Four Real? Sox declaw Tigers in ALCS Game 3

John Lackey struck out a career postseason-best eight as Boston edged
Detroit 1-0 in Game 3 of the ALCS at Detroit (Rick Osentoski/USA Today)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

The Red Sox haven’t been getting many hits against the Tigers in this American League Championship Series, but when they do, they’re of the timely variety.

In the 6-5, Game-Two win, it was David Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam in the eighth and then Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s game-winning single in the ninth.

On Tuesday, it was Mike Napoli who felt hitterish at the right time, blasting a fastball off Justin Verlander to left center in the seventh to give the Red Sox a 1-0 win and a 2-1 edge in the ALCS.

Detroit out-hit the Sox 6-4 in Game Three and have 23 hits to Boston’s 12 in the series so far, but don’t tell that to the Red Sox pitching staff, who came up with another clutch postseason performance.

John Lackey, who’s been no stranger to woeful run support from his teammates this season, didn’t get fazed and came up with his strongest career playoff outing yet in a critical game, going 6.2 innings and allowing no walks or runs on four hits while striking out a postseason-high eight to pick up his second win in the 2013 playoffs. 

Credit for the win also goes to the Boston bullpen of Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, who combined to toss 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. Uehara struck out two of the final four batters he faced to pick up his third save of the playoffs.

Verlander, who pitched eight strong and struck out ten while giving up the one run on four hits, took the loss to fall to 1-2 in the 2013 postseason. When Napoli homered, it shattered a 34-inning scoreless streak dating back to the regular season for Verlander and marked the first time the Sox have held a lead in the ALCS to date.

Lackey had the edge over the Tigers ace — on paper, at least — coming into the game, holding a 3.35 postseason ERA to Verlander’s 3.48.

And despite their anemic offence, the Red Sox are still holding the Tigers' hitters to a .152 average with runners in scoring position in the ALCS.

One more stat of note: David Ortiz suited up for his 64th playoff game since 2003 in this one, passing Jason Varitek for the new club record.

Here are the four at-bats that changed the game:

1) Strand By Your Man: In the bottom of the fifth, Jhonny Peralta doubled to center and then advanced to third on an Alex Avila groundout, but was marooned when Omar Infante whiffed and a Lackey first-pitch curve got Andy Dirks on a groundout to end the inning and maintain the scoreless tie.

2) Deja Vulander: In Mike Napoli’s inaugural game in the majors on May 4, 2006, he notched his first career homer off Justin Verlander. Flip forward seven years, and in the bottom of the seventh, Napoli again teed off on a Verlander fastball, driving it into the stands in left center and giving the Red Sox a 1-0 edge.

3) Gettin’ Miggy With It: In the bottom of the eighth with only one out and men on the corners, Junichi Tazawa struck out Miguel Cabrera on four pitches for the second out before Koji Uehara came in from the bullpen to strike out Prince Fielder on three pitches. Cabrera entered Game Three with a MLB record of 31 consecutive postseason games reaching base safely, but saw that streak end after going 0 for 4 in this one.

4) To The Victor Belong The Spoils: After Victor Martinez singled to lead off the ninth, Uehara induced Jhonny Peralta to ground into a tailor-made twin killing before striking out Alex Avila to end the game and preserve the 1-0 Sox win.

Tomorrow, in Game Four, Jake Peavy (0-0, 1.59 ERA, 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 K for Boston in one playoff game vs Tampa Bay) takes on Doug Fister, who is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA (6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 K) in one postseason outing for Detroit.

Twitter: @jan_doh