The Detroit Tigers were two innings from heading home with a 2-0 lead in the ALCS. Two innings later, the Boston Red Sox had finished off a ridiculous comeback, aided by a Tigers' bullpen implosion, walking off on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off RBI single off Rick Porcello.
The big hit of the night was David Ortiz's game tying grand slam with two down in the bottom of the eighth. But the plate was set by the Tigers' bullpen, wasting a brilliant performance by Tigers' starter Max Scherzer. The odds on favorite for the Cy Young allowed just one run on two hits, walking just two while striking out 13 over seven innings. But the Tigers' bullpen blew up in the eighth, sticking Scherzer with a no-decision.
The Tigers used four pitchers in the doom-filled eighth, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit each allowing a base runner, each charged with a run. But it was Benoit who served up the game-changing gopher ball to Ortiz. Porcello faced only two batters, allowing two hits, including Saltalamacchia's game winner.
Until the eighth, the Red Sox were being dominated by Tigers' pitching. But all six of their hits came after the fifth inning. Along with the heroics of Ortiz and Saltalamacchia, Dustin Pedroia plated the first Red Sox run of the series with an RBI double in the sixth.
The Tigers rocked Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who was pulled after 5 2/3 innings having allowed five runs and eight hits, five for extra bases, striking out six. He also walked a pair, hit a batter and uncorked a wild pitch. Buchholz had covered the pitching gamut.
Alex Avila led the Tigers' attack with two hits, one a home run, and three RBIs. Miguel Cabrera also homered, Victor Martinez chipping in two hits and an RBI. But after their four-run sixth, the Tigers could only muster an eighth-inning walk.
Yes, it was a miserable loss. The Tigers imploded on the mound and defensively in the last two innings, pissing away a what appeared to be a 2-0 series lead.
But it's far, far, far too early to panic over one loss in a seven-game series. Going into the series, I'm sure each and every one of you would have been happy with a split in Boston. The Tigers got just that, and took away home field advantage. Unfortunately, the split went down in miserable fashion.
Keep in mind this was just one loss. Also keep in mind Justin Verlander is pitching Tuesday, and he had not allowed a run in 15 innings over two starts. He's known as a stopper for a reason.
There's no such thing as momentum. If there was, the Red Sox would have folded up shop after nearly being no-hit in Game 1. If there was, the Tigers wouldn't have won the the ALDS after losing in walk-off fashion in Game 2 to the A's. Everyone thought that series was over halfway through Game 4. Yet, here we are in the ALCS.
The road to the World Series is filled with adversity. The Tigers' now face a good deal of it. But if one bad loss is going to derail the Tigers' season, they weren't of championship caliber to begin with.
The first inning of Game 2 was a carry over from Game 1. Nether team would get a hit, though Max Scherzer plunked plate-crowding Shane Victorino to give the Red Sox a base runner. Scherzer would proceed to strikeout Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz to end the inning.
Max Scherzer only able to reach 50% of Anibal Sanchez's first inning strikeout total— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) October 14, 2013
One out in the second, Victor Martinez became the Tigers' first base runner. He took a Clay Buchholz fastball the other way, a line drive which found the gap in left center for a two-base hit. The smoking-hot Jhonny Peralta ripped a line drive to left, a single which was hit far too hard for Martinez to advance any further than third.
Make it three straight hits for the Tigers. First pitch swinging, Alex Avila lined Buchholz's fastball back through the box and into center for an RBI single and a 1-0 Tigers lead.
Buchholz would give up a fourth straight rocket shot, but Omar Infante's was a one-hopper to shortstop Stephen Drew. He bobbled the short hop, but the ball was hit so hard Drew was still able to start a 6-4-3 double play, ending the threat.
Though they only scored once, the inning bode well for the Tigers. They were getting very good swings off Buchholz, hitting the ball on the button.
Bottom of two, home plate umpire Rob Drake had the Red Sox muttering to themselves over supposedly bad calls (just as in Game 1 and Joe West, who proved to have a solid zone by Pitch FX) as Scherzer struck out two in a 1-2-3 inning.
