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John Lackey matched Justin Verlander pitch for pitch, and the Boston Red Sox managed to break through for a run on a 3-2 pitch from Verlander to Mike Napoli. Verlander’s 100th pitch went deep to left-center and the only run of the game gave the Red Sox a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the ALCS. The Red Sox now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Verlander was supposed to be the stopper for the Tigers, but Lackey had something to say about that with his best start in a Red Sox uniform. He lasted 6 2/3 innings (he wanted to go at least one more out) and gave up just four hits while striking out a postseason career-high eight. He did not walk a single batter while throwing 97 pitches, including 66 for strikes.
On the other side, Verlander was just as dominant. He threw eight innings with 10 strikeouts, including six straight at one point, and four hits allowed. He also walked a batter and allowed the only run in the contest.
Lackey got in a jam in the first inning. After getting two outs with Torii Hunter on first base, a Prince Fielder single put runners on first and third. Victor Martinez would fly to center to end the threat.
In the fourth, David Ortiz drove a pitch to deep center that nearly got out, but Andy Dirks caught it right in front of the bulllpen fence to keep the game knotted at 0-0.
The first hit for the Red Sox did not come until the fifth inning after being no-hit at least the first five innings the first two games of the series. It came off the bat of Jonny Gomes, who reached on an infield single to shortstop.
The next opportunity for the Tigers came in the fifth as Jhonny Peralta led off the inning with a double. After Alex Avila grounded out to second to move Peralta to third, Lackey was able to buckle down and get Omar Infante to strike out and Dirks to hit a groundball to second.
After being deadlocked at 0-0 for six innings, Napoli came up with one out in the seventh and took the sixth pitch of the at-bat into the seats to put the Red Sox up 1-0.
Lackey would nearly make it out of the seventh, but gave up an one-out single to Martinez and got Peralta to fly out before John Farrell called on Craig Breslow to end the inning. Lackey was upset, but Breslow got the job done. After walking Avila on five pitches, Infate grounded into a fielder’s choice to second to end the threat.
In the eighth, Stephen Drew reached on a single and made it to second on an error by Hunter in right. He was unable to get any further as the Red Sox finished 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position (RISP).
In the bottom of that inning, Breslow struck out pinch hitter Jose Iglesias looking and was pulled after walking the free-swinging Austin Jackson. Hunter would single off Junichi Tazawa to put runners on the corner. Tazawa would stay in to face Miguel Cabrera as Koji Uehara was still warming – Cabrera was 2-of-4 with two home runs off the Red Sox closer. It paid off, as Tazawa would strike out Cabrera with a fastball off the outside part of the plate. Cabrera finished with a career-high nine swinging strikes on the day.
Uehara was then called on for the four-out save and struck out Fielder on three pitches to end yet another threat. The Tigers were 0-for-7 with RISP.
In the ninth, Martinez yet again got a base hit, but Uehara forced Peralta into the double play before Avila struck out to end the game.
The Tigers starters have combined for 21 innings with only two runs while striking out 35, walking nine, and allowing only six hits. Yet the Red Sox still find themselves up 2-1 in the ALCS.
Jake Peavy will be on the mound for the Red Sox in Game 4 against fellow right-handed starter Doug Fister of the Tigers. The Wednesday contest will start at 8:07 p.m. on Fox.