ALCS Recap: Red Sox def. Tigers, 4-2

The Boston Red Sox, for the third time in ten years, are the champions of the American League, after winning the AL Championship Series over the Detroit Tigers, 4 games to 2.  Let’s look back at these 6 outstanding games.

Game 1: Tigers 1, Red Sox 0.  The series began with a great pitcher’s duel between Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers and Jon Lester of the Red Sox.  Both pitchers allowed two base-runners in the 1st, but no one scored.  It was in the 1st that Sanchez became the first pitcher in postseason history to strike out 4 hitters in one inning (one of his base-runners was due to a wild pitch on the third strike, and he struck out the side).  Sanchez’s other base-runner was due to a walk, so he had not allowed a hit.  Lester had a perfect 2nd, and Sanchez walked 2 more, but still did not give up a hit, and stranded both runners.  Both pitchers were perfect in the 3rd and 4th, with Sanchez striking out the side in the 4th.  In the top of the 5th, Jhonny Peralta led off with a double, but was thrown out at 3rd on an Omar Infante fielder’s choice.  Alex Avila singled, making Peralta’s out very key in the inning, moving Infante to third.  He was thrown out at home on a Jose Iglesias fielder’s choice, and an Austin Jackson flyout ended the opportunity for the Tigers, as the game was developing into quite a pitcher’s duel.  Sanchez retired the Red Sox in order in the bottom half, and the Tigers became the first team in postseason history to have a no-hitter through 5 innings of back-to-back games (Justin Verlander took one into the 7th in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Athletics).  The game turned in the top of the 6th, when with 1 out, Miguel Cabrera was walked and Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch.  A groundout moved Cabrera to third, and he scored on a Jhonny Peralta sacrifice fly, to make the score 1-0 Tigers.  In the bottom of the 6th, Sanchez walked the bases loaded, before Stephen Drew struck out to end the inning, and Sanchez was through 6 innings with a no-hitter.  However, Sanchez had already thrown 116 pitches, so even with a shot at history, he was relieved by the bullpen.  In this way, the Tigers were trying to make history, as instead of Sanchez trying to become the third individual to throw a no-hitter in the playoffs (Don Larsen in 1956, Roy Halladay in 2010), the pitching staff was trying to throw the first ever postseason combined no-hitter.  Through the 7th and 8th, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, and Drew Smyly took their turns mowing down the Red Sox, keeping the no-hitter in tact.  In the meantime, the Tigers offense was struggling against the Red Sox, with the only threat coming in the 8th when Alex Avila stranded the bases loaded.  Closer Joaquin Benoit came on for the 9th, 3 outs away from history.  After Mike Napoli struck out, Daniel Nava singled.  This not only ended the no-hit bid, but now the tying run was on and the winning run was at the plate.  Stephen Drew flied out and Xander Bogaerts popped up, ending the threat and giving the Tigers a 1-0 victory and a 1-0 series lead.  This game combined with the Cardinals-Dodgers game that afternoon to become the first pair of 1-0 games on the same day in postseason history.  The only other time the Red Sox had been shut out in 78 playoff games at Fenway Park was in Game 5 of the 1918 World Series against the Cubs.

