The Red Sox head back to Fenway up 3-2 in the ALCS thanks to a 4-3 win over the Tigers tonight in Detroit.
The big story: There was actually some offense for both teams. The Tigers and Red Sox each had double-digit hits tonight, despite respectable performances by Jon Lester and Anibal Sanchez. Neither starter was at his best -- especially Sanchez early on -- but neither gave a Jake Peavy-level implosion, either.
Mike Napoli was the star of the show. Nap got things going with a mammoth home run to dead center in the 2nd inning. The Fox broadcast reported it as 445 feet; the ESPN box score says 460. I'd side with ESPN -- he crushed that pitch. But you know that, because you watched the above GIF 30-35 times before reading any of this.
It wasn't the only pitch he hit well, as Napoli also registered a single and a double in his three-hit performance. Dustin Pedroia and David Ross also had multi-hit games, while David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Xander Bogaerts also got on the stat sheet.
Bogaerts looked solid throughout the game. He made every play in the field that he needed to make, including smoothly delivering a throw to Pedroia at 2nd to turn one of three Sox double plays. His hit was a double; he also walked and scored. Interestingly, John Farrell removed him in the 9th (after he walked) and pinch-ran Will Middlebrooks. Farrell was clearly playing the personalities, just trying to get Will in the game so Middlebrooks could make an impact in some way.
Lester performed acceptably, giving up two runs over 5 1/3. Of course, we'd rather see him go longer, but he was laboring in the 6th and Farrell was smart not to take any chances and turn directly to Junichi Tazawa. Taz allowed an inherited runner, and wasn't nearly as shutdown as he was in game 3, but he looked better on the mound than Lester. It really appears that Farrell has learned to be quick with the hook after making the mistake of leaving Clay Buchholz in too long back in game 2.
Farrell also continues to lean on Koji Uehara, who turned in a five-out save tonight for just the second time this year. Koji didn't have his best stuff -- to paraphrase Tony Massarotti on the CSNNE postgame show, this wasn't your nine-pitch, eight-strike, 1-2-3 inning that we're used to. He went to a couple full counts (including against Jose Iglesias, who may have a negative OPS for the postseason, I'd have to check), and he wasn't getting the movement on his splitters that we're accustomed to. But he got the job done.
On the negative side of the ledger, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew continue to really, really slump. Drew looked absolutely lost at the plate, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. I would not be at all surprised to see Middlebrooks return to the lineup in game 6 and Drew sit down for Bogaerts. Victorino, meanwhile, tried everything he could think of, and still went 0-for-5. He actually hit left handed for his first three at bats against Sanchez, due to his vast experience that way against the pitcher in the NL. That got him nothing, so he switched back to the right side of the plate against Jose Veras and promptly struck out. In the 9th, with Middlebrooks on 3rd due to some poor defense by Detroit (and some smart baserunning by Will), Victorino couldn't bunt in fair territory, ruining a safety squeeze that, let's face it, is about a 95% certainty when factoring in how immobile Detroit's corner infielders are.
But hey, let's focus on the positives. The Sox finally got to one of Detroit's starters. They've got the lead. Xander looked great. Napoli's got his swing back. And the team heads back home to Fenway looking to put things away on Saturday. The World Series is one win away.
GIF by GIFDSports, via NESN