The Boston Red Sox haven’t outplayed the Detroit Tigers for many innings in the ALCS. However, the Red Sox have really only needed to break the Tigers in the eighth inning. Fortunately for Boston, it didn’t need to erase a four-run deficit in Game 3 on Oct. 15, but it did crush Detroit in another series-turning eighth inning.
The Red Sox’s 1-0 win came on a Mike Napoli home run in the seventh, which was just one of four hits off of Justin Verlander. But the deciding sequence came in the eighth, when the Tigers had a first-and-third threat with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder coming up.
Cabrera has been hobbled for weeks, yet he still had two home runs in the Tigers’ previous three games. If there was ever an ideal scenario for the MVP to deliver, this was the one -- but he swung and missed on three pitches instead. Once Junichi Tazawa sat Cabrera down, closer Koji Uehara came on and took Fielder down on another three pitches.
The Tigers did get a man on in the ninth, yet Jhonny Peralta quickly hit into a double play. That mistake will not haunt Detroit as much as the eighth inning will, both in Game 3 and in Game 2. David Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam in Game 2 will go down as a greater turning point if the Red Sox win the ALCS, but Cabrera and Fielder’s strike outs are even more telling.
With one hit from the two biggest sluggers in Detroit, if not the entire American League, Detroit would have erased the memories of Game 2 and spared Verlander from an undeserved loss. Yet even with John Lackey out of the game after 6 2-3’rd dominant innings, the Tigers couldn’t touch Red Sox pitching.
Boston hasn’t touched Detroit’s starting pitching either, save for Napoli’s winning home run. The Red Sox only have one combined hit before the fifth inning in all three ALCS games, and that came with two outs in the fifth of Game 3 -- and are still halfway to the World Series.
Ortiz delivered in Game 2 like the centerpiece he is for Boston, but the two biggest pieces of Detroit’s lineup couldn’t even get one hit to erase a one-run deficit. That is a telling tale of two eighth innings for the Red Sox and Tigers, and a telling tale of two lineups.