BOSTON RED SOX (102-68) at DETROIT TIGERS (98-73)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Detroit -118 & 7.5 under -130
After tying up the ALCS with the Red Sox at two games apiece on Wednesday, the Tigers will look to gain momentum in Thursday’s Game 5 at home before the series shifts back to Fenway Park for the remainder of the ALCS.
Detroit will send right-hander Anibal Sanchez (15-9, 2.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) to the mound on Thursday night, attempting to win a second game in this ALCS. Toeing the rubber for visiting Boston will be veteran southpaw Jon Lester (16-9, 3.64 ERA, 1.27 WHIP). These two pitchers squared off in quite a duel during Game 1 of this series, as Sanchez and the Tigers came away with a 1-0 win. During that game, Sanchez threw six no-hit innings with 12 of his team’s 17 strikeouts. But Lester was also sharp, going 6.1 innings while allowing only one run. This series has been dominated by the Detroit starting pitching, and they continued this trend on Wednesday night as Doug Fister went six innings and only allowed one run while striking out seven. Tigers starters have now struck out 42 batters in 27 innings pitched and allowed a mere three runs over that time (1.00 ERA). DH Victor Martinez has been a huge part of Detroit’s offense so far this postseason (15-for-35, 5 XBH) and he has two hits in each of the past three games. With Wednesday’s win, Detroit once again took the edge in the season series by one game (6-5), and improved its 2013 home record to 53-32 (.624). The Red Sox dropped to 46-39 (.541) on the road after the loss.
Jon Lester has been strong for the Red Sox this postseason, allowing only three runs on nine hits over 14 innings pitched (1-1, 2 GS). Two of the three runs that Lester has allowed during these playoffs have come from solo home runs. Lester has been extremely reliable this year, averaging over 107 pitches per game, and has pitched at least six innings in 16 of his last 20 outings. The Red Sox are 20-15 when he takes the mound, but only 8-12 on the road, where the left-hander is personally 8-7 with a 4.21 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. In his career against Detroit, Lester has gone 2-3 (team is 3-5) with a 4.24 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over eight starts. These subpar numbers can be attributed to the fact that 3B Miguel Cabrera (11-for-21, 3 XBH, 6 walks), OF Torii Hunter (13-for-33, 3 doubles, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and DH Victor Martinez (6-for-17, 1 triple, 1 HR, 3 RBI) have enjoyed plenty of success in the matchup. However, the lefty has been a great postseason pitcher with a 2.41 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 10 appearances (eight starts). If Lester gets into trouble, he will have great faith in Boston’s bullpen that has pitched 13.1 scoreless innings in this series with a .200 opponents’ BA and 10 strikeouts. For the season, Red Sox relievers are 32-23 with a 3.57 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.
Anibal Sanchez looks to continue the tremendous performance that the Detroit starting pitching has displayed this series. Sanchez’s 2.57 ERA in the regular season led the American League, and his 202 strikeouts ranked sixth. Although he walked six batters in Game 1, his control has been solid all season with 62 free passes in 192.1 innings. The Tigers are 18-13 when he starts, including 10-5 at home where Sanchez is personally 8-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The one problem with Sanchez is that he is inconsistent. This has been on display in a microcosm during the playoffs. In his first playoff start against the Athletics, Sanchez allowed three home runs and did not make it out of the fifth inning in a 6-3 Detroit loss. Then, against the top scoring offense in the majors, Sanchez no-hit the Red Sox over six innings and struck out 12. That was his first career start against them, so some of the Boston batters may have an easier time picking up his pitches a second time around. The only Boston hitters who have more than six at-bats against Sanchez are OF Shane Victorino (.217 BA, 1 HR, 9 K’s in 46 AB), SS Stephen Drew (5-for-22, 6 K’s) and reserve C Davis Ross (2-for-12, 1 HR, 3 K’s). Sanchez is now 2-3 with a 2.64 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in five postseason starts, and has averaged 6.2 innings per start in 2013. But if Sanchez gets into trouble in Game 5, he has a shaky bullpen behind him, as evidenced by an 18-27 record, 4.04 ERA and 1.35 WHIP this season. And after allowing two runs in four innings in Game 4, Detroit relievers now carry a 6.75 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over eight innings in the ALCS.