Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox: Keys to Each Team Winning ALCS Game 2
Sunday will feature Game 2 of the ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox, and this matchup has the makings of a great pitcher's duel.
Pitching dominated Game 1. The Red Sox were two outs from being no-hit but still nearly tied the game in the ninth. The Tigers held on to win 1-0 and take away Boston's home-field advantage.
Pitching will be the story of the game, but there are other things each team must do in order to win. With one game in the books, both teams will be looking to grab the momentum before the series shifts to Detroit.
The Tigers won the season series 4-3 and have the early advantage in this best-of-seven tilt with a trip to the World Series on the line.
Here are the keys for each team in Game 2.
*All stats are courtesy of MLB.com.
Detroit Tigers: Rely on Max Scherzer to Continue Pitching Like Cy Young Winner
Max Scherzer is likely going to win the 2013 AL Cy Young Award, and the Detroit Tigers need him to continue to pitch like he did all year.
The right-hander went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in the regular season. Through two appearances in the postseason, he has been just as good. He allowed only two runs on three hits while striking out 11 in seven innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics.
Although he was slated to start Game 5, Scherzer pitched in relief in Game 4 when manager Jim Leyland needed him. Scherzer pitched two innings and picked up the win in an elimination game. The 29-year-old pitched in a tough spot on Tuesday, but he showed up when his team needed him. Without him pitching in relief, the Tigers might be at home watching this series.
Overall, Scherzer pitched nine innings in the ALDS and allowed only three runs on six hits with 13 strikeouts.
Scherzer has now pitched in nine postseason games in his career, and he continues to improve. His experience will be a big advantage for him.
Boston was one of the three teams to beat Scherzer this season. He allowed only two runs in seven innings, so it's not like the Red Sox roughed him up.
Scherzer has been great this year, and the Tigers need him to be on top of his game if they are going to win Game 2.
Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz Must Keep Up Incredible Performances
If Clay Buchholz had made every start this season, he may have challenged Max Scherzer for the AL Cy Young Award.
The 29-year-old made only 16 starts this year, but he was spectacular in nearly every one of them. However, a strained neck caused him to miss time from the middle of June through the end of August.
In his 16 starts, Buchholz recorded 13 quality starts. However, he should have had 15. Rain delays caused him to leave after five shutout innings in early June, and a pitch limit in his first start back forced him to leave after another five shutout innings in September.
He went at least six innings in every other start this year and allowed more than three runs only once.
The right-hander went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA. Unfortunately he couldn't stay healthy, but he was incredible when he took the mound.
Buchholz recorded another quality start in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays.
As the Red Sox take on the likely Cy Young Award winner, they will need their own stud to continue his strong season.
Detroit Tigers: Don't Let Big Papi Beat You
If there is one guy that the Tigers can't let beat them, it's David Ortiz.
In 70 career postseason games entering this series, Ortiz hit .288 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI. Those are ridiculous numbers and some of the best that we have seen over the last decade.
Detroit won the season series, but Ortiz certainly did everything he could do. The slugger had four home runs, which tied for the most he had against any opponent in 2013, with seven RBI in 28 at-bats. He had a slash line of .357/.419/.821.
Boston led MLB in runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and it ranked second in average. The Red Sox obviously have more offensive options than just Ortiz, but his bat is a game-changer.
Ortiz hit .309/.395/.564 with 30 homers and 103 RBI this season. Mike Napoli was the only other player on the team with at least 18 home runs or 85 RBI.
The left-handed hitter has owned Scherzer in his career. Ortiz is 7-for-15 with three homers, six RBI and three walks against Scherzer since their first meeting in 2010. Ortiz did take Scherzer deep once this year.
Scherzer can't let Ortiz beat him. It's a dangerous lineup around the slugger, but the right-hander can't afford to make a mistake to Ortiz.
Boston Red Sox: Get Production Throughout the Lineup
As previously mentioned, the Red Sox led baseball in most major offensive categories. Even if David Ortiz doesn't get much to hit, there are plenty of quality hitters throughout the lineup.
Four different players hit above .300 in the ALDS. Nine players had an extra-base hit, and nine also had at least one RBI against the Tampa Bay Rays. A lineup that deep is tough to beat.
Jacoby Ellsbury will be the key player to watch for Boston. He hit .500 with two doubles and four stolen bases in the first round. The outfielder sets the tone at the top of the lineup, and his speed makes it easier for the Red Sox to score.
Ortiz had two homers in the ALDS, but no other Red Sox player hit one. It's going to take other players stepping up with a big bat in order to beat the Tigers, especially with Scherzer on the mound. He's allowed only 19 home runs in 223.1 innings, including the playoffs, this season.
Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia and Jonny Gomes all have the ability to crush a mistake pitch. Boston will need players to help Ortiz produce runs.
Detroit Tigers: Stars Must Produce in the Middle of the Lineup
This is pretty obvious, but it has to happen in order for Detroit to beat Clay Buchholz and the Boston Red Sox. Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez have to lead the way.
In the regular season, Cabrera was the only one of the stars who had success against the Red Sox. Check out the trio's numbers against Boston in 2013:
The trio got only two hits in 10 at-bats in Game 1, which helps explain why the Tigers scored only one run.
Cabrera has been battling injuries for a while, and he's been struggling to get extra-base hits as of late. However, in Game 5 of the ALDS, Cabrera homered for the first time since Sept. 17. It was only his second extra-base hit since Sept. 14.
The reigning AL Most Valuable Player hit .250 in the ALDS, so the Tigers need him to be the hitter he was earlier this year.
Although the other two stars struggled against Boston this year, they both hit well against Oakland. Fielder hit .278, and Martinez hit .450. The first baseman did not have an extra-base hit or RBI in the series, but Martinez had two doubles and a homer with two RBI against the A's.
If those two can continue to produce, the Red Sox won't be able to pitch around Cabrera.
Boston Red Sox: Get to the Tigers Bullpen
Detroit's rotation led the American League with a 3.44 ERA, but its bullpen struggled. It ranked 24th in baseball with a 4.01 ERA. Opponents hit .246 against the bullpen, 18th in the majors, so there are a lot of concerns late in the game.
Manager Jim Leyland went with Scherzer late in Game 4 rather than a reliever because he couldn't trust a reliever to keep the game tied.
Six different players recorded saves for the Tigers, and eight were credited with at least one blown save.
Joaquin Benoit has been solid this year. He converted 24 of 26 save opportunities and finished the season with a 4-1 record and a 2.01 ERA. Benoit saved two games in the ALDS. The right-hander struck out 73 batters and walked only 22 in the regular season.
However, getting to Benoit has been an issue.
Drew Smyly was the only other reliever with an ERA below 3.00. The only other two relievers with at least 49 appearances, Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke, both had an ERA above 4.59.
There were a lot of moving pieces in the bullpen this season. Seventeen different pitchers made a relief appearance for Detroit in 2013, and not many of them had success.
The key for Boston will be patience. The Red Sox ranked third in baseball with 581 walks, so working the count to get Detroit's starters out of the game early will be important. Scherzer will attack the strike zone, but Boston needs to work the count in order to get to the bullpen.
Although the Tigers went five games with the A's, their relievers threw the third-fewest innings in the first round. Limiting the number of pitching changes is its goal, but Boston has to press the issue.
Detroit is at its best when its starters go deep into games, and Boston can't afford to let Scherzer pitch past the sixth inning.