There was no hooting and hollering at RSNStats world headquarters Thursday night. Instead, just satisfaction as the Red Sox beat the Tigers 4-3 to take a 3-games-to-2 lead in the American League Championship Series. Satisfaction with a key win, with taking 2-of-3 at Comerica, with the improved Boston offense, and with the knowledge that we head back to home-field advantage where the team went an AL-best 53-28 in the regular season.
For a 2nd night in a row the Red Sox had double-digit hits vs the vaunted Tigers pitching staff, including 2 each Thursday for Dustin Pedroia and David Ross and a 3-for-4 night, including the memorable and monster home run, by Mike Napoli. He now leads the club (among players with 10+ at-bats) with a .375 series batting average, going 6-for-16 with 2 doubles and 2 home runs.
And while the Tigers Jose Iglesias, playing with an almost visible chip on his shoulder, reminded Red Sox fans why they loved his defense from the start, new Boston phenom Xander Bogaerts became, at 21 years and 16 days old, the youngest Red Sox player to start in a postseason game, topping none other than Babe Ruth, who was 21 years and 246 days old in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series.
Tops in the postseason
For the postseason here are the Top 5 Red Sox batters sorted by batting average (minimum 10 at-bats). For comparison, I included their 2013 regular season AVG in the rightmost column:
Here’s the Top 5 Tigers performers in the postseason by batting average (minimum 10 at-bats):
There and yet missing
Such a bad time to turn cold for Red Sox Stephen Drew (now .059 through 17 at-bats), Will Middlebrooks (.100, 10 at-bats), David Ortiz (.105, 19 at-bats), and especially the typically reliable Shane Victorino (.095, 21 at-bats). These are players with .253, .227, .309, and .294 batting averages, respectively, in the regular season.
No doubt Tigers fans are wondering the same of Omar Infante (now .176 in 17 at-bats), Prince Fielder (.211, 19 at-bats and notably no home runs after hitting 25 in 2013), and Torii Hunter (.217, 23 at bats). These are players with .318, .279, and .304 averages, respectively, in the regular season. Miguel Cabrera, who batted .348 with 44 regular-season home runs is batting .278 now with just 1 leaving the park so far in the postseason.
And it comes down to this
The Red Sox need just one win over the next two home games, but it won’t come easily facing Detroit’s best, Max Scherzer and, if necessary Justin Verlander. For me, these two elite pitchers mitigate some of the advantages that come both from playing at home and the positive energy of the hometown crowd. Detroit has made mistakes, of course, and with the pressure of a win-or-go-home Saturday, Boston must be ready for the chance to capitalize on further miscues.
162 regular season games plus a Division Series. From the cold days of those early April games to the cool nights of October, it’s a long campaign. And by the end of this weekend we’ll know which team is heading for a final series to win it all.