Boston holds off Tigers 1-0
(Boston leads series 2-1)
DETROIT — Once again this October, one run was enough.
John Lackey edged Justin Verlander in the latest duel of these pitching-rich playoffs, and Boston's bullpen shut down Detroit's big boppers with the game on the line to lift the Red Sox over the Tigers 1-0 Tuesday for a 2-1 lead in the AL championship series.
Mike Napoli homered off Verlander in the seventh inning, and Detroit's best chance to rally fell short in the eighth when Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder struck out with runners at the corners.
"The runs are pretty stingy," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "This is what it's about in postseason, is good pitching."
Despite three straight gems by their starters, the Tigers suddenly trail in a best-of-seven series they seemed to control just two days ago. Game 4 is Wednesday night at Comerica Park, with Jake Peavy scheduled to start for the Red Sox against Doug Fister.
Lackey allowed four hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out eight without a walk in a game that was delayed 17 minutes in the second inning because lights on the stadium towers went out.
"I think that little time off gave him a chance to slow down a little bit. He was excited and pumped that first inning," Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "Kind of getting excited with his slider, throwing a little too hard and leaving it over the middle, but he was still pretty effective."
It was the second 1-0 game in this matchup between the highest-scoring teams in the majors. That's been the theme throughout these playoffs, which have included four 1-0 scores and seven shutouts in the first 26 games.
After rallying from a five-run deficit to even the series in Game 2, Boston came away with a win in Detroit against one of the game's best pitchers. The Tigers had a chance for their own comeback in the eighth when Austin Jackson drew a one-out walk and Torii Hunter followed with a single.
But Cabrera, who failed to reach base for the first time in 32 postseason games for the Tigers, never looked comfortable against Junichi Tazawa, swinging and missing at the first two offerings and eventually chasing an outside pitch for strike three.
"He just did a great job pumping the fastballs away," Saltalamacchia said. "He's so sneaky with that 94-95 (mph), it's tough to hit."
Fielder was even more overmatched against Koji Uehara, striking out on three pitches.
Uehara also pitched the ninth for a save, ensuring that Lackey's fine performance wouldn't go to waste.
Lackey pitched poorly his first two seasons in Boston after signing an $82.5 million, five-year contract in December 2009. Then he missed all of 2012 following elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
He's been better this season, and he kept the Tigers off balance Tuesday by effectively changing speeds.
"He just never gave in," Saltalamacchia said.
Napoli's first at-bat in the majors was against Verlander on May 4, 2006, at Comerica Park. He homered then, too.
"He's tough. He was on his game tonight. He was keeping all of us off balance," said Napoli, who rubbed his bat on teammate Jonny Gomes' beard before going up to the plate. "I got to a 3-2 count and put a good swing on a pitch, was able to drive it."
In the last two games, the Tigers have started Verlander and 21-game winner Max Scherzer — and the Red Sox won both.
Throw in Anibal Sanchez's outstanding effort in the opener, when the Red Sox managed only a ninth-inning single in a 1-0 loss, and Detroit's three starters in the ALCS have combined to allow two runs and six hits with 35 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Still, the Tigers have fallen behind because their bullpen blew a four-run lead late in Game 2 and the offense came up empty at home on Tuesday.
Detroit stranded runners on first and third in the first, then wasted Jhonny Peralta's leadoff double in the fifth. Peralta reached third with one out, but an overanxious Omar Infante struck out and Andy Dirks grounded out.
Verlander needed every bit of focus after Jacoby Ellsbury's one-out single in the sixth. The Tigers have not held runners well this year, but a number of pickoff throws helped prevent a steal. At one point, Verlander appeared to be pointing at his wrist, as if to ask the dugout if his delivery to the plate was quick enough.
Amid all that, Verlander got Shane Victorino on a flyout, and after Ellsbury moved to second anyway on a wild pitch, Dustin Pedroia grounded out to end the threat.
Napoli's homer was the first run allowed by Verlander since Sept. 18 — he pitched six scoreless innings in each of his last two starts in the regular season before blanking the opposition for 21 innings in the playoffs.
That streak ended with one swing by Napoli.
Lackey was pulled with one on in the seventh. Craig Breslow came on and walked Alex Avila, but Infante's groundout ended the inning.
The Red Sox appeared to be in deep trouble when Detroit led 5-0 in Game 2, but David Ortiz tied it with an eighth-inning grand slam off closer Joaquin Benoit, and the Red Sox won it in the ninth.
