The Boston Red Sox took a 3-2 series lead in the ALCS tonight, winning a pivotal Game 5 by a 4-3 score at Comerica Park. Jon Lester picked up the win for the Sox, allowing two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Anibal Sanchez got off to a rocky start after six no-hit innings in Game 1. He took the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings.
The Tigers were finally able to score a run against the Boston bullpen, but couldn't complete a comeback after being down 4-0 in the third inning. Koji Uehara came on with one out in the eighth inning, but was as automatic as he has been all season, notching a five-out save.
The Tigers threatened early, as they did in Game 3, putting a couple of runners on base in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs, Jhonny Peralta singled to left field after a long at-bat, but Miguel Cabrera ran through a late stop sign from Tom Brookens and was thrown out by a mile at home plate by Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes to end the inning.
After the deflating end to the previous inning, the Tigers gave up three quick runs in the top of the second. Mike Napoli led off the inning with a home run well past the 420-foot mark in center field. After an error by Cabrera on a routine ground ball off the bat of Gomes, consecutive doubles from Xander Bogaerts and David Ross plated a second run. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a line drive that deflected off of Sanchez's glove, scoring Bogarts from third. Had Omar Infante not thrown out Ross at home plate on Shane Victorino's ground ball on the next play, the inning may have gotten even uglier.
The runs weren't the only price the Tigers paid in the second, however. On the fielder's choice play with one out, David Ross ran over Alex Avila in an attempt to jar the ball loose. Avila appeared to be quite dazed after the hit, with many thinking that Avila's previous concussion issues had resurfaced.
The Red Sox added another run in the third inning to stretch their lead to 4-0. Napoli, continuing his mid-series resurgence, hit a ground rule double to left field. He then was moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch from Sanchez.
Meanwhile, the Tigers were not without opportunities. Lester walked a pair of batters in the bottom of the fourth, but got out of the inning when Brayan Pena -- pinch-hitting for Avila -- grounded into an inning-ending double play in a 3-1 count. In the fifth inning, Jackson singled and reached second on a bunt groundout from Iglesias. With two outs, Cabrera hit an RBI single to put the Tigers on the board. Prince Fielder followed up the run-scoring hit with a first pitch groundout, drawing boos from the Comerica faithful.
The Tigers added a second run in the bottom of the sixth. A Martinez walk and Infante single chased Lester, and Pena lined an RBI single into left field off reliever Junichi Tazawa. Pena had an .801 OPS against right-handed pitchers this year compared to a .608 OPS against lefties. However, Austin Jackson's hitting streak ended when he grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Hope rose once again in the seventh inning as Iglesias and Hunter led off the inning with singles, with Iglesias moving to third on Hunter's hit to right. However, Cabrera grounded into a double play and Prince Fielder grounded to second to end the threat. Iglesias scored on Cabrera's double play to cut the lead in half, but yet another inning went by that could have been much more.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH
Apparently Fangraphs' year ends on October 16th. No graph tonight.
Some will defend Tom Brookens for the late stop sign on Jhonny Peralta's single in the top of the first inning, but with a gimpy Miguel Cabrera running for second base, there's no defending that play in my opinion. Cabrera isn't running well, and unless that ball gets by Gomes, Cabrera isn't scoring. The ridiculous distance Cabrera was thrown out by -- and Gomes took his sweet time to make an easy, accurate throw -- shows how bad the decision was.
I'm not so sure about that last guy...
Parks and Rec with just the grittiest little Easter egg ever tonight. pic.twitter.com/jbHMOXojSg— Eli Gieryna (@EliGieryna) October 18, 2013
Meanwhile, after Jose Iglesias' spectacular catch in the top of the third inning, Twitter might have revealed a bit too much about his past.
Iglesias is a witch. Burn him.— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) October 18, 2013
burn the witch!— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) October 18, 2013
David Ortiz hit a bloop single to left field in the fifth inning, just his second hit of the series. He and Dustin Pedroia have had some games to forget.
The Red Sox are currently in line to go up 3-2 in this series. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are a combined 6-for-35 at the plate.— SB Nation MLB (@SBNationMLB) October 18, 2013
Boston's defense helped out in a big way tonight, turning three double plays with two runners on base. In particular, Dustin Pedroia made up for a couple of miscues last night with an excellent turn at second base in the sixth inning, ending a one-out threat.
Austin Jackson: Apparently lineup placements do matter. Jackson singled twice and scored a run, giving him six appearances on the basepaths in the last two games.
Al Alburquerque: Sure, he created his own mess in the eighth inning (sort of), but given the circumstances, he was able to escape a one-out jam by getting a huge strikeout and flyout to keep the game within reach.
Brayan Pena: Came on cold for Alex Avila in the fourth inning and hit an RBI single in the sixth.
Anibal Sanchez: He wasn't going to replicate his Game 1 outing, but Sanchez was nowhere near as effective tonight as he was five days ago. In a series where runs have been at a premium, four runs allowed (three earned) wasn't going to cut it.
Tom Brookens: I've already said my piece. Gene Lamont has proven himself to be the lesser of two evils at this point.
Prince Fielder: [copy] [paste]
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ALCS GAME 4 PLAYER OF THE GAME
Austin Jackson reached base four times and dominated the Player of the Game polling, earning 67% of the vote.