Austin Jackson is officially snake bit. He made the second out of the third when Pedroia made a ridiculous diving stop and throw on a ground ball in the hole.
A badly scuffling Torii Hunter struck out for a second straight at-bat, ending the inning.
Meanwhile, Scherzer was continuing to flummox the Red Sox, who were hitless through three innings. Seven of the nine batters Scherzer had retired had been via the strikeout. That's 24 punchouts in 12 ALCS innings for Tigers' pitching. As they were going down like so much cord wood, the Red Sox were whining over strike calls more than the mid-2000s era Detroit Pistons whined about personal fouls.
Top of four and two down, Buchholz went high and tight on Martinez. The Tigers' DH pirouetted trying to get out of the way, but the fastball grazed him. Peralta at the plate, Buchholz hit the bull, wild-pitching Martinez to second with a fastball over everyone's head to the backstop. He would induce a weak ground ball off the bat of Peralta, but Drew booted it to put runners on the corners for Avila.
This time Avila couldn't convert with a runner in scoring postilion, his can of corn to center stranding a pair.
Bottom half of the fourth, Scherzer remained in beast mode. He recorded his eighth strikeout when Pedroia flailed away at a full-count slider.
I'm predicting this "slider" pitch is going to take the AL East by storm next year.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) October 14, 2013
Not wanting to mess with Ortiz, Scherzer just pitched around him. Mike Carp ended the inning by bouncing into the Red Sox's first double play of the night, 4-6-3. The Tigers were still clinging to their one-run lead. The twin killing helped Scherzer's pitch count, which stood at 64 through four.
One down in the bottom of the fifth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia made a bid with a high fly ball down the right field line. The Fenway Park crowd thought it was gone (as did I). Hunter battled, well, something, almost turning the wrong way before making an awkward catch in the right-field corner.
McCarver blamed the ball falling short because of "heavy air."
holy crap that was scary— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) October 14, 2013
The next out wasn't nearly as scary, Drew bouncing out 3-1 to end another scoreless, hitless inning. Scherzer had yet to allow a base hit, had struck out nine and his pitch count was at 74.
Keep in mind this was the third straight postseason game Tigers' pitching had taken a no-hitter into the sixth. Verlander had gone 6 2/3 before giving up a hit in ALDS Game 5. Anibal Sanchez and the bullpen combined for 8 1/3 no-hit innings last night.
The Red Sox had become the first team in postseason history to be no-hit for five innings in back-to-back games.
Top of six and one out, Cabrera tomahawked a chest-high Buchholz changeup.
CA-BOOOOOOOM— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) October 14, 2013
The fly ball didn't clear the Green Monster by much, but Cabrera doesn't have to hit it far at Fenway, just high. His second home run of the postseason pushed the Tigers' lead to 2-0.
Prince Fielder followed Cabrera's big fly over the Green Monster with a fly ball off of it. His slide into second wasn't pretty, but it got him his double.
Make it three straight hits and back-to-back doubles when Martinez ripped a hanging breaking ball into the right center field gap, Fielder scoring easily to make it 3-0 Tigers.
Down three runs and the Tigers getting to Buchholz, for some reason Red Sox manager John Farrell had no one warming up. Tim McCarver was stunned, saying the Red Sox should have had someone up in the previous inning, let alone this one.
After Peralta hit a shot to center for the second out, the Red Sox bullpen finally started stirring.
But it was a batter too late.
Avila came through with a runner in scoring position a second time, making it a four-run inning with his first home run of the postseason, crushing a no-doubt shot which cleared the Tigers' bullpen in right. The two-run bomb increased the Tigers' lead to 5-0.
Infante ended Buchholz's night after 5 2/3 innings with a line single to left center. Farrell had no choice, and was forced to make a move. The last six Tigers' batters had all hit the ball hard, resulting in five hits, including a home run and a pair of doubles, and four runs.
Right-hander Brandon Workman took over, and infuriated the Fenway Park crowd by walking Don Kelly on four pitches. Jackson finally ended the inning with a ground ball to third, but the Tigers had sent nine to the plate and inflicted a huge amount of damage.
