Red Sox vs. Tigers: Keys for Detroit to Reassert ALCS Command in Game 3

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 15, 2013

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 13:  Alex Avila #13 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after flying out in the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Two of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 13, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

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:

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


OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Oakland Athletics during Game Five of the American League Division Series at Coliseum on October 10, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Ima
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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


CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25:  Torii Hunter #48 of the Detroit Tigers (L) is congratulated by Austin Jackson #14 after hitting a two-run home run in the 4th inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on July 25, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Phot
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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.

The two have combined for a mere seven hits in 59 at-bats—good for a putrid average of about .119. That isn't ideal when attempting to put together any kind of consistent offense, and it's surprising for a team that finished second in the MLB in runs this year.

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


BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 13:  David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox hits a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers during Game Two of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 13, 2013 in Boston, Massachus
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

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.

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.