ALCS Game 5: Red Sox at Tigers - Lester looks to remain impressive in new best-of-3 ALCS

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

The best-of-7 ALCS has turned into a best-of-3 thanks to a dominating performance by the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 to even the series with the Boston Red Sox at two apiece.

Detroit jumped all over Jake Peavy, scoring five runs in the second inning and never allowing Boston to get close. The irony of Wednesday’s Game 4 was that the Red Sox out-hit the Tigers for the first time in the series, 12-9. The Red Sox left runners on base all night, though timely hitting has been a bright spot for this Sox team.

Nonetheless, the series will now be at least one game in Detroit (tonight) and one game in Boston (Saturday) with the possibility of a Game 7 Sunday at Fenway Park. The pitching matchups are expected to be the same as the first three games in the series – a three-game stretch that the Red Sox won 2-1. If that happens this time, Boston will be punching its ticket to the World Series.

Game 5 gets under way tonight with Jon Lester back on the mound for the third time this postseason. Lester is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in his previous two starts, with the loss coming against the Tigers in Game 1 of the ALCS. In Game 1, Lester pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up one run on six hits with four strikeouts. He has allowed just three runs in 14.0 innings this postseason and the Sox hope he continues the dominant pitching that he’s shown in the second half of the season.

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. Gomes, LF
7. Drew, SS
8. Bogaerts, 3B
9. Ross, C

Lester, P

Anibal Sanchez, who no-hit the Sox in six innings of Game 1, will attempt to shutdown the Red Sox again tonight. Sanchez struck out 12 Sox batters in six innings while walking six, driving up his pitch count and being forced to leave the game with 116 pitches (nearly 20 per inning).

X-Man gets his time
After just two plate appearances in the ALCS and watching his teammates struggle at the plate, Xander Bogaerts will get his chance to shine. Shortstop Stephen Drew and third baseman Will Middlebrooks have combined to hit 2-for-22 this series, each with a hit. Bogaerts entered Game 4 in the ninth and hit a ground-rule double off Tigers’ closer Joaquin Benoit and later scored. Many thought Bogaerts would replace Drew at shortstop, but John Farrell has him penciled in at third base instead of Middlebrooks. Bogaerts, at 21 years old, became the youngest Red Sox player to record a hit in the postseason and he will become the youngest Sox player to start a postseason game tonight, according to Red Sox baseball information specialist Jon Shestakofsky.

This and that
The Boston bullpen has a 0.74 ERA this postseason. The pen has allowed two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings and struck out 22 batters…Jacoby Ellsbury had four hits in Game 4. That performance made him the Red Sox all-time leader with five postseason games of at least three hits…The Sox only leads of the series were immediately after Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s walk-off in Game 2 and for three innings following Mike Napoli’s solo home run in Game 3. Boston has been tied with or trailed Detroit 32 of the 36 innings so far in the ALCS.

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