ALCS Game 4: Red Sox at Tigers - Boston sends Peavy to get within one game of World Series

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

Sure the Red Sox are batting .133 (12-for-90) in the ALCS.

Sure they only have two runs and six hits off Tigers starting pitchers (21.0 innings pitched).

Sure they have struck out 43 times in 90 at-bats.

But all that matters at this point is one stat: 2-1. That’s the series lead held by the Boston Red Sox.

They will attempt to extend that lead to 3-1 and come within one game of the World Series when they take on Detroit in Game 4 tonight. To combat the Tigers’ pitching, Boston’s staff, including the bullpen, has been outstanding. Tuesday’s performance by John Lackey to out-duel Justin Verlander was the talk among the Sox clubhouse. All they had heard on TV was the game matched “Justin Verlander vs. the Red Sox.” The Sox made sure to mention Lackey’s name more than three or four times in the postgame press conferences.

One of those vocal leaders was Jake Peavy, who starts tonight for the Sox. Peavy has been a workhorse his whole career and nothing’s changed since he changed his “Sox.” With Boston, Peavy was 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA after the trade and pitched the clincher in the ALDS against Tampa Bay. He didn’t get the win, but Peavy went 5 2/3 innings and only gave up one run on five hits. Peavy’s lone game against Detroit this season came when he was with the White Sox on July 25 in Chicago, his final start prior to the trade to Boston. He went seven innings and gave up four runs on four hits with seven strikeouts to earn the win.

Here is the Red Sox lineup for tonight’s game (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. Saltalamacchia, C
8. Drew, SS
9. Middlebrooks, 3B

Peavy, P

Doug Fister is on the mound for the Tigers. He was 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA this year. He had a no-decision against Oakland in the ALDS, giving up three runs on seven hits in six innings. Fister had two completely different starts against Boston this season. In his first, in June, Fister didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, going 3 1/3 innings and allowing six runs on 11 hits with no strikeouts in a 10-6 Boston win. In early September, he picked up a win by shutting out the Sox over seven innings with four hits, four strikeouts and four walks. Fister and the Tigers won that game 3-0.

Napoli drops bomb after dropping pants
OK, it’s not exactly as it sounds, but Mike Napoli did just what the headline reads. In the first two-and-a-half games of the ALCS, Napoli had gone 0-for-6 with six strikeouts and was just 2-for-19 in the postseason. Also in those three games, Napoli had his pant legs pulled up to show off his red socks. Prior to his seventh-inning at-bat, Napoli changed things up and asked for a different pair of pants – ones not hemmed short to the knees – and wore the pants down to his ankles. He popped a home run, the lone run of Game 3, to give Boston the 2-1 series lead. The hope among the clubhouse and Red Sox Nation is that home run gets Napoli going for the remainder of the postseason.

Tigers shake things up
We don’t normally look at the opposing team’s lineup, but this is the ALCS and thing are different. Austin Jackson, the Tigers' center fielder and leadoff man, has been dropped to eighth in the lineup. He’s hitting 3-for-33 (.111) in the postseason with 18 strikeouts. He’s just 1-for-13 with five strikeouts in the ALCS. Tigers manager Jim Leyland has moved Torii Hunter to the leadoff spot and pretty much everybody has been bumped up a spot with Miguel Cabrera batting second, Prince Fielder third and Victor Martinez clean-up. Of note, thanks to ESPN Stats & Info, "Hunter has not batted leadoff for his team since September 24, 2000. In 25 career games from the leadoff spot, he is hitting .164."

Jhonny Peralta is batting fifth today and has become to center of controversy. Many folks feel Peralta is having too big of an impact on games despite being suspended for the final 50 games of the season due to his involvement with the Biogenesis case. He’s batting 5-for-12 in the ALCS and 10-for-24 (.417 AVG) overall in the postseason with four doubles, a home run, six RBI, a .708 SLG % and a 1.125 OPS. Peralta is playing left field tonight and former Red Sox Jose Iglesias is batting ninth and playing shortstop.

Starts at the top
The top of the order for the Red Sox needs to get going if the Sox want to take control of this series. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia have combined to go 4-for-31 (.129) with 13 strikeouts, four walks, three runs, one RBI and have left 10 runners on base. The bad news is, well, just look at those stats. The good news is, Boston has a 2-1 series lead with as bad as those three have been. And as we noted to start this piece, none of the stats REALLY matter except for the W column. It would be nice, however, if the top of the lineup started producing and put pressure on opposing pitchers for the middle of the order.

This and that
The Red Sox have outscored the Rays and Tigers this postseason 33-18, but just 21-16 since Game 1 of the ALDS…Boston is 5-2 so far this postseason, with both losses coming by one run…After two blowout games to start (12-2 and 7-4), the last five games have been decided by a total of six runs…Sox pitching has allowed two runs or fewer in four of their seven postseason games and has a 2.59 ERA.

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