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Closing Time: Red Sox, Jake Peavy thrashed by Tigers; ALCS tied, 2-2

10.16.13 at 11:35 pm ET
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DETROIT — The American League Championship Series continued to be defined by starting pitching, but for the first time in the series, it was defined by a very poor showing in Game 4, as Jake Peavy got shelled for seven runs in three innings as the Red Sox got blown out by the Tigers, 7-3. The best-of-seven ALCS is now tied, 2-2.

Peavy sailed through a 12-pitch first, but his night quickly unraveled in a five-run second. The right-hander looked nothing like the pitcher who was startlingly efficient in his ALDS start against the Rays, when he permitted one run in five-plus innings. Instead, he exhibited control woes that more closely resembled the pitcher who struggled with his delivery while adjusting his arm slot in September.

Peavy walked three batters in the second inning alone (the first time he’d walked three in an inning since May 19, and the fourth time in six starts since the beginning of September in which he’d done so — after he’d issued three or more free passes in just two of his first 19 starts) en route to the five-run merry-go-round. In the inning, Peavy allowed two singles, a double and the three walks.

It was the most runs given up by a Sox starter in an inning since Tim Wakefield yielded five in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the 2007 ALCS against the Indians. Peavy rebounded for a scoreless third, but then was lifted with no outs after giving up a ground rule double and run-scoring single to open the fourth.

The three-plus inning start was the shortest by a Sox pitcher in the postseason since Tim Wakefield permitted five runs in 2 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the 2008 ALCS against the Rays. Peavy’s outing represented the fifth time in Red Sox playoff history that a