DETROIT The Detroit Tigers now find themselves in a position to make history or go home after losing Game 5 to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.
Since the best-of-seven format was adopted in 1985, only four American League Championship Series were knotted at 2-2, as this one was.
The Game 5 winner went onto reach the World Series in all four of those previous situations. In fact, the only one of those series that went seven games was in 2003, when the New York Yankees won Games 5 and 7 to take the series from Boston.
The pressures on them to hold us back, said Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter. Whatever happens, we are going to go all out. When we play looser, we are really good. And when we go down 3-2, were looser.
Detroit trailed the Oakland Athletics 2-1 in the best-of-five Division Series. But the Tigers won the last two games one in Detroit and one in Oakland to take the ALDS.
The pressure is on them, said Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder. They have the lead in the series.
The difference in overcoming the Red Sox and the As is playing both games on the road at Fenway Park, where the clubs split two games to open their series.
However, the Tigers will have two dominant postseason starters going on Saturday and possibly Sunday in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, respectively. Scherzer has a 2.25 ERA in these playoffs, while Verlander has an amazing 0.39 ERA with one run allowed in 23 innings pitched this October.
Boston will start Clay Buchholz (6.17 postseason ERA) on Saturday and John Lackey (3.00) on Sunday.
IGLESIAS THRILLS FANS
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How good was Tigers shortstop Jose Igelesias sprint-and-swipe catch that robbed David Ortiz of a bloop hit in the third inning?
Well, Detroit play-by-play announcer Dan Dickerson was confident enough that the ball would hit sod to say, He wont get there. Only he did, running from the other side of second base while in a heavy shift. He made a beeline for short left-center field and quickly swiped his glove downward to pluck the ball out of the air at about knee level.
The sellout crowd of 42,669, with many waving their white rally towels, shrieked and applauded for a good while.
Dickersons quick recovery and explanation: An optical illusion. And it seemed to be.
Ortiz, who played with Iglesias before he was traded to Detroit in July, clapped after the catch was made.
He kind of did some funny things to me there, Iglesias said.
When did he know he had the ball?
Until when I catch it, Iglesias said. I had to hustle and was able to make a play for my team.
Iglesias also caught an eighth-inning pop-up by Stephen Drew that was near the foul line.
Neither left fielder Jhonny Peralta nor third baseman Miguel Cabrera, with limited mobility, could get close to it.
FIELDER DRAWS BOOS
Fielder, the Tigers' cleanup hitter, has 37 postseason at-bats with zero runs batted in. He received what are believed to be his first boos in Detroit after grounding out with one on and two out in the fifth inning.
He was booed again after grounding out with nobody on for the third out in the seventh.
Theyre fans, Fielder said. If thats what they want to do, its fine. Its definitely not pleasant, but its part of the deal.
Fielder had a first-inning single and is batting .243 in the postseason with a double being his lone extra-base hit. He was fifth in the league with 106 RBI, and has reached 100 RBI three consecutive years and six times overall.
He hasn't knocked in a run in 10 playoff games this year, and hasnt registered an RBI in 17 consecutive postseason games dating back to Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS.
AVILA HOPES TO PLAY SATURDAY
Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila tried playing through a left knee injury suffered in a second-inning collision at the plate. However, he was removed during the fourth inning, when switch-hitting Brayan Pena replaced him as a pinch-hitter.
Avila, who has started every postseason game for the Tigers, was listed as day-to-day by the club with a patellar tendon strain. That tendon attaches the bottom of the knee cap to the top of the shin bone and works to straighten the leg. Knee injuries are particularly difficult for catchers, who squat for about 90 minutes per game, putting a premium on that joints stability.
Asked for his treatment plan before Saturdays game, Avila said, Strong pain-killers and most likely Im planning on playing Saturday. I should be all right.
Obviously, tomorrow should tell a lot. Ive dealt with it on and off for three years.
Avila has played with patellar tendinitis most of his career.
The former All-Star catcher is crucial to the Tigers for his ability to work with pitchers and play exceptional defense. Hes batting .250 in the ALCS, and had three RBI with a two-run homer in Game 2 against Buchholz, who will start Game 6 on Saturday in Boston.
Avila held onto a ball thrown home by second baseman Omar Infante after bracing for the contact brought by Red Sox catcher David Ross coming in hard and standing up. Ross patted Avila on his behind to acknowledge the tough play made by his counterpart.
I twisted and hyper-extended it in a weird way, Avila said. Thats part of the game. I didnt think it was a dirty play at all.
Avila said he wanted to continue playing, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland thought it was wise to take him out after discussing the injury with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. Leyland said Avila also took a foul ball in the same knee, adding, The knee was pretty bad.
Al Alburquerque became the first Tigers reliever to appear in five games in a single postseason series by coming on for the ninth inning. He got out of a two-on and one-out jam, and has a 3.33 ERA in the ALCS.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez, who notched his 16th hit, is one shy of tying the postseason club record set by Carlos Guillen in 2006. Sean Casey and Placido Polanco both had 16 hits in 2006, when Detroit lost the World Series in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Martinez is batting a team-high .421 in 10 playoff games. Caseys .432 average in 2006 is the club mark for batters with a minimum 30 at-bats.