Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tigers ready to defend American League title against Red Sox

ALCS Preview: Detroit Tigers versus Boston Red Sox

The Detroit Tigers are in the American League Championship Series for the third straight season, looking to return to the World Series for the second year in a row. They have a rough road ahead of them as they face the Boston Red Sox, the AL’s regular season wins leader.

The Tigers advanced by beating the Oakland Athletics in five tight games, while the Red Sox dismantled the Tampa Bay Rays with a potent and balanced attack in four games.

The teams met seven times during the regular season with the Tigers winning four games, but Boston outscored Detroit 43-35.

The Red Sox were able to line up their rotation while the Tigers will have to make some adjustments due to the length of the battle with the A’s.

Probables

Game 1 – (DET) Anibal Sanchez at (BOS) Jon Lester
Game 2 – (DET) Max Scherzer at (Bos) John Lackey
Game 3 – (BOS) Clay Buchholz at (DET) Justin Verlander
Game 4 – (BOS) Jake Peavy at (DET) Doug Fister

Offense

These were the top two teams in the majors in scoring during the regular season with the Red Sox crossing the plate 853 times and the Tigers, 796. The Red Sox continued bashing the ball in the division series hitting .286 and scoring 26 runs in four games. The Tigers on the other hand were mostly shutdown by the A’s pitching as they slashed just .235/.299/.321 as a team.

The Red Sox are capable of scoring in multiple ways, possessing power and speed. The Tigers have power but don’t run much, stealing just 35 bases on the regular season.

The Red Sox were led by Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz in the ALDS, while Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta led the Tigers’ offense. The Tigers are also hoping that Miguel Cabrera’s home run in Game 5 is the start of something big. It was the Tigers third baseman’s first homer since mid-September.

Pitching

Again, both teams have very solid pitching. The Tigers rotation was arguably the best in baseball with Scherzer (MLB’s wins leader with 21), Sanchez (AL ERA leader at 2.57) and former Cy Young and MVP Verlander (217 Ks). Doug Fister is a pretty good number four.

The Red Sox top three may slightly below the caliber of the Tigers, but they are pretty good nonetheless. Lester (15-8), Lackey (3.53 ERA) and Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA) combined to make a quality top three. Jake Peavy, like Fister is not too shabby as the fourth starter.

The bullpens are also pretty closely matched. Leading up to the closers each team has quality setup guys, with the Tigers relying on young Drew Smyly (2.37 ERA and 81 K in 76 IP) and the Red Sox using Junichi Tazawa (3.16 ERA, 72 K in 68.1 IP) in the eighth inning.

The Red Sox have a lockdown closer in Koji Uehara (1.09 ERA, 21 SV, 101 K in 74.1 IP), while the Tigers turn to Joaquin Benoit (2.01 ERA, 24 SV, 73 K in 67 IP) in the ninth. Those are very good numbers for Benoit, but Uehara had stretches of being untouchable during the regular season.

Managers

Tigers skipper Jim Leyland has the experience while Red Sox manager John Farrell has brought a team from last to first in his inaugural season as Boston’s manager. Each man gets the most out his team and is respected by its players. In such a tight series, decisions by the managers could be crucial and Leyland’s experience in the postseason could provide the Tigers with a slight advantage.

Prediction
The Tigers have a better rotation, but not by much. The bullpens are more or less even. The Red Sox offense is superior to the Tigers and they did not lose a step in the division series where the Tigers have recently struggled at the plate. Leyland has an edge over Farrell. But, the Red Sox have home field advantage. Can the Tigers slow down the Red Sox bats and find their own? Is Detroit’s rotation too strong for Boston? Will Farrell’s postseason inexperience come into play? I like the way the pitching matchups set up for Detroit here and see Verlander winning Game 7 on the road to propel the Tigers to the World Series for the second straight season.

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