Game 2: Red Sox 6, Tigers 5.  As much of a classic as Game 1 was in Detroit, Game 2 was equally as much of one in Boston.  The pitching matchup didn’t favor the Red Sox, as Clay Buchholz had to face the Tigers’ 21-game winner Max Scherzer, and Buchholz gave up the first run, when Alex Avila singled in Victor Martinez in the top of the 2nd, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.  Detroit was looking for a 2-0 series lead, with Games 3, 4, and 5 scheduled in Detroit.  Both pitchers were very sharp, and from the 2nd to the 5th there were only 3 base-runners for either side, as the Tigers stranded two in the 4th, and David Ortiz walked, also in the 4th.  In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, Miguel Cabrera hit a solo homer, making the score 2-0, and back-to-back doubles by Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez made the score 3-0.  Two batters later, Alex Avila homered, making the score 5-0, Tigers.  Going into the bottom of the 6th, Max Scherzer was working a no-hitter, the third straight Tigers game with a no-hitter working this late (obviously if two straight was a postseason first, three straight just extended the Tigers new record).  Shane Victorino ended the no-hitter with a 1-out single, before a Dustin Pedroia double brought in Victorino and made the score 5-1.  The game settled down for a few minutes, as neither side threatened to score, but that changed in the bottom of the 8th, a half-inning that will be remembered in Boston for ages.  Will Middlebrooks led off with a double to left off Jose Veras, who was immediately replaced on the mound by Drew Smyly.  Smyly walked Jacoby Ellsbury, and he was replaced by Al Alburquerque.  After Shane Victorino struck out, Dustin Pedroia singled to load the bases.  Alburquerque was pulled and closer Joaquin Benoit, who came in to face Red Sox DH David Ortiz.  Ortiz hit a grand slam to right field to tie the game, 5-5, sending Fenway into a frenzy.  This homer created the iconic image of Torii Hunter’s legs in the air as he toppled over the short right-field wall, and Boston police officer Steve Horgan’s arms in the air in celebration, in addition to the fans in the stands behind them.  Red Sox closer Koji Uehara came in for the 9th, and retired the side.  In the bottom of the 9th, Jonny Gomes led off with an infield single, and reached 2nd on an error.  After a wild pitch, he was at 3rd, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to left, winning the game 6-5 after Gomes scored easily.  This was the second game in the playoffs lost for the Tigers by pitcher Rick Porcello on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 9th by the opposing catcher (In Game 2 of the ALDS against the Athletics, A’s catcher Stephen Vogt was the hero).  The Red Sox had been looking at a potential 2-0 deficit going to Detroit, but instead now had a 1-1 tie in the series as well as the momentum.

Game 3: Red Sox 1, Tigers 0.  In Game 3, it was the Red Sox turn to win a 1-0 pitcher’s duel.  John Lackey pitched for the Red Sox against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander.  Once again, the Red Sox got a slow start, as Verlander took a no-hitter into the 5th, including striking out the side in both the 2nd and 3rd to match a postseason single-game record with 6 consecutive.  The no-hit bid ended on an infield hit by Jonny Gomes in with 1 out in the 5th.  Lackey, though, was just as effective as Verlander, not allowing a run during the same span on just 3 hits.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled in the 6th, and reached 2nd on a wild pitch, but was stranded.  In the bottom half, Lackey retired the Sox in order.  In the top of the 7th, with 1 out, Mike Napoli homered to left, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.  That was all the help that Lackey, and later the Red Sox bullpen would need.  The Tigers threatened in the bottom half of each of the last 3 innings, but Craig Breslow relieved Lackey and got out of the 7th, and Koji Uehara relieved Junichi Tazawa to get out of the 8th, before Uehara stayed in for the 9th and was assisted by a double play, before striking out Alex Avila to give the Red Sox a 2-1 series lead.  This game marked the first time there had been four 1-0 games in a single postseason since 1991.  Much of the talk after the game was about Verlander, but he was credited with a loss (because of one bad pitch), and it was Lackey who was given the win.

