|10.18.13 at 5:50 am ET|
DETROIT — After their 4-3 loss on Thursday in Game 5 of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, the Tigers are now one win from elimination. The Red Sox need to win just one of two contests this weekend in Boston to secure a spot in the World Series.
But Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter suggested that his team is in a position to play without being encumbered by pressure or anxiety.
“If you had a tiger, and he was backed in a corner, he couldn’t go left, he couldn’t go right, he couldn’t go behind him, what’s he going to do? Fight through,” said Hunter. “And that’s what we’re going to try to do. That’s what Tigers do. Our backs are against the wall. We can’t go left, we can’t go right, we’re going to fight through.
“The pressure is on them to hold us back. We’re going to fight, we’re going to have fun, we’re going to go all out,” he added. “When we play looser, we’re a really good ballclub. So being down 3-2, I think you go in a little light, a little looser, you have some fun, play the game. It’s an uphill battle, but I think it’s good for us.”
The Tigers do have a formidable asset on their side in the form of starters Max Scherzer in Game 6 and, if they win that contest, Justin Verlander in Game 7. The Red Sox are mindful of that reality as they hope to close out the Tigers.
“They’re really good. They’ve got two really good pitchers still in their back pocket, so we need to come out, set the tone early,” said Sox catcher David Ross. “We’re just happy to be going back home up one.”
Yet while Scherzer and Verlander offer the Tigers a template for overcoming their deficit, Detroit suggested that they do not yet have the luxury of looking ahead to a winner-take-all contest with Verlander on the hill.
“We have to win one game and then take it from there,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “We’ve got to win one game.”
|10.18.13 at 5:40 am ET|
DETROIT — Behold (again) the mighty hammer of Thor.
Mike Napoli is once again wielding the sledgehammer in the postseason, at a time that could not be more opportune for the Red Sox. The 31-year-old is living up to the billing as a game-changing middle-of-the-order force, reclaiming a role that he’s fulfilled during the Sox’ best stretches of the year. His solo homer to left on Tuesday proved the decisive blast in the Sox’ 1-0 victory over Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Game 3 of the ALCS.
But on Thursday, in Game 5 of the series, he took that performance to jaw-dropping new heights in the Sox’ 4-3 win over the Tigers, leading his team to a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series, one win from a spot in the World Series. He went 3-for-4, a performance that included a double and two runs scored, but it was one mammoth mash that proved the game’s most memorable moment.
In the top of the second inning, Napoli launched led off with a home run to dead center that not only gave the Sox a 1-0 lead against Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez — the pitcher who held the Sox hitless through six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALDS — but that also proved little short of awe-inspiring. The center field fence in Comerica Park resides 420 feet from home plate. It’s rarely cleared. But Napoli not only hit a ball over that target — he blew well past it, with his projectile landing atop a second tier of hedges that helps to create a batter’s eye in straightaway center field.
“Not too many people hit balls like that,” noted Jonny Gomes. “If you break it down to how many people in this world can do that, you’re not going to come up with too many. That’s pretty impressive.”
According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Napoli’s launch traveled 460 feet. That was the longest homer in the postseason, according to the same site, since Prince Fielder likewise launched a 460-foot homer five years earlier, in 2008.
A pair of Napoli’s teammates who spent time with the Tigers were in a state of near-shock that a player could hit a ball that far, particularly given that the gametime temperature was a raw 51 degrees.
“When it landed, I couldn’t believe it,” said Sox pitcher Andrew Miller, who pitched in Detroit in 2006 and 2007. “That’s usually uncharted territory. That’s pretty impressive. That’s out there.” Read the rest of this entry »
|10.17.13 at 11:54 pm ET|
DETROIT — When the Red Sox signed Mike Napoli, they envisioned the addition of a middle-of-the-order power hitter who could offer a threat behind David Ortiz while also possessing the patience and plate discipline to either elevate opposing pitchers’ counts or work a walk. The team viewed him as someone who was capable of doing damage even against top pitchers, as evidenced by some of his past postseason heroics.
Now, the Sox are enjoying a first-hand view of Napoli’s playoff capabilities. Two days after he delivered the game-winning homer in Boston’s 1-0 Game 3 victory, the slugger once again made his mark on Game 3, going 3-for-4 with a massive solo homer to straightaway center field — well over the 420-foot sign and into the Comerica Park hedges that look not unlike his beard — a double and two runs scored.
His mammoth homer in the top of the second inning jumpstarted a three-run Red Sox uprising — just the second time in the ALCS that the Sox had rallied for multiple runs in a single frame — against Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez en route to an eventual 4-3 victory. The fact that Napoli led his band of beardy brothers to a four-run production against Sanchez represented something of a breakthrough for an offense that had plated just three runs against Tigers starters in the first four games of the series.
Interestingly, while the Sox felt that their game plan to drive up the pitch count of Sanchez in Game 1 of the ALCS — where the right-hander issued six walks in his six no-hit innings — was a good building block for Game 5, the team didn’t negotiate a single walk from him in Game 5. Instead, they amassed nine hits in the starter’s six innings, bunching enough of them together to give the Sox a four-run cushion that permitted the team to withstand single runs from the Tigers in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
With the win, the Red Sox are one victory from securing a spot in the World Series as the ALCS shifts back to Fenway Park on Saturday for Game 6, with Clay Buchholz slated to take on Max Scherzer.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »
|10.17.13 at 10:53 pm ET|
The WEEI team is back at Comerica Park for Game 5, and we’ve been taking more photos. To see all our photos from Thursday, click here.
|10.17.13 at 8:20 pm ET|
DETROIT — Red Sox manager John Farrell noted that, even though Xander Bogaerts will start at third base in place of Will Middlebrooks in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, he believes that the deposed starter could still contribute going forward. Even so, Farrell acknowledged that while that was a message he offered to Middlebrooks — who is 1-for-10 with five strikeouts in the first four games of the series — the third baseman wasn’t exactly elated to be sitting. Not that the Red Sox would want him to be.
“I wouldn’t expect him to be pleased with not being in the lineup today. That’s just who he is. And that’s the overriding attitude in our clubhouse,” said Farrell. “But for us to continue through this series and advance it’s going to take everyone on our roster to contribute in some form or fashion, and I would expect that Will would find his way back in the field in these remaining games, particularly in this series. In the conversation with him, yeah, he’s not real happy.”
Farrell suggested that, against Detroit’s all right-handed rotation where each starter features nasty breaking stuff, Middlebrooks was struggling.
“From time to time in these two series, he’s been a little susceptible to off‑speed and certainly some breaking balls that have run away from him,” said Farrell.
That, in turn, left the team inclined to go with Bogaerts, who in his few postseason at-bats has shown the ability to lay off breaking stuff out of the zone.
|10.17.13 at 7:53 pm ET|
DETROIT – With the best-of-seven American League Championship Series all tied at 2-2, the Red Sox will look to head back to Fenway Park with upper-hand against the Tigers Thursday night. Get all the latest news, updates and analysis from Comerica Park by joining the WEEI live blog, below:
|10.17.13 at 7:28 pm ET|
DETROIT — First baseman Mike Napoli has been one of the few Red Sox hitters to make an impact in this series. He’s 3-for-12 with a walk, a double and of course his Game 3, game-winning homer against Justin Verlander, continuing a year in which — despite some considerable ups and downs — he’s delivered more or less everything the Sox could have hoped for when they pursued him last offseason and, after initially agreeing to a three-year, $39 million deal that was scuttled by a diagnosis of a degenerative hip condition, was revised to a one-year, $5 million with incentives that pushed it up to $13 million for the 2013 year. Now, after a year in which his offensive performance — a .259 average, .360 OBP, .482 slugging mark, 23 homers and 92 RBI in 139 games, along with better-than-expected defense at first base — was very much in line with career norms, he is on the cusp of hitting the market again.
Napoli will be a free agent once the World Series wraps up the season. But for now, Napoli is more focused on being the last team standing than the personal question of what lies beyond the crowning of a champion.
“I’m not worried about that right now and I don’t think they are right now. We’re trying to win a championship,” said Napoli. “I want to be here. I love it here. It’s a great situation, great city, fans are awesome. It’s been awesome. I want to be here, but we’ll worry about that [later].”
Whereas teams were reluctant to give Napoli a multi-year deal last winter once his hip condition was diagnosed, the fact that he’s remained healthy this year and that the MRIs taken to date have shown no further degeneration of his hip condition suggest that he could be positioned well in an offseason market that has a shortage of first basemen. But again, Napoli suggests that there are more important things for him to worry about at this juncture.
“I’ll find out [if the industry views the risks associated with the hip any differently] in the offseason I guess. I’m pretty sure I’m still going to have to go through my physicals, see how my hips are, all this kind of stuff,” said Napoli. “I’m not really worried about that right now. I’m worried about winning tonight.”
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