Amost lost in the four-run offensive explosion, the biggest so far in the postseason for the Tigers, was the fact that Scherzer still had a no-hitter in progress.
Scherzer lost the no-hitter when Victorino singled with one out in the bottom of the sixth. He lost the shutout when Pedroia's fly ball to left hit halfway up the Green Monster. Victorino was running on the pitch, and scored easily on the two-base hit.
The Fenway Park crowd, now delirious over having something, HELL, anything, to cheer about, were hoping against hope Ortiz could make it a game. Instead, Scherzer turned up the wick on his fastball, ending the threat with a four-pitch strikeout. The Red Sox had finally gotten on the scoreboard after 14 scoreless innings, but the Tigers still had a 5-1 lead as the game headed into the late innings.
Cabrera looks better at the plate than he has in some time. One down in the seventh, he hit a ball harder and father than his homer in the sixth. But this drive was to the worst possible part of Fenway, Ellsbury making the catch near the 420' mark in center.
Miguel Cabrera's home run earlier tonight was calculated at 347 feet... His flyout in the 7th inning was 404 feet.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 14, 2013
Farrell was more than happy to make a move after Cabrera's shot, calling on lefty Felix Doubront to face Fielder. He would end the inning with a ball which traveled 330 fewer feet, a ground ball to first.
Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque were warming up as Scherzer took the mound for the bottom of the seventh with his pitch count at 94. They wouldn't be needed -- not in the seventh, anyway. Scherzer recorded strikeouts 12 and 13 in a 1-2-3 inning. He then received the "Handshake of Doom" after a seven-inning, 108-pitch, two-hit, one-run outing.
Top of eight, Doubront remained in the game for the BoSox. Avila reached base for the third time via a base on balls, but that was it for the Tigers.
The Jose's, Veras and Iglesias, entered the game in the bottom of the eighth. One down, Middlebrooks doubled into the left-field corner. That was all Jim Leyland needed to see. With the top of the Red Sox order due up, he called Smyly out of the bullpen to face Jacoby Ellsbury.
Smyly was ahead in the count 1-2, then started to nibble. His one batter appearance ended with a silly base on balls. Smyly had one job to do, and didn't come through. Two on and one out, Leyland called on Albuquerque to get out of the jam.
Victorino's at-bat was typical Alburquerque. Lots of sliders, a couple in the dirt, ending in a strikeout. But Pedroia extended the inning, slapping a single to right, loading the bases for the cleanup man, Ortiz.
The 2013 Detroit Tigers: It's Never Easy— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) October 14, 2013
Leyland could have gone with Phil Coke. Ortiz was just 2-19 in his career against him. But as we've saw in the ALDS, Leyland's not afraid to use Joaquin Benoit in the eighth inning. He did just that, asking Benoit to convert a four-out save.
Then ... utter disaster.
Ortiz crushed Benoit's first pitch, which was a fat fastball over the heart of the plate. He lined it into the Red Sox bullpen as Hunter tumbled over the fence.
This went terribly wrong.— Melissa Heyboer (@MelissaHeyboer) October 14, 2013
A game the Tigers had dominated was now tied. Hunter was banged up on the play, but remained in the now tied game.
Farrell went his closer in the ninth, Koji Uehara. As usual, he was lights out, setting the Tigers down in order.
The Tigers started pissing away the game in the eighth. They finished their wizzing in the ninth.
Sensing extra innings, Leyland called on Rick Porcello in the bottom of the ninth. He shattered Gomes' bat, but his ground ball was past the injured Cabrera. Then the Tigers made two mistakes. Iglesias went deep into the hole to make the play, but instead of eating the ball, he uncorked a wild throw. The second was Fielder's inability to get in front of the ball, allowing it to bounce out of play.
Gomes now on second, Fielder made the Tigers' third mistake, not making the play on Saltalamacchia's foul pop. He got tangled with he crowd, but still should have made the play, the ball bouncing off the side of his glove.
Porcello made the fourth mistake of the inning, wild-pitching Gomes to third.
Given new life, Saltalamacchia made the most of it, slapping a single to left past a pulled in infield to end what looked to be a sure Tigers' win two innings previous.
