Red Sox-Tigers: How much trouble is Boston in?

October 13, 2013

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Boston Red Sox fell to the Detroit Tigers in an odd 1-0 loss on Saturday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Sure, it was only the opening act of a best-of-seven series, but the Red Sox are already in an unenviable position. In the first game, they fell to the Tigers’ No. 3 pitcher, Anibal Sanchez, who won the AL ERA crown this season. And now, they face this murders’ row: presumptive AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on Sunday, and then former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in Game 3 on Tuesday. Both have pitched very well in the playoffs already, and could likely each return on short rest to pitch again.

Doesn’t Boston’s 1-0 deficit in the series already feel like much more?

The Red Sox, baseball’s best offense, may meet their match in the series against the Tigers’ elite starting pitching. And their fate could hinge on how they fare against Scherzer on Sunday in Boston. In his career, Scherzer has a 3.86 ERA in four starts at Fenway Park. But in his eight career starts against the Red Sox, Scherzer has a 7.02 ERA, his worst against any opponent. This season, however, he made two starts against the Red Sox and allowed only two runs over seven innings in each game.

The Red Sox are likely tweaking their lineup by inserting left-hander Mike Carp at first base instead of right-hander Mike Napoli to face Scherzer, and right-hander Jonny Gomes in left field instead of left-hander Daniel Nava. The Red Sox wore down top pitchers David Price and Matt Moore in the ALDS with their patient approach, but struck out 17 times on Saturday. Scherzer struck out 240 batters in 214 1/3 innings this season, and 13 in only nine postseason innings. The Red Sox are countering with Clay Buchholz, who despite injuries this season posted a strong 1.74 ERA over 16 starts. But something will have to give on Sunday.

And in the next game, the Red Sox will face Verlander at perhaps his best this season. Verlander, who endured an up and down year but still punched up a 3.46 ERA over 218 1/3 innings, obliterated the Oakland Athletics lineup in the ALDS. In 15 innings against in the first round, he allowed no runs, six hits, walked only two and struck out 21 batters. Perhaps the Red Sox can topple Scherzer or get into the Tigers’ uneven bullpen, but then they will face the buzz saw of Verlander. And perhaps after Doug Fister in Game 4, they could face a combination Sanchez, Scherzer and Verlander again. Good luck with that, Boston.

More MLB playoff coverage

Pitching carries the Tigers over the Red Sox, writes Barry Svrluga.

The Dodgers are in a 2-0 hole after the Cardinals won again, this time thanks to the pitching of rookie Michael Wacha, writes Dave Sheinin.

Today’s game

8 p.m. ALCS Game 2: Detroit at Boston » WTTG (Channel 5), WBFF (Channel 45), WSPZ (570 AM)

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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