The American League pennant-winning Boston Red Sox will host the Detroit Tigers on Saturday evening at Fenway Park to kick off the 2013 ALCS.
Both clubs have played outstanding baseball down the stretch and are worthy World Series entrants, but only one can prevail in this showdown between two historic MLB franchises.
As Daniel Rathman of Baseball Prospectus points out, both these teams have been fixtures for over a century, but have never before met in the postseason. Thus, this has the makings of an epic series.
Here is a look at the TV listings and dates for each game, along with predictions as to how the ALCS will unfold.
Note: Schedule is courtesy of MLB.com.
*Games 5, 6 and 7 will only be played if necessary.
Boston Seizes Momentum with Game 1 Romp
The Red Sox scored more runs than anyone in baseball during the regular season, and they didn't let up much in a four-game disposal of the AL East rival Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. They scored 12 and seven runs in the first two games respectively, jumping out to an unbeatable 2-0 advantage.
Game 1 features Anibal Sanchez as the starting pitcher for Detroit (h/t ESPN.com), who is coming off a rough outing against the Oakland Athletics in which he yielded three home runs in Game 3 of the series.
Meanwhile, Jon Lester has had plenty of rest after pitching 7.2 effective innings in the ALDS Game 1 win over Tampa Bay.
Although he's facing an explosive Tigers lineup that was second in the MLB in runs scored, Lester does have a superior defense backing him up.
Detroit was a bottom-10 team in ultimate zone rating, while the Red Sox were a top-10 club in that category, per CBSSports.com's Mike Axisa.
Plus, Boston relief pitcher Koji Uehara has been lights-out and posted a 0.28 ERA after the All-Star Break. He closed out the ALDS, as can be seen in the video above.
Uehara should create problems for the Tigers once Lester leaves the bump—at least for the opening game.
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander Spark Detroit to 2-1 Lead
As stellar as the Red Sox staff is, the Tigers have a 21-game winner in Scherzer and last year's AL Cy Young Award winner in Verlander.
If any two pitchers can dig Detroit out of a 0-1 series hole, it's this duo. Verlander tossed a gem, eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, in a clinching Game 5 win over the A's.
To set him up for success and not quite season-on-the-line type of pressure, the Tigers must win one of the first two contests at Fenway, and Scherzer will allow them to do just that.
The prospect of any offense facing both Scherzer and Verlander twice is daunting and figures to give Detroit a solid chance of winning at least three of their four starts.
What is also a huge advantage is that both of these prolific right-handed hurlers can be deployed in a pinch as emergency relievers, if the Tigers find themselves floundering and in danger of losing grip on the series.
Tigers Advance to World Series
After dropping the first game, Detroit will manage to win two of the three consecutive games in the friendly confines of Comerica Park, then proceed to close out the Red Sox in six games.
The X-factor in this series is Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera who has battled groin and abdominal injuries and has not had the same power he's displayed in the past.
However, he stepped up when it mattered most in Game 5 against the A's, belting a two-run homer off of Sonny Gray to break a scoreless tie and make the necessary difference for Detroit to win.
As clutch as David Ortiz has been for the Red Sox over the years, it's going to come down to Cabrera inspiring his teammates by gutting through and delivering in the playoffs.
Combine that with Detroit's edge in starting pitching, and it's a recipe for a trip to the October Classic to take on the National League champion.
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