Verlander looked ready to halt any notion of momentum for the Red Sox. He struck out six straight in the second and third, matching a single-game postseason record.
Lackey did his best to keep pace, retiring 10 in a row before Peralta's double.
The Tigers had taken no-hitters into at least the sixth inning of the previous three games. Verlander fell an out short of extending that streak when Gomes hit a roller up the middle for an infield single in the fifth.
"We won a game with four hits tonight. It says a lot about this team," Gomes said.
NOTES: Detroit reliever Phil Coke struck out seven straight over multiple outings during last year's World Series against San Francisco, according to STATS.
Cardinals homer twice to beat Dodgers 4-2 in NLCS
(St. Louis leads series 3-1)
LOS ANGELES — Matt Holliday and pinch-hitter Shane Robinson connected for the first home runs of the NL championship series, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff.
In a series starved for offense, the Cardinals scored as many runs as they did in the first three games combined, when the teams totaled nine runs.
Hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Dodger Stadium, Holliday sent a two-run shot off Ricky Nolasco an estimated 426 feet into left field, capping a three-run third that gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
Game 5 is Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, with the Cardinals one win from the World Series. Zack Greinke is set to start for the Dodgers against Joe Kelly.
Matt Carpenter had an RBI double in the third that scored David Descalso, who hit a leadoff single. Carpenter came around on Holliday’s homer after there were none in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history.
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left in the middle of the sixth after striking out three times.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese came out after six innings. He left Monday’s game with a cramp in his right calf.
Carlos Martinez pitched two scoreless innings in relief of winner Lance Lynn. Trevor Rosenthal got three outs for the save.
After a leadoff single by Andre Ethier in the ninth, rookie Yasiel Puig grounded into a double play.
Robinson’s home run bounced off the top of the wall in left field on a 1-0 pitch from J.P. Howell with one out in the seventh, extending the Cardinals’ lead to 4-2.
Lynn allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out five and walked three.
The right-hander lost his only other start this postseason, giving up five runs over 4 1-3 innings in Game 2 of the division series against Pittsburgh.
The Dodgers were down 4-2 in the seventh when Nick Punto doubled with one out. Martinez, however, picked off Punto before throwing another pitch and then retired Carl Crawford on an inning-ending groundout.
Trailing 3-2, the Dodgers got the potential tying run on base with one out in the sixth when Puig singled up the middle to chase Lynn. Juan Uribe grounded into a double play against Seth Maness to end the inning.
The Dodgers stuck with Nolasco as their starter even though he hadn’t pitched since Sept. 29. He struggled in his last three starts in September, giving up at least five earned runs in each.
Nolasco was passed over for his scheduled assignment in Game 4 of the division series, when the Dodgers chose to use ace Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest for the first time in his career. Kershaw pitched well and took a no-decision in a 4-3 victory over Atlanta that clinched the series.
Before this one, manager Don Mattingly had said Nolasco was being put in a difficult position after not pitching for so long. Mattingly said Kershaw and Greinke both offered to start on short rest at Dodger Stadium.
Nolasco allowed three runs and three hits in four innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Los Angeles scored twice in the fourth to cut it to 3-2. Adrian Gonzalez hit a leadoff double and scored on Puig’s single. A.J. Ellis singled to drive in Andre Ethier, who walked.
But just when it appeared the Dodgers had grabbed the momentum, pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker bounced into an inning-ending double play.
NOTES: St. Louis won a Game 4 on the road for the first time in NLCS play. ... Nolasco, who is from nearby Corona and grew up a Dodgers fan, made the first postseason start of his career. ... Schumaker was 3 for 21 with no RBIs as a pinch-hitter during the regular season, and struck out in his only other at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the postseason. ... There was a pregame moment of silence for MLB umpire Wally Bell, who died Monday at 48. ... Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s famous pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth at Dodger Stadium, giving Los Angeles a 5-4 win over Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. ... Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda, who at 86 is special adviser to the team chairman, tossed out a first pitch from midway between the mound and home plate that missed the target. Mattingly, who was catching, gave him a mulligan. Lasorda managed that 1988 team, the Dodgers’ last appearance in the World Series. ... With the government partially shut down, there was a pregame flyover of vintage aircraft by a non-profit organization founded by a group of World War II fighter pilots. ... Among the famous faces in the crowd were Tom Cruise and Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad.”