For the second time in three games of this ALCS the game ended 1-0. However, this time the good guys came out on top. The Angels Alumni Association paced the Red Sox. The only run was provided by a Mike Napoli long home run to left. This was all the run support John Lackey and his bullpen would need, with Lackey pitching 6 2/3 shutout innings and out dueling Justin Verlander.
A few observations:
* This was the post season John Lackey we remember from the Angels. The way Lackey has pitched and competed all year, it just seemed a given he would spin at least one game like this in the post season. Hopefully his next start will be in the World Series.
* Every fan and pundit spent all of September and early October worrying about the bridge to Uehara. Who can pitch the seventh and eighth?? Granted there is a ways to go to the promised land, but so far the entire bullpen has been outstanding, and that bridge has been Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa. Any doubts about Taz doing the job melted away when he K'd Miguel Cabrera in the 8th with runners on first and third. And then Koji began his 4 out save by striking out Prince Fielder leaving those runners on first and third. And again in Game Two, Brandon Workman and Felix Doubront combined for 2 1/3 scoreless to help the Sox win.
* Mike Napoli, no doubt, strikes out a lot and has in this series ( who hasn't). But he has the tremendous power, is fearless, and has a strong postseason resume.
* The Tigers have a lot of big names: Miggy, Prince, Verlander, Max Scherzer, and to some degree Anibal Sanchez and Victor Martinez. But this is not a deep team at all, in the bullpen, on the bench, and in the lower part of their order ( they do not have a leadoff hitter, either). If you needed any proof of their weak bench, Jim Leyland used JOSE IGLESIAS as a PINCH HITTER!! In the 8th inning of a game they trailed by one. Maybe the Tigers rotation will pull this series out, but the Red Sox are the better team, and should win this in less than seven.
* Is Victor Martinez hurt? On his leadoff hit in the ninth he appeared to injure his knee or upper leg. Since is only the DH, he can likely go, but if he is out the Tigers lineup gets much thinner.
* As I mentioned after Game Two, I love the Red Sox rotation going forward. If Jake Peavy can pitch anywhere near the level of Game Four of the ALDS, the Red Sox will be very hard to beat. Doug Fister, the Tigers Game Four starter, is a tough customer, but is not a strikeout artist, so the Sox can finally hope to put a bunch of balls in play. And hopefully get their first hit before the fifth inning for the first time in the series. And if the Sox do pull off Game Four, I love the idea of Jon Lester ready to clinch in the fifth game, when the Sox get another shot at Sanchez.
* Was flipping John Lackey and Clay Buchholz in their Game Two/Three roles from the ALDS a brilliant calculation by John Farrell and the Red Sox brain trust or just dumb luck? Now looking back in hindsight could the Sox have won both Games Two and Three if the order had not been reversed?
If both Lackey and Buchholz pitched exactly the way each did in their start, Lackey would have won Game Two, but would Clay's effort have bested Verlander?? I think not, and this move is one large reason the Red Sox lead 2-1 in games, and not trail by 2-1 .
* I will still hold on to my Sox in six prediction, but I would sure love to see Jake and Jon end it in Motown.