Friday, October 18, 2013

One Game Away

The Boston Red Sox pulled to within one win of the World Series with their 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers last night.

Mike Napoli, whose home run off Justin Verlander was the only run in Game 3, got the Sox on the board with an absolute bomb to dead center that traveled 445 feet. Well-placed hits combined with Detroit's shaky defense led to Boston scoring two more runs in the inning. Napoli, who went 3-for-4 in the game, scampered home on a wild pitch in the third to make Boston's lead four runs.

That was the extent of Boston's scoring in this one, and it turned out to be just enough to withstand the Tigers' gradual comeback (three runs--one in the fifth, sixth, and seventh). Jon Lester left the game with one out in the sixth after putting runners on first and second. Junichi Tazawa allowed one run to come in on Bryan Pena's RBI single before getting Austin Jackson to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Tazawa got another crucial double play the next inning after Jose Iglesias and Torii Hunter singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out. In what was probably the biggest moment of the game, Tazawa traded a run for two outs when Miguel Cabrera bounced into a rally-killing DP. That made the score 4-3, and that's the way it stayed thanks to Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara. The dynamic duo recorded the final seven outs without permitting a Tiger to reach base.

The Red Sox nearly added some much-needed insurance in the top of the ninth after getting two men into scoring position with only one out, but both Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia failed to deliver the big hit against Al Albuerquerque (probably the second-most fun baseball name to say--behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia, of course). Instead of giving Uehara some breathing room it went down as another missed opportunity by the Bosox, who've stranded a small army on the basepaths going back to the last two games of the Tampa Bay series. It's been incredibly frustrating to watch the best offense in baseball doing such a poor job of getting hits with RISP, but luckily they've been scoring just enough runs to win (all three W's in this series have been of the one-run variety). Obviously a win counts the same whether the score is 1-0 or 10-0, but I'd really like to see Boston's bats do more damage.

After an off-day today, the series will resume at Fenway Park tomorrow with Clay Buchholz and likely AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer squaring off.

Over in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals have a chance to polish off the Los Angeles Dodgers at home tonight. But in order to do that, they'll have to overcome Clayton Kershaw, only the best pitcher on the planet in the year 2013. The Redbirds will counter with Michael Wacha, their 22 year-old rookie phenom. Wacha may not be a household name yet, but don't underestimate him. He surrendered one run in his first two postseason starts combined after posting a 2.78 ERA during the regular season. Clearly LA has the edge here, but Wacha's not as overmatched as one might think and could surprise us all by outdueling Kershaw.

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