappoint. He shut down the Tigers by retiring all five batters he faced in order. He has effectively shortened games for the Red Sox turning them into 7 or 8 inning affairs. This can’t be overlooked.
Key Moment: During game five, the Tigers had an opportunity to do some damage, or at the very least tie things up. Instead, Austin Jackson grounded into an inning ending 5-4-3 double play. It was the last time the Tigers would really threaten to do anything offensively. Had Jackson come through with a hit in that situation there’s no telling how game five plays out. We could very well be seeing the Tigers up 3-2 instead of down 3-2.
Who’s Starting Game 6: Even though the Tigers are down 3-2, you have to like your chances for making a comeback. Tonight they will send Max Scherzer to the mound in an attempt to save their season. Scherzer, the 21-game winner and likely AL Cy Young winner has been dominant all year long. In game two, he held the Tigers hitless for the majority of the game before the bullpen crumbled up his start and threw it in the trash in the form of David Ortiz‘s game tying grand slam. If he can duplicate his game two performance, then the Tigers may very well get to game seven. Oh by the way, Detroit’s game seven starter? Justin Verlander.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox will use Clay Buchholz tonight against the Tigers. Buchholz struggled in game two. He allowed five runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings of work. It was a very un-Clay Buchholz-like performance. The question is, can he rebound and find the form that made him a 12-game winner this year and one of the more dominant pitchers in the American League? We’ll have to wait and see.
X-Factor: The Red Sox x-factor tonight will be their starting pitcher, Clay Buchholz. As mentioned above, Buchholz struggled in his game two start against the Tigers and Max Scherzer. How he responds and how effective he is at limiting the damage the Tigers offense can do will be imperative to the Red Sox chances of celebrating another American League pennant tonight.
Meanwhile, the Tigers need Miguel Cabrera to do Miguel Cabrera like things tonight. He is their best player, hands down. This is his time to put the Tigers on his back and carry them to victory. Scherzer is going to do his part on the mound, that much is almost a certainty. It’s whether or not Cabrera can make something happen with his bat that will be the difference in tonight’s mus win game six.
Prediction: This series has been wildly unpredictable and a whole lot of fun. However, tonight’s game feels like the easiest of the bunch to predict. Of course, take that with a grain of salt given how awful my previous predictions have been. Anyways, Max Scherzer is going to throw a complete game, three hit shut out and the Tigers will roll to a 6-0 victory, setting the stage for what should be an epic game 7 showdown between Justin Verlander and John Lackey.