Game 4: Tigers 7, Red Sox 3.  The story of Game 4 began a couple of hours before first pitch when Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced his starting lineup.  Austin Jackson, who had led off for most of the year and for the first 3 games of the series, was moved down to the 8th spot, in an effort to break his slump.  For the most part, everyone else simply moved up in the order, which meant Torii Hunter was leading off for the first time since 1999, Miguel Cabrera was hitting second, with Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta in the heart of the order.  That story would continue in Jackson’s first at-bat, when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 2nd against Jake Peavy with the bases loaded and 1 out.  Jackson drew a 4-pitch walk, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.  Jose Iglesias then hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring another run to make the score 2-0.  Torii Hunter doubled, and Miguel Cabrera singled, and the Tigers suddenly had a 5-0 lead in the 2nd inning.  Red Sox fans must have been thinking back to Game 2, and in this situation had a few more innings to work with to try to come back.  But in the 4th, Omar Infante led off with a ground-rule double, and then scored on an infield hit by, guess who, Austin Jackson, who now had 2 RBI without getting a ball out of the infield, and the score was 6-0.  After Jackson stole 2nd and was bunted to 3rd, he scored on a Miguel Cabrera single, making the score 7-0.  Meanwhile, Tigers pitcher Doug Fister (although he lost his no-hitter in the 1st, by far the earliest in the series to this point for a Tigers pitcher) was dealing, allowing 5 hits and no runs in the first 5 innings.  In the 6th, the Red Sox avoided the shutout, when a Jarrod Saltalamacchia RBI single made the score 7-1, and Fister departed after the 6th.  Shane Victorino added a run on an RBI double in the 7th, and Jacoby Ellsbury added another with an RBI triple in the 9th, but this was the Tigers night, as they evened the series with a 7-3 victory.

Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3.  Game 5 is always a big swing game in a tied best-of-7 series, and this Game 5 was no different.  One interesting note about Game 5 is that when Xander Bogaerts, at 21 years and 16 days old, started at 3rd for the Red Sox, he broke a 97-year old franchise record for the youngest player to start a playoff game.  The previous record holder was Babe Ruth, who was 21 years and 246 days old when he was the starting pitcher in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series.  As for the 2013 World Series, both teams were trying to move one win away from the Fall Classic.  Game 5 featured a rematch of the pitching matchup from Game 1, with Anibal Sanchez pitching for the Tigers and Jon Lester for the Red Sox.  The game’s first swing of momentum went to Lackey in the 1st, when on a Jhonny Peralta single, Miguel Cabrera tried to score from second, but was thrown out at the plate.  Sanchez didn’t respond well in the next half-inning, and we learned he was no where close to his no-hit stuff from Game 1.  In the top of the 2nd, Mike Napoli led off with a solo homer, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.  Later in the inning, David Ross had an RBI double and Jacoby Ellsbury had an RBI infield single to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.  In the 4th, Napoli scored another run, but this time it was on a wild pitch, giving the Red Sox a 4-0 lead.  Meanwhile, Jon Lester had allowed no runs on 4 hits through the first 4 innings.  That changed in the 5th, when a Miguel Cabrera single plated Austin Jackson to make the score 4-1.  Brayan Pena had an RBI single in the 6th, making the score 4-2, and in the 7th a Miguel Cabrera double play groundout scored Jose Iglesias to make the score 4-3.  The Red Sox threatened in the top of the 9th, but failed to score, turning the game over to closer Koji Uehara, who retired the side in the bottom of the 9th, giving the Red Sox a 4-3 win, and Boston was a win away from the World Series.

