ALCS Game 3: Red Sox at Tigers - Lackey in showdown with Verlander as series shifts to Motown

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

October baseball hit a fever pitch at Fenway Park Sunday night when David Ortiz continued his magical postseason career with a game-tying eighth inning grand slam and Jarrod Saltalamacchia ended the game with a walk-off single.

Now, the ALCS is tied 1-1 as the series shifts to Detroit for the next three games, where the Tigers took 3-of-4 from the Red Sox back in June.

Boston looked dead, going 1-for-43 over the first 14 innings of the series, the one hit coming in the ninth inning of Game 1. Instead of being down 0-2 and facing one of the most dangerous postseason pitchers Justin Verlander, however, the Sox have all the momentum in their corner as they try to gain the advantage against the Tigers and their ace hurler.

These next two games are the reason John Lackey and Jake Peavy were brought to the club. It's time for them to show their worth.

Boston will start Lackey opposite Verlander in Game 3. Lackey has been solid this season and picked up a win in the ALDS 10 days ago against the Rays. Lackey went just 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts. But it was enough as the Red Sox had built a lead and Lackey was pitching to the situation.

One concerning note on Lackey is he has given up four or more earned runs in four of his last five outings, including giving up seven runs to begin that stretch. He did, however, go 3-1 in that span and the start prior was against Detroit, when Lackey gave up just three runs in 7 1/3 innings. Lackey’s success down the stretch is a credit to the Red Sox offense which was lighting up pitchers across the league in September. Lackey hopes to receive that kind of run support again tonight, although it will be difficult against Verlander.

Here is the Red Sox lineup for this afternoon’s game (first pitch – 4:07 pm EDT; TV – FOX):

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

Lackey, P

Verlander was just 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA this season, a far cry from his Cy Young and MVP seasons for which the flame-throwing righty is known. Verlander, though, excels in the postseason and 2013 is no different. In two starts at Oakland in the ALDS, he pitched 15 innings and allowed no runs on six hits with 21 strikeouts. That Verlander won’t be easy to top.

Mr. Clutch
Verlander isn’t the only player who thrives in the postseason. There’s only one Big Papi and his legend grew Sunday with his clutch grand slam. Ortiz will become the Red Sox all-time leader in postseason game appearances when he plays today with 64 games, surpassing “The Captain,” Jason Varitek. Ortiz has appeared in every Red Sox postseason game since 2003 and is the club leader in runs (44), hits (67), doubles (16), home runs (15), RBI (50), walks (47) and extra-base hits (33). The stats and story will continue for at least three more games.

Running to history
Boston leads MLB with a club-record eight stolen bases this postseason. Jacoby Ellsbury has four, while Shane Victorino and Quintin Berry have two apiece, and the three are the only players with multiple steals this postseason. Ellsbury now has nine steals in his postseason career, surpassing Johnny Damon’s previous team record of eight.

Walk the plunk
Verlander has expressed his feelings on Victorino being plunked, describing that the Flyin’ Hawaiian is leaning over the plate and some of his HBPs are strikes. It will be an interesting matchup to watch if Verlander tries to pitch inside and ends up hitting Victorino. Victorino has been hit five times in six games this postseason after being drilled 18 times in the regular season.

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

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