Four Real? Sox tame Tigers in ALCS Game Five 10-17-13

Mike Napoli went 3 for 4 and hit a 460-foot homer off Detroit starter
Anibal Sanchez to lead the Red Sox over the Tigers 4-3 in Game 5
of the ALCS on Thursday night at Comerica Park (Getty Images)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

Start the chant, Beantown:
One! Win! Away!

The Red Sox topped the Tigers 4-3 in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park in Detroit Thursday night to take a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven set. One more win and the Sox will take the next step on their magical, worst-to-first season and find themselves back in the World Series for the first time since 2007.

The ALCS now shifts back to Fenway Park, where the Sox went 1-1 in the opening two games, experiencing both crushing defeat in a 1-0 Game One loss — getting no-hit into the ninth — and come-from-behind euphoria during a 6-5 walk-off win in Game Two.

Game Five Jon Lester wasn’t as sharp as he was in Game One (6.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 4 K) but he still kept the Tigers at bay through five and a third, allowing two runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out three to earn the win. Lester (1-1, 2.31 ERA) came into the game with a 1.88 ERA in five postseason road appearances and a 2.24 ERA in eight playoff starts overall — the lowest career mark for a Boston lefthander with a minimum of 30 innings pitched.

Junichi Tazawa relieved Lester and allowed another run on three hits in an inning and a third and Craig Breslow took care of two batters in groundout fashion before Koji Uehara came through the gate and retired the final five Tigers on 27 pitches to notch his second save of the series.

On the flip side, Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez — who no-hit the Sox through six in Game One — was roughed up by Boston for four runs (three earned) on nine hits while striking out five and walking none to shoulder the loss.

Mike Napoli swung the big bat for the Boston offence, going 3 for 4 with a solo homer and two runs scored, while David Ross went 2 for 3 with another RBI.

Xander Bogaerts started his first postseason game one night after getting his first playoff hit in Wednesday’s 7-3 loss and went 1 for 3 with a double, walk and run scored. The 21-year-old phenom broke a team record as the youngest player to make a start for the Red Sox in the postseason, surpassing Babe Ruth, who made his entrance in the 1916 World Series.

With the win, the Red Sox are now 5-2 in ALCS Game Fives and 3-0 in ALCS Game Fives away from Fenway.

It was yet another tight game in a neck-and-neck series that has seen four of five games decided by one run. While Boston is up 3-2 in the series, Detroit has out-hit the Sox 45-31 while also outscoring the Sox 16-14 over the first five games.

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

1) Dirtied Sanchez: Leading off the second, Mike Napoli kept up his torrid stretch of hitting by launching a 460-foot bomb off Anibal Sanchez deep to center that put the Red Sox up 1-0. After going 0 for 11 to begin the series, Napoli has since gone 6 for 10 with two homers and two doubles and is hitting .375.

2) Like A ROSS: After Xander Bogaerts doubled to put two men in scoring position with one out in the second, David Ross ripped a changeup off Sanchez into left to cash in Jonny Gomes from third to give the Sox a 2-0 lead and move Bogaerts to third. Surprisingly, it marked only the second time in the ALCS that Boston has scored more than one run in an inning.

3) Dr. Anibal Def-lector: one batter later, Jacoby Ellsbury smoked a single to second that was deflected by Anibal Sanchez, allowing Bogaerts to score from third for a 3-0 Boston advantage.

4) Wild Mannered: In the third, with Stephen Drew at the plate and Napoli on at third after hitting a ground-rule double and being moved along via a Jonny Gomes groundout, Sanchez uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Napoli to race home and score the fourth — and ultimately decisive — run for the Red Sox.

After a travel day Friday, Clay Buchholz (0-0, 7.94 ERA) will get the Game Six ball for the Red Sox on Saturday as he faces Max Scherzer (0-0, 1.29 ERA) and looks to punch Boston’s ticket back to the World Series for the first time in six years. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. EST.

Boston was an American League-best 53-28 at the Fens in the regular season, while Detroit posted a 42-39 road record in 2013.

Twitter: @jan_doh