Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers Pose Biggest Threat to Red Sox in American League As Postseason Looms

walk-off copyThe Red Sox are in the home stretch, and all signs are pointing to a deep playoff run for Boston.

Clay Buchholz has made his long-awaited return to the rotation, the Red Sox’ bats are exploding for runs and all the pieces seem to be falling into place for a team that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2009. The road to the World Series won’t be easy, however, as many American League foes pose some serious threats.

The Red Sox took two of three from the Tigers in the first week of September — including a win over Max Scherzer — but Boston was able to avoid Justin Verlander in the series. Detroit and Boston are arguably the two best teams in the AL, but if the two do meet in the postseason, the Sox won’t be lucky enough to dodge Verlander again.

Let’s look at that and other topics in this week’s mailbag.

 Who will be the three starting pitchers in the first round of the playoffs?
–David Gao

I think it could be Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey. A lot will depend on how Buchholz  does down the stretch, and if he can bounce back from such a long layoff. I would think they would use a fourth pitcher, as well, and have Jon Lester come back for Game 5 if necessary, and I think Jake Peavy would get the nod in Game 4.

Can we find some consistent relief pitching before October?
–Kathy Bradley 

I think roles will become more defined in September. There are many guys in the bullpen now with the September call-ups, but I think the core guys will have a better feel for when they can expect to pitch down the stretch. It seems they have been using Brandon Workman in more pressure-type situations as of late. I think they are trying to gauge who fits where before October rolls around.

How does Quintin Berry keep himself ready to go in as a pinch runner? Does he exercise or run in place in the dugout?
--Cammy O’Brien 

I think he does a lot of stretching to stay loose. I remember my friend Dave Roberts was always ready to make that pinch running appearance and  he of course stole the biggest base in Red Sox history. At home, there is a hitting cage that is fairly long to run in behind the dugout.

Just wanted to know if you think you have all the “Eck-isms” down pat now?
–Bonnie Newman

There are a few from time to time that catch me off-guard because I have not heard them in a awhile. Eck speak is truly unique. I have been around him enough over the years that I think I have heard them all. I think there is an app for that as well. I will check and get back to you.

Do Yankee fans recognize you, and what reaction do they give you?
–Mark Costine 

Yes. I am often told by Yankee fans that Michael Kay is better.

Who does your shopping? You sport the suits well, but do you pick them out yourself?
-Mary Ann 

Always get help from my friends at Eastern Clothing in Watertown, MA. Every January I go in and they help pick out my suits for the season. They have been great to me over the years. Matching combinations are not my strong suit.

Do you ever go,  “Man, I have watched a lot of baseball in my lifetime?”
-Cameron Brett 

No, I have a long way to go. Ten seasons in the minors and 13 with the Sox. Keep in mind Vin Scully is going to do his 65th season next year.

Who do you think the Red Sox’ biggest threat is in the American League?
–@tomENGLISH97

I think it is the Detroit Tigers. They appear to me to be the most well-rounded team there is. It was a good measuring stick for the Sox in the last series, but they did not face Justin Verlander in the series and they most definitely would in the postseason.

Is the 2013 team equal to, greater than or less than the 2004 team? I say greater than.
–@jimmystyle420ps

Not ready to make that determination yet. I will say there are some similarities, especially in the character department. Everybody truly likes each other and there is no shortage of personalities on this edition of the Sox.

–How far do you believe the Red Sox will go this year? The team has a “never die” attitude.
‏@RealBNawn

I think a championship is within reason. Health and some luck needs to play in.

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