Red Sox Nation's collective stomach had to be twisted into seemingly endless knots as it watched Scherzer celebrate with one Tigers teammate after the other in the visitors' dugout.
How could it all spiral out of control like this? The 2013 regular season was downright magical, and although there is always hope in baseball, the Tigers' unbelievable pitching performance throughout Game 1 and through seven innings of Game 2 gave the insurmountable feeling that the entire season was crumbling into pieces.
And then it happened.
Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks doubles to left off Tigers pitcher Jose Veras. Jacoby Ellsbury walks in an outstanding at-bat against pitcher Drew Smyly. Dustin Pedroia singles to right field off Al Alburquerque and then, as if it were written in a Hollywood screenplay, David Ortiz hits an unforgettable grand slam off Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit. Four batters, four different pitchers, four runs for Boston and a whole new ALCS.
It's hard for anyone watching last night's game to deny that Boston has, against all odds, stolen away all of the series momentum. But the matchup in Game 3 presents an entirely new set of challenges that could put the Red Sox back in a must-win position for Game 4. The following four reasons explain why:
1. Justin Verlander on the mound
Few pitchers inspire more frustration in hitters than Tigers starter Justin Verlander. Despite having a rocky September, Verlander still managed to finish the season with a very strong 3.46 ERA and 217 strikeouts in 218.1 innings.
2. John Lackey's road woes
Starting pitcher John Lackey, the man currently scheduled to take the hill for Boston in Game 3, was a completely different pitcher on the road than he was in Fenway Park. In 16 road starts, Lackey posted an unimpressive 4.48 ERA, a dismal record of 4-10 and allowed 18 home runs. In 13 starts at home, Lackey went 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA.
If Boston is going to take control of the series in Game 3, John Lackey is going to have to pitch much better than he has this year in hostile environments, especially considering how tough Tigers starters have been on Boston hitters.
3. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino
Perhaps more than any other playoff team still left standing, the Boston Red Sox rely on the top three batters in their order to jump-start the offense. Unfortunately, for Boston, the three table-setters, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino, all struggle mightily against Justin Verlander, combining for 6 hits in 51 career plate appearances and a collective batting average of .130.
4. Red Sox hitting in Game 1 and Game 2
After Boston's clutch win, it's easy to forget just how bad the Red Sox were in all of Game 1 and through 7 innings of Game 2 against Tigers pitching. Prior to the 8th inning of Game 2, Boston hitters had only 3 hits and struck out an incredible 30 times, including suffering 13 strikeouts to Game 2 starter Max Scherzer.
Hope for Boston?
The matchup absolutely favors Detroit in Game 3. Justin Verlander loves to pitch in the big spotlight, and John Lackey's struggles away from Fenway Park leave little confidence for Boston fans. With that said, there are a few important things going the Red Sox's way.
First, Verlander has, at least by "Verlander standards," struggled against Boston this season and throughout his career. In his only start against the Red Sox in 2013, Verlander managed to get through only 5 innings, allowing 4 earned runs for an ERA of 7.20. In his career, Boston has the highest rate of success against Verlander out of every team in the MLB, beating him in four out of seven decisions. The only other team that has a winning record against Verlander is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are 4-5 against him in 12 games.
Another good sign for the Red Sox in Game 3 is that Boston slugger David Ortiz has been one of Verlander's toughest outs throughout his career, batting .370 with 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, 10 hits and an on-base percentage of .433 in 30 plate appearances against the Tigers pitcher.
Although the numbers in total will tell you that Boston will likely struggle in Game 3, the pressure is really on Detroit to win, because if the Red Sox go up 2-1 in Game 3, Boston will have a favorable matchup in Game 4 when Red Sox starter Jake Peavy faces off against Detroit pitcher Doug Fister.
You can watch the Boston Red Sox battle the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m. EST on Fox.
Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @THATCelticsGuy.
Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.
- Sports & Recreation
- Boston Red Sox
- Justin Verlander
- Detroit Tigers
- John Lackey
- Dustin Pedroia
- Jacoby Ellsbury