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October 13, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

ALCS Game Two Preview: Tigers at Red Sox

by Ben Carsley

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Tigers (Max Scherzer) vs. Red Sox (Clay Buchholz)
PECOTA Odds of Winning: Red Sox 51.2%, Tigers 48.8%

Tigers vs. Buchholz (R)

Red Sox vs. Scherzer (R)

Austin Jackson, CF (R)

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (L)

Torii Hunter, RF (R)

Shane Victorino, RF (S)

Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)

Dustin Pedroia, 2B (R)

Prince Fielder, 1B (L)

David Ortiz, DH (L)

Victor Martinez, DH (S)

Mike Carp, 1B (L)

Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)

Jonny Gomes, LF (R)

Don Kelly, LF (L)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (S)

Alex Avila, C (L)

Stephen Drew, SS (L)

Omar Infante, 2B (R)

Will Middlebrooks, 3B (R)

The Red Sox and Tigers finished first and second in runs scored during the regular season.

You never would’ve known it last night, as Detroit edged out Boston, 1-0, in Game One, limiting the Red Sox to just one hit behind an incredible performance from Anibal Sanchez.

Game Two could be similarly low scoring, as the Tigers are throwing their co-ace Max Scherzer, while the Red Sox counter with their highest-upside arm in Clay Buchholz.

Buchholz only threw 108 1/3 innings this season, but those innings came with a 1.74 ERA and 2.78 FIP. In his Game Three postseason start against the Rays, Buchholz went six innings and allowed three runs en route to a Boston loss.

The good news for Red Sox fans is that the majority of Detroit’s lineup—Miguel Cabrera included—has struggled against Buccholz historically. Only Peralta and Avila have hit him well.

And Buchholz will likely have to be at or near his best, as the Red Sox face a tall task in tackling Scherzer. The Tigers’ right-hander pitched seven innings of two-run ball in his Game One ALDS start against the A’s, then allowed one run in a two-inning relief stint in Game Four.

That continued a season of dominance for Baseball Prospectus’ AL Cy Young Award winner, who struck out 240 batters in 214.1 innings in the regular season, en route to a 2.74 ERA. Scherzer made two starts against the Red Sox this year, going seven innings and allowing two earned runs in each appearance while striking out a batter per inning.

Boston’s two best lefties, Ellsbury and Ortiz, have had significant success against Scherzer, as has the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia. The rest of the Red Sox starting nine has experienced significantly less success, though, which gels with Scherzer’s regular-season platoon split.

While the Red Sox have used a pretty consistent lineup when all bodies are healthy this year, we’re seeing at least two significant changes for Game Two.

The first change will come courtesy of Mike Carp, as Napoli sat against Boston’s two starts against Scherzer this year and reports indicate he will do so again today. Carp is a career 2-for-8 hitter against Scherzer, while Napoli has hit just 1-for-13 against Detroit’s co-ace.

In a more curious move, the Red Sox are also reportedly going to start Jonny Gomes over Nava despite overwhelming evidence that Scherzer throws with his right hand. Nava is just 1-for-9 in his career against Scherzer, but had Boston’s lone hit on Saturday.

And finally, after going 0-for-2 last night, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see Xander Bogaerts get the start at third base over Middlebrooks. Bogaerts walked and scored twice in the Red Sox’ Game Four win over Tampa Bay, and Middlebrooks has gone just 3-for-15 thus far in the playoffs.

The Tigers and Red Sox used four and three relievers, respectively, last night, but it should be all hands on deck for Game Two, as no reliever pitched more than an inning.

My Prediction: PECOTA is calling this one for the Red Sox ever so slightly, but unless Buchholz is lights out, it’s hard to bet against Scherzer. Behind one of baseball’s best pitchers, the Tigers will edge past Boston once again, and head home with a two-game lead.

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

4 comments have been left for this article.

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Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/13)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/13)
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Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: NL... (10/14)
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