Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers: Keys to Each Team Winning ALCS Game 4
With a 2-1 lead in the series following their 1-0 victory on Tuesday night, the Boston Red Sox will be looking to bury the Detroit Tigers in what is a very important Game 4 for both teams.
The Tigers took Game 1 of the series 1-0 and looked on their way to a 2-0 series lead heading to Detroit with a 5-1 lead going into the eighth inning of Game 2 when the Red Sox offense finally came to life.
A game-tying grand slam from David Ortiz set things up for a walk-off RBI single from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and just like that, the series was all knotted up.
Game 3 saw Justin Verlander turn in yet another brilliant start for the Tigers, but it was squandered once again, as a solo home run from Mike Napoli was the only offense either side could muster.
Now, heading into Game 4, here is a look at a few keys to victory for each team, as they look to move one step closer to the AL pennant.
Boston: Get a Quality Start out of Jake Peavy
While he's no longer the dominant force he was in his prime while playing for the San Diego Padres, Jake Peavy is still more than capable of turning in a great start, and the Red Sox could certainly use one with a chance to go up 3-1 in the series.
He tallied six quality starts in 10 games after joining the Red Sox, including a complete-game effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he allowed just three hits and one run, so a gem out of him in Game 4 is not out of the realm of possibility.
He allowed five hits and one run in 5.2 innings of work in Game 4 of the ALDS, coming away with a no-decision, and if he can give Boston something like seven innings and two runs allowed, the Red Sox would be in a great position to come away with the win.
Boston: More Success for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the Red Sox vs. Fister
Though he's struck out 11 times in 18 at-bats so far this postseason and has just one hit in eight at-bats thus far in the ALCS, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has made the most of the four hits he has tallied, with a double and three RBI in the ALDS and a walk-off RBI single in Game 2 of the ALCS.
By all accounts, it was the best season of the 28-year-old catcher's career in 2013, as he hit .273/.338/.466 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI at the plate and continued to do a great job handling the staff defensively.
The current crop of Red Sox players has hit a combined .304/.377/.451 against Doug Fister in their careers, and no one has hit him better than Saltalamacchia, who has gone 5-for-11 with two doubles and a home run.
Boston: Get on the Scoreboard Early
Though they find themselves up 2-1 in the series, the Red Sox have held a lead for a total of four innings in the series, and that's counting the bottom of the ninth in Game 2 when they delivered a walk-off to end the game.
In fact, they have yet to score a run prior to the sixth inning so far in the ALCS, and that after being the league's highest-scoring offense during the regular season.
Now a lot of that has to do with how great the Tigers' starting pitching has been in the series, but nonetheless, it would go a long way in helping the starting rotation if they could put a few runs on the board early in the game and play with a lead.
Detroit: A Return to 2012 Postseason Form for Doug Fister
After squandering brilliant starts from Max Scherzer (7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER) and Justin Verlander (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) in back-to-back games, Doug Fister will now take the mound for the Tigers in Game 4 hoping he can throw the ball equally well and come away with a win.
Somewhat overshadowed by the three guys slotted ahead of him in the rotation, Fister turned in a very good season in his own right this year, going 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 208.2 innings of work.
He went six innings in Game 4 of the ALDS, allowing seven hits and three runs to come away with a no-decision, and the Tigers will be hoping he can return to his 2012 postseason form when he takes the mound on Wednesday.
In three October starts last year, Fister was 0-1, but he allowed just 16 hits and three runs in 19.1 innings of work to give the back of the Tigers rotation a big boost. He'll be looking to do that again as the Tigers try to avoid falling behind in the series 1-3.
Detroit: Win the Battle of the Bullpens
The Red Sox's late-inning trio of Craig Breslow (61 G, 1.81 ERA), Junichi Tazawa (71 G, 3.16 ERA) and Koji Uehara (73 G, 1.09 ERA) was terrific during the regular season, and it has been leaned on heavily again in the postseason.
That trio has made a combined 17 appearances, posting a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings of work, with the lone run coming when Uehara allowed a walk-off home run to Jose Lobaton in Game 3 of the ALDS.
The other four relievers in Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster, Brandon Workman and Franklin Morales have thrown just 4.1 innings combined over five appearances this postseason, and while they haven't pitched poorly, chasing Jake Peavy early to get to that group would certainly give the Tigers an edge.
Meanwhile, the Tigers bullpen has struggled this postseason with a combined 4.32 ERA, and it still has the Game 2 loss hanging over its head. Winning the bullpen battle will be key for the Tigers in Game 4 and for the rest of the series.
Detroit: Give Doug Fister Some Run Support
The Tigers starting pitchers have turned in three straight gems, with Anibal Sanchez (6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 12 K), Max Scherzer (7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 13 K) and Justin Verlander (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 10 K) combining to allow just six hits and two runs in 21 innings of work.
However, with the bullpen blowing Game 2 and the offense failing to show up for Game 1 and Game 3, the Tigers find themselves down in the series and facing a must-win Game 4.
Good pitching wins championships, but not if the offense can't come through with a big hit when the team needs it. The Red Sox have proven capable of delivering just enough to win games, and the Tigers will have to give Game 4 starter Doug Fister some support.