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After two 1-0 outcomes in the first three games of the ALCS, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland decided enough was enough and rearranged his lineup. When the dust from Game 4 settled and the Tigers emerged with a 7-3 win to tie the series at 2-2, Leyland looked like a genius.
With Jake Peavy taking the mound for the Red Sox, Leyland dropped struggling leadoff hitter Austin Jackson to the 8-spot and moved everyone else up in the batting order. Yes, Miguel Cabrera was hitting second. The move paid off big time almost immediately as the Tigers took advantage of Peavy’s second inning wildness (three walks) to score five runs and jump out to a lead they would never relinquish.
Jackson opened up the scoring by drawing a bases loaded walk, the first of four times he would reach base on the night. Former Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias had a potential inning-ending double play ball turn into an RBI groundout when Dustin Pedroia couldn’t handle the hot shot. Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera then capitalized with back-to-back hits to give the Tigers a 5-0 lead.
Detroit would tack on two more runs in the fourth inning, and again Jackson was in the middle of the scoring. Omar Infante led off with a double, then scored when Jackson’s sharply hit grounder deflected off the glove of a diving Pedroia for an infield hit. That would be all for Peavy, who exited after just three innings. Cabrera would add another RBI on a single to center off Brandon Workman, ultimately charging Peavy with seven earned runs and the loss.
Meanwhile, Tigers Doug Fister continued the dominance of Detroit’s starting pitching. Fister gave up just one run in six innings, striking out seven (although he did allow eight hits). Though the Red Sox did manage to avoid a no-hitter watch (in the first inning, no less!), there would be no timely hitting that had been Boston’s savior in Games 2 and 3. As a team, the Red Sox were 2-of-16 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners on base (hat tip to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick for both stats).
On a positive note, Boston put up 12 hits in the box score, and 16 chances with runners in scoring position is a heck of a lot more than Games 1, 2 and 3 (combined, probably). They had their chances to claw their way back from seven runs down in three of the last four innings, but only mustered single runs in the sixth, seventh, and ninth before succumbing to the Tigers bullpen.
In the sixth, the Red Sox had three straight singles with one out, the last being Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s RBI single to end the shutout. But Stephen Drew struck out and pinch hitter Mike Carp rolled over to the second basemen to end the inning. One inning later, Jacoby Ellsbury led off with his third hit of the night and scored on Shane Victorino’s double. But Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli couldn’t get the ball out of the infield to quell another threat.
After going in order in the eighth, Xander Bogaerts, who took over at third after Carp pinch hit for Will Middlebrooks, started Game 4′s final hurrah for the Red Sox with a ground rule double off Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit. Ellsbury followed with an RBI triple – he ended up a homer short of the cycle – but again the Red Sox couldn’t take advantage, as Benoit recorded two Ks before getting his nemesis, Ortiz, to fly out harmlessly to right field.
In a rematch of Game 1, Game 5 features Jon Lester (6.1 innings, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K in Game 1) goes up against Anibal Sanchez (6.0 innings, 0 H, 0 ER, 6 BB, 12 K in Game 1). Perhaps Red Sox manager John Farrell will shake up his lineup (Xander Bogaerts, anyone?) as the Red Sox will try to take a 3-2 lead before heading back to Fenway Park for Game 6. First pitch is at 8:07 PM on Thursday night.