Game over. Your final score is Red Sox 6, Tigers 5. The ALCs is knotted at one game each.
revolting loss— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) October 14, 2013
Monday is a travel day, while Game 3 in Detroit is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. As of Sunday night, the scheduled probable pitchers are Red Sox right-hander John Lackey (1-0, 6.75 ERA), who will face Tigers ace Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA).
Lackey was hit hard by the Rays in his lone ALDS start. He was the winning pitcher in Game 2, but allowed seven hits and four runs in just 5 1/3 innings in the Red Sox's 7-4 victory. In 15 career postseason appearances, 13 of those starts, Lackey is 4-4 with a 3.35 ERA.
Verlander has yet to allow a run in 15 postseason innings, allowing only six hits while striking out 21. He tossed a masterpiece in Game 5 of the ALDS, no-hitting the A's for 6 2/3, ultimately allowing two hits over eight scoreless innings to earn the victory. In 14 career postseason appearances, all of them as a starter, Verlander is 7-4 with a 3.48 ERA.
It's a late afternoon start time for Game 3. First pitch at Comerica Park is set for 4:07 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
When the silly Red Sox beard thing spins out of control, you end up with this:
Nobody suffers more from the Red Sox beard solidarity thing than Buchholz. Looks like he just avoided getting gunned down by Walter White.— MattinToledo (@MattinToledo) October 14, 2013
Shane Victorino shows you how to crowd the plate and get plunked on a borderline strike.
This hit-by-pitch in the first gave Victorino a single-season postseason record of five (in just 24 plate appearances). It also tied him with Alex Rodriguez for the most career postseason HBP with nine.
When you can't think of anything good to say, use unmeasurable intangibles like "Winner" and "Gamer." That was how FOX's Tim McCarver described career .244 hitter Jonny Gomes while he was striking out in his first at-bat.
Dustin Pedroia got the same treatment from Joe Buck in the third when he robbed Austin Jackson of a base hit. Pedroia didn't make that play because he's David Eckstein-esque gritty. He got to the ball because he's a really good player. Calling Pedroia a "Gritty gamer" is actually giving him short shrift.
Tigers' pitching coach Jeff Jones got the mid-game interview treatment. But it was Victor Martinez who got all the camera time.
Fox Camera Man: "Excuse me, Victor. Can you move a step to your right?" Victor: "No."— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) October 14, 2013
More FOX Follies. They called the Tigers' 1428 strikeouts pitched in 2013 a franchise record. It's actually the new MLB record.
When Max Scherzer whiffed Will Middlebrooks in the sixth, he became the tenth K victim. The Tigers have recorded at least ten strikeouts in eight of their last nine postseason games.
Scherzer's 13 strikeouts is the second most by Tigers pitcher in the postseason. Joe Coleman set the record of 14 in the 1972 ALCS.
More Max milestones! Scherzer is the third pitcher in postseason history with back-to-back starts with at least 11 strikeouts. He's in good company. The other two are Justin Verlander and Cliff Lee.
On a personal note, I won't be around BYB much this week. I need to handle some personal issues over the next few days, so I won't be doing the recap for Game 3 and quite possibly Game 4. I'll be leaving them in Rob's very capable hands. Hopefully he can turn the Tigers' luck around.
Max Scherzer: Scherzer was in Cy Young mode and should have won his third game of the postseason. Came up big with 13 strikeouts, the second most by a Tigers pitcher in playoff history.
Alex Avila: The Tigers' catcher had proven his worth behind the plate in the postseason. Tonight, he made an impact with the bat, driving in three runs with a single and homer.
Miguel Cabrera: Came through with his second home run of the postseason. Cabrera has now reached base in 31 straight playoff games, extending his MLB record.
If just one these four relievers does their job, the Tigers are up 2-0. Funny thing is, the bullpen was lights out in Game 1, and the same four relievers were used.
TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
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Anibal Sanchez's six no-hit innings pushed the Tigers' starting pitcher to the top of the PotG poll, beating out Jhonny Peralta and the bullpen with 71% of the vote.