Game 6: Red Sox 5, Tigers 2.  Game 6 will be remembered in Boston for a long time, and not just because the Red Sox clinched the pennant, but because of how they did it.  The pitching matchup was a rematch of Game 2 between Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox and Max Scherzer of the Tigers.  Through the first four and a half innings, both pitchers had shutouts, with only 4 hits allowed between them.  In the bottom of the 5th, it was the Red Sox that made the first move.  Xander Bogaerts doubled, and he was hit in by a Jacoby Ellsbury single, giving Boston a 1-0 lead.  The inning ended when Ellsbury was thrown out trying to steal 2nd.  The Tigers responded in the top of the 6th.  Torii Hunter walked, and Miguel Cabrera singled, causing Buchholz to be moved from the game.  Reliever Franklin Morales walked Prince Fielder to load the bases, and then Victor Martinez singled in 2, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead.  The inning could have been worse for the Red Sox, but Prince Fielder was caught in a rundown after trying to score, causing a bellyflop slide that was pointed out my many social media users as a humorous turn in the game.  In the bottom of the 6th, the Red Sox got men on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, but failed to capitalize when Mike Napoli struck out and Jarrod Saltalamacchia popped out.  In the bottom of the 7th, the Red Sox did capitalize.  It started with a Jonny Gomes leadoff double, and after Stephen Drew struck out, Xander Bogaerts walked, and the Tigers took out Max Scherzer (this ended a phenomenal year for him).  Drew Smyly came in to pitch, and got Jacoby Ellsbury to hit a ground ball to short, looking like a potential inning-ending double play ball.  But Jose Iglesias didn’t field the ball cleanly, and the error allowed Ellsbury to reach, and loaded the bases.  Jose Veras relieved Smyly, and was ahead of Shane Victorino 0-2.  On the next pitch, Victorino hit a high drive to left, and as the ball continued its trajectory, it became more and more clear that this ball might clear the 37-foot “Green Monster” wall in left, and it did.  Victorino had hit a grand slam, giving the Red Sox a 5-2 lead.  Boston was 6 defensive outs away from the World Series.  Craig Breslow retired the side in the Tigers half of the 8th, and Red Sox closer Koji Uehara came in for the 9th.  Austin Jackson did reach with an infield single with 2 outs, but Jose Iglesias struck out, and the celebration that began in the stands instantly after the Victorino grand slam now officially began on the field, as the Red Sox had won the series, 4-2.

The Red Sox AL pennant is their 3rd in the last 10 years, after they won the AL title on their way to World Series wins in both 2004 and 2007.  Both of those pennants were won in 7 games, but this time the series was won in 6 games.  Also, both of those World Series were won with sweeps (I really don’t expect a sweep in this series, because both the Red Sox and the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals are so solid.)  The World Series between Boston and St. Louis will start in Boston on Wednesday.  It will be the first World Series since 1999 between teams with the best record in each league, and the first since 1995 between the teams with the two best records in all of baseball.

The Red Sox, after finishing last in the AL East last year, become the 7th team since 1990 to finish in last in one season and win the pennant in the next, joining the 1991 Twins and the 2008 Rays as the only AL teams to accomplish the feat.  The previous six teams to go “worst to first” are 1-5 in the World Series, with the 1 win coming when 2 such teams met each other in the World Series in 1991 (the Twins beat the Braves in 7 games).

Shane Victorino’s grand slam made him the first player in MLB history with multiple go-ahead grand slams in postseason games in a career.  That grand slam, in the 7th inning of Game 6, made the Red Sox the first AL team with 2 grand slams in a single LCS, and the 2nd team overall (1977 Dodgers).  They are the first team to hit 2 grand slams that were game-tying or go-ahead homers in a single postseason in MLB history, with Victorino’s blast in Game 6 and David Ortiz’s blast in Game 2.

Even with those two huge homers by Ortiz and Victorino, and some great performances from the Red Sox rotation, the series MVP award was given to Red Sox closer Koji Uehara.  He is the first relief pitcher since Mariano Rivera in 2003 to win an LCS MVP in either league, and deservedly so; he had 3 saves and 1 win (therefore he directly affected each Red Sox win in the series, either winning the game or saving it), and did not allow a run in 6 innings, allowing 4 hits, no walks, and 9 strikeouts.

The aforementioned 2004 World Series, won by the Red Sox in 4 games, was between the Red Sox and the Cardinals, and this will therefore be a rematch of that series.  This will, in fact, be the 4th World Series meeting between these two, with the Cardinals taking 2 of the previous 3, but the Red Sox winning 10 out of the 18 games overall.  The only player left on the Red Sox from the 2004 team is David Ortiz, while the only Cardinals holdover is Yadier Molina (although Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was a player on the 2004 Cardinals team).

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