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Friday, October 18, 2013

Red Sox Are 1 Win Away from the 2013 World Series After Another 1-run Victory

All season long, one of the Red Sox' M.O. has been bouncing back from normally crushing losses. That has carried over to the postseason as Boston beat Detroit 4-3 in Game 5 of the ALCS tonight at Comerica Park. Koji Uehara recorded (2nd save of the series, 4th of the postseason) the first five-out save in MLB this October, which featured two strikeouts.

The Red Sox lead the series 3-2 with two chances to win at Fenway Park: Game 6 is Saturday and Game 7 would be Sunday but let's not hope it gets to that.

Two themes from the entire series continued in Boston's favor: they won their third one-run game and it's all thanks to their top-notch relievers. After being basically unhittable in Game 1, Anibal Sanchez (1-1; 6 IP, 4 runs, 3 earned runs, 9 hits, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks) came back to Earth in a big way. Jon Lester (1-1) was also better in Game 1 but tonight was all about surviving. He went 5.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks.

The Red Sox scored all their runs in the first three innings, specifically three in the second and one in the third. Suddenly red-hot Mike Napoli (3 for 4, double, 2 runs) started the surge with a solo homer (his second of the ALCS) to dead center that was estimated to travel 460 feet. Lester's personal catcher David Ross even helped himself at the plate with two hits including an RBI double. Jacoby Ellsbury (walk, 2 stolen bases) reached on an infield single that scored rookie Xander Bogaerts (who batted eighth, started at third base and hit a double). Napoli made it 4-0 on a wild pitch by Sanchez.

Napoli's last run, which turned out to be huge, was a quality baserunning play. Completely different from Miguel Cabrera getting thrown out by Jonny Gomes at home plate in the first to end the first inning. Detroit has to be the slowest team in MLB, that's one thing the Red Sox have tried to exploit. Cabrera did what he does best: he kicked off Detroit's rally with an RBI single in the fifth.

Ross had run over Tigers catcher Alex Avila so he had to leave in the fourth inning with a knee strain. Enter backup catcher Brayan Pena who drove in a run with a single in the sixth. A run scored but Junichi Tazawa did his job by getting Cabrera to ground into a double play in the seventh-one of three turned by the Red Sox in Game 5. Craig Breslow got two outs, one of which was the hopeless Prince Fielder (1 for 4, saw 10 pitches) before Tazawa retired the last five Detroit batters in the game.

Game 6 is a rematch of Game 2 with Max Scherzer taking on Clay Buchholz. Scherzer was incredible but his bullpen totally let the team down as Boston rallied for the 6-5 win. I still like Buchholz's chances to have a good outing given his talent level. You have to feel like the Red Sox have the momentum too since they've won three out of the last four games (2 of 3 in Detroit) to put the Tigers on the brink of elimination.

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