Red Sox Can Steal Momentum With Win Over Verlander
Any Red Sox fan will tell you that the Red Sox are lucky to be tied at 1-1 with the Tigers in the ALCS. It’s hard to argue that the Sox’ lineup has been completely and utterly dominated by the Tigers starting pitching so far this series. So despite all this why would there be any reason for optimism with the Red Sox facing Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in the majors for the last 4-5 years?
The answer is simple – win today and the tenor of the entire series has changed. If the Sox can somehow take game 3 they go into game 4 against Doug Fister, the one guy in the Tigers’ rotation that the Red Sox have had consistent success against in the past. If you take game 4 after you take game 3 then you’re in position to have to win only 1 more game against the Tigers’ record breaking trio of starters with 2 of those games coming at Fenway Park.
Of course we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves just yet but is beating Verlander so inconceivable? Verlander is a career 3-4 with a 3.63 ERA vrs. Boston. The Red Sox are only one of two teams (the Los Angeles Angels being the other) that Verlander has a career losing record against. The Red Sox have beaten Verlander in the past and, while it’s a daunting task to be sure, won’t shy away from doing it again.
The second thing is the fact that the Sox may have uncovered the Tigers’ biggest weakness – the bullpen. While working the pitch count against Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer hasn’t lead to success off of either starter it has successfully chased them out of games and left the results in the hands of the bullpen. If you haven’t noticed by watching the playoffs the Tigers don’t have a very good bullpen. Closer Joaquin Benoit has been worked hard in the last month and is looking a bit tired. Leyland doesn’t seem to have much faith in anyone down there for long stretches and there doesn’t seem do be any defined roles. Simply put if the Red Sox can limit Verlander to 6-7 innings it increases the chances of a Red Sox win dramatically.
The last thing that the Red Sox need to do to take this game is show the same confidence that they did at the plate at the end of game 2. After looking lost for much of the first two games the Red Sox were once again working good at-bats and taking good swings. If they stay on their toes and not back on their heels they can try and get to Verlander early. I’d say an aggressive approach would be in order tonight early in the ballgame. Verlander loves to get ahead of hitters and won’t waste pitches.
Remember while Verlander is a beast on the mound he is also human. He’s got a lot of high leverage innings on that arm in the last few weeks. The Sox would be wise to try and jump out to an early lead. If Lackey gives up runs they need to match it. As we found out on Sunday once you get into that Detroit bullpen it’s anyone’s game.