The Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox have never once met in a postseason series—which is hard to believe when you consider that the Tigers were founded in 1894, and the Red Sox (originally founded as the Boston Americans) in 1901.
That’s 112 years in the same league—without meeting in the postseason. That will change, however, Saturday night at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have enjoyed a drastic turn-around season after losing 93 games in 2012, and have propelled themselves to the ALCS after prevailing over their inter-division rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays, in four games.
However, their counterparts in this series, the Detroit Tigers, are arriving in Boston just a day or so after beating the AL West champion Oakland Athletics in five games.
Managers for both teams have yet to announce official rotations for the series, but we do know Jon Lester will be on the hill for Boston in Game 1.
We also know that both of these rotations will be formidable—the Tigers with the one-two punch of Verlander and Scherzer, not to mention Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister—and the Red Sox with Lester and a revived John Lackey, combined with Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy to finish out the rotation.
The Tigers finished the regular season third in starter’s ERA (3.61), second lowest opposing-team batting average (.247) and led in the American League in strikeouts with 1,428.
Boston’s team ERA of 3.79 puts them in the middle of the pack, and the best qualifying starter’s mark goes to John Lackey (3.53), while the rest have stats north of four. However, if the Red Sox can get to the bullpen with a lead, Detroit will have to deal with Boston closer Koji Ueheara and his 1.09 ERA.
The key for the Red Sox will be to take advantage of the home field play. Boston must maintain consistent energy, stay focused and—at the very least—split the first two games at Fenway.
Although shutting down the Detroit offense won’t be easy—even in Boston. The team that led the American League in team batting average (.283) and was second in both on base percentage (.346) and OPS (.780), is anchored by reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera—who would’ve likely won a second consecutive crown had it not been for Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis.
Granted the Tigers’ offensive slumped at times in the Oakland series—if Miggy, Prince, Torii, etc. can get back to Detroit in command of the series—it’d be hard to best this team at that point.
This Red Sox team was no slouch on offense either, as they were second in the AL in team batting average (.277), fifth in home runs (178), and third in stolen bases. Boston also scored 57 more runs than any other team in the American League.
The key for Detroit will be to get out of Fenway in one piece, and for other offensive players to step up in wake of Cabrera’s injury which has limited him.
The Tigers will also be relying on their starters to eat up a lot of innings, as the Detroit bullpen is not quite as strong as Boston’s, and has struggled all season. Joaquin Benoit has taken to the art of closing games, but getting to him may be a problem; however, with a rotation like Detroit’s, it is not unreal to ask for seven or eight innings each start.
In terms of strict matchups, Detroit appears to have the slight advantage all around—but postseason games often come down to high-leverage moments where ballplayers are expected to perform in the clutch. This is something the Red Sox have been doing all season long (11 walk-offs) and it’s a real component of this series that Boston has the advantage in.
In my opinion, the Red Sox love playing at Fenway (53-28, .528 win pct.) and will likely take the first two games in Boston like they did with Tampa Bay. They may have some issues at Comerica Park, but altogether, I see Boston prevailing in six games over the Tigers.
I feel that the two teams are evenly matched in a way that some games will come down to the wire—and Boston is no stranger to coming through when the game is on the line.