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Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

No one said it’d be easy. But this is reason this team was built.

The two best teams in the American League will clash for a chance to go to the World Series. The Boston Red Sox host the Detroit Tigers for Game 1 of the ALCS at Fenway Park tonight. Home-field advantage will be a factor as the Tigers are coming off back-to-back cross-country flights in three days and arrived in Boston early Friday morning. They’ve had one day of rest, while the Red Sox have been home since early Wednesday morning and are fully rested and ready to go.

It’s a dream matchup for MLB, as the Tigers are making their third straight ALCS appearance and are the defending AL champions and current AL Central champs. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are the darlings of the league, having gone from worst to first with a loveable bunch of bearded ballplayers. Boston won the AL East with the best record in the league.

The Sox ace left-hander Jon Lester will start Game 1 after having a strong second-half of the season and a very good start in Game 1 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay. Lester allowed two runs (both solo home runs) and kept his team in it until the Sox busted out for a 12-2 win. Lester pitched past the seventh inning for the first time in his postseason career, going 7 2/3 innings and giving up the two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts.

Lester out-dueled Max Scherzer in a September start against the Tigers in a 2-1 Sox win. He pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on eight hits with nine punch-outs.

Here is the lineup for the Red Sox tonight (first pitch – 8:07 pm EDT; TV – FOX):

1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Nava, LF
7. Drew, SS
8. Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Ross, C

Lester, P

A former Red Sox farmhand Anibal Sanchez will start for the Tigers. Sanchez went 14-8 with a 2.57 ERA, the best in the American League. He did, however, suffer a loss in Detroit’s ALDS matchup with Oakland. Sanchez gave up three home runs and six runs total in just 4 1/3 innings in Game 3.

Former Sox at Fenway
We’ve already mentioned Sanchez, who has never pitched a game at Fenway, but there are a couple other former Red Sox who will step on the field against their former squad. Victor Martinez batted .301 and drove in 83 runs this season in a comeback year after suffering a knee injury a season ago. Jose Iglesias was Boston’s shortstop of the future, but was a part of a three-team trade that brought Jake Peavy to Boston and sent Iggy to Detroit. He has hit .259 with 10 RBI in 46 games for the Tigers. All three are starting tonight.

All About Pitching
Boston will face the AL’s top ERA man today in Sanchez and face the guy with the most wins in baseball in Game 2 in Scherzer. After they get through that gauntlet, the Sox will face Justin Verlander, who has regained his form in the postseason. The Red Sox went 3-4 against Detroit this year, including 2-1 at Fenway. If they want to reach the World Series, they’ll need to be on top of their game at the plate, but also with their staff. Let’s not forget the Tigers must face Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy – a stout group of pitchers in their own right.

Of course, with an all right-handed rotation, it’s likely that Jonny Gomes will come off the bench for the most part this series in situations later in games when Detroit brings a lefty out of the ‘pen. Expect to see Daniel Nava (in lineup today) and Mike Carp alternate in left field this series.

Last Time We Met
The Red Sox blasted eight home runs, including two by David Ortiz, in a 20-4 rout of the Tigers. No one here is saying to expect that kind of game, but it surely is in the back of a few players' minds.

Let us know what you think about tonight’s game by commenting below.

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Ben Whitehead 10/12/2013 06:00:00 PM Edit
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