BOSTON — There’s a first for everything, including a Red Sox-Tigers playoff series.
The Red Sox and Tigers, who are set to square off in their first ever head-to-head playoff matchup, were both at Fenway Park on Friday. Boston was trying to keep any rust from settling in after wrapping up its ALDS in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, while Detroit was just hours removed from a winner-take-all Game 5 battle in Oakland.
Both teams spoke with the media Friday, and each club is anticipating a hard-fought series. The Tigers, who represented the American League in last year’s World Series, were considered by many before the season to be the AL favorites. In order for them to get back to the Fall Classic, however, they’ll need to take down a Red Sox team that is in the midst of a special run.
Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS will take place at Fenway on Saturday and Sunday. The series will then shift to Detroit for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary). Before the two teams start up, let’s unload some notes to see what we’re looking at going into Game 1.
John Farrell said that he was impressed by how Buchholz threw the ball in Tampa Bay in Game 3, and that Lackey could benefit from side work.
“I feel like we can get [Lackey] some live work against some hitters that will take place towards the end of [Friday’s] workout,” Farrell said. “The game that John pitched over in Detroit earlier in the year he threw the ball well in Detroit as well. We just feel like with the alignment that we have, it gives us the best opportunity to hopefully take control of the series.”
Lackey went 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 13 home starts during the regular season, and went 4-10 with a 4.48 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 16 road starts. He is 4-1 with a 3.83 ERA in six career starts at Comerica Park, and that includes going seven innings while giving up just two runs in Detroit back on June 20.
Lester was asked what he remembers about playing with Sanchez at Double-A Portland, and the left-hander offered this as a response:
“I think we were probably completely different pitchers back then — naive, young, stupid, throwers. But obviously watching him over the past couple of years in Florida and now Detroit really mature and figure out who he is.
“I think that everybody’s kind of nemesis when you get called up is figuring out who you are as a pitcher. You try to model yourself off of a lot of people growing up and minor leagues, and when you get to the big leagues, you have to figure out who you are. And I think he’s done a good job of that. Obviously, his stats speak for themselves. ERA title winner this year. You know it’s going to be tough. Just like the rest of their pitching staff. You know you’ve got to keep them within reach and just hope they have a bad game.”
Victorino, who faced Sanchez many times while playing in the NL East, is 10-for-43 (.233) with a home run and two RBIs in his career against the right-hander.
“When we’re on the plane, we’re not sitting back there goofing off. Most of the time guys are talking baseball, talking shop,” Lester said. “I had plenty of conversations with Jonny [Gomes] in the back of the plane ‑‑ I’ve had a lot of at‑bats with him when I was younger, and figuring how do right‑handers approach me? How do I make the adjustment when something is going wrong or listening to him talk to somebody about running the bases or what do you look for in a takeoff move? Different things to enhance your ability to be a better baseball player.”
“I think each team is going to play to their strengths,” Farrell said. “We know this is a team we’re going to go up against with power arms and power bats. They do have speed at the top of their order. But Jim [Leyland] is going to run his team as he sees fit. If there’s a different style, it’s probably the strengths of the rosters as they stand today.”
“He’s a guy that people gravitate to, naturally. I think he’s got natural leadership abilities,” Farrell said. “And that wouldn’t just be because he was a catcher at the time. He’s a personality that people love to be around. He’s positive, he’s energetic. I know he’s coming into this series swinging the hell out of the bat.
“Putting that aside he’s a genuine person. Very good player. And I think because of the person he is and the player he is, he grabs his teammates’ respect. He never likes to show a teammate up. And he’s all about what needs to take place inside of a game on a given day. And that’s what he showed us for the year-plus that he was here. But just a very accomplished hitter.”
“There’s a place for [Ross] in here. As I see it on paper on a couple of situations. I’ve yet to meet with both he and [Jarrod Saltalamacchia], so forgive me if I’m not going to reveal that right now,” Farrell said Friday. “I think it’s important that they hear it first. But there’s some matchups in here that ‑‑ Salty’s had good performance against some guys in the rotation. We’ll look to mix and match. And it may be a strength of the combination on our side as opposed to facing an opposing pitcher.”
“It will be Middlebrooks tomorrow,” Farrell said Friday. “And then based on some matchups, we’ve got some things that we’re looking at in a couple of different spots.”
Jim Leyland was asked about Iglesias, who the Tigers acquired as part of the July trade that sent Peavy to Boston, and this is what the Detroit skipper had to say about the slick-fielding shortstop:
“He’s a terrific young player, there’s no question about that. I think people have a tendency to forget how young he is, it’s a pretty big stage. He’s a very energetic player, sometimes too energetic with a terrific, terrific future. He runs good. We all know about his defensive ability. I think he’s going to be a good hitter at some point. Probably swings too much like a big man right now. But just all kind of talent. And he’s been a great addition to us.”