EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 13, 2013

That is the Detroit Tigers style of baseball

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — “Hopefully our starters match up to theirs,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before yesterday’s game.

Well, it didn’t happen last night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between Boston and Detroit here at Fenway Park when the mighty Red Sox offense mustered just one hit, a single by Daniel Nava in the ninth.

Yes, Boston’s grind-it-out offense — which led the majors in runs scored this regular season — was one-hit by a combination of five Tigers hurlers in a 1-0 loss.

This is what the Tigers do. This is Detroit Tigers baseball. They beat teams with their starting pitching.

This is why the Red Sox probably would have preferred to face the Athletics rather than the Tigers.

The Tigers starters are incredibly difficult to out-pitch. That was quite evident yesterday when Red Sox lefty Jon Lester pitched his heart out (one run over 6.1 innings) but Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez simply was more dominant.

Sanchez, who Boston signed as an amateur free agent in 2001 and then traded to the Marlins in the Josh Beckett deal in November 2005, no-hit the Red Sox and struck out 12 batters through the first six innings.

With a high pitch count (116), Sanchez was removed by Tigers manager Jim Leyland after six innings. But the Tigers’ sometimes shaky bullpen finished off the job. Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit combined to shut out Boston over the final three innings.

Detroit hurlers combined for 17 strikeouts, the most ever against a Red Sox team in a postseason game.

The task just gets even steeper for Boston in Games 2 and 3. The Sox face this year’s likely AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer today and 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander on Tuesday.

Red Sox Game 2 Clay Buchholz needs to win or else. Buchholz needs to be dominant like he was during the first month and a half of this regular season before his injury. He needs to be the stopper he was back then. If the Red Sox lose, they will be dead ducks.

The Sox can’t head to Detroit behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven series with Verlander on the mound and expect to survive. No way!

Buchholz sounds ready.

“This is what baseball is all about,” he said before yesterday’s game. “This is where you want to be.”

But is Buchholz close to where he was before his injury?

“In the starts that he’s made since coming off the DL, there’s still been a little bit of a building component, building his stamina and endurance inside of a given day,” Farrell said. “But the touch and feel to secondary pitches are consistent to pre‑injury. And I think coming out of particularly the last three starts, where we’ve been able to get him over 100, 110 pitches on each of those outings, I think he comes away with greater confidence on the physical side of things.

“I think he’s always been a confident guy in executing a certain pitch or selecting a certain pitch inside of an at‑bat and we’ll need more against this lineup here. This is as good a lineup as we’re probably going to face.”

Lester was good — and he continued his strong stretch since July — he just was not as good as Sanchez.

“Fundamentally he’s gotten back to a delivery that has been more consistent, probably more conducive to him being able to execute on the mound as he’s capable,” Farrell said about Lester before yesterday’s game. “We saw for about three or four years where he was always in the conversation of one of the top left‑handers in the game. And it was more a matter of adjusting delivery, that he already started toward the latter part of last year.”

Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB