Just two days ago, the Detroit Tigers blew a 5-0 lead and allowed the Boston Red Sox to pull even in the 2013 ALCS. Bouncing back from that type of devastating defeat is difficult to say the least.
Although Jim Leyland's club has the benefit of returning to the friendly confines of Comerica Park for Game 3 on Tuesday, there are several keys Detroit would do well to adhere to.
A positive mindset helps, and Leyland knows not to get too high or too low between how results can change in such a drastic way on a day-to-day basis in the MLB:
"When you win you don’t get long to celebrate - when you lose you don’t have to wait long to play again.” – Leyland http://t.co/GhIzy2XSSA— MLB (@MLB) October 15, 2013
Considering the next three games are at home for the Tigers, a victory in the third game would recapture the momentum in their favor and make a 3-2 lead in the series realistic if and when the series heads back to Fenway Park.
Here is an overview of how Detroit can assert its will to overcome its most recent loss and right the ship in its bid to return to the World Series.
A 3rd Great Playoff Performance from Justin Verlander
It never hurts to have an American League Cy Young Award winner as the proverbial "ace in the hole." Fortunately for Leyland and the Tigers, such is the case in giving Verlander the starting nod in Game 3.
Verlander didn't have the best season, going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA, but he's been lights out this postseason.
The 30-year-old flamethrower fanned 21 hitters in 15 scoreless innings of work and won Detroit the decisive fifth game in the ALDS over the Oakland Athletics.
He should have a big advantage over his counterpart, John Lackey, who posted a 4.32 ERA after the All-Star break.
It's also worth noting that during the regular season, Lackey went 4-10 with a 4.48 ERA on the road—more than two runs higher than what he posted in Boston.
If Verlander has anywhere close to his best stuff, he should be good for at least seven solid innings and double-digit strikeouts. Both seem feasible given Verlander's recent form and that the Red Sox have struck out 32 times through the first two ALCS games.
It would be ideal for Verlander to save some strength if possible, since he could be deployed as a reliever later in the series should the Tigers be threatened with elimination.
More Production from Top of the Order
What would help the Tigers a lot is getting more out of their bats in the Nos. 1 and 2 slots from Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter.
Who will win the ALCS?
As renowned as Jackson and Hunter are for their defense in the outfield, it is vital that they get on track at the dish.
Hunter at least showed signs of life in smacking a double in Game 1, which put Detroit in position to get insurance in the top of the ninth.
More will be needed to set up studs such as Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta for RBI opportunities, though. Perhaps facing a lesser pitcher than Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz in Lackey will help in that regard.
Pitch Around David Ortiz Late
This almost goes without saying, but the Tigers' Joaquin Benoit essentially had no choice but to pitch to Ortiz with the bases full and two outs in the bottom of the eighth in Game 2.
The resulting grand slam by Big Papi was historic:
Leyland admitted that he made a mistake in laying out the strategy for Benoit, who may have even done better to walk Ortiz in that situation with a 5-1 lead.
Leyland says he blames himself for not reminding Benoit that the Tigers didn't want to give Ortiz a chance to beat them, in pitching to him.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 14, 2013
Next up was pinch-hitter Mike Napoli, who has but two hits in 17 postseason at-bats. In any event, Detroit is going to avoid pitching to Ortiz in crunch time at all costs this time around.
But that last phrase is not to be taken in the literal sense.
When Leyland sent out Benoit in the eighth, it was the fourth pitcher he'd used for that inning. That's why a strong outing from Verlander is key, so that the Tigers skipper will not have to reach for his bullpen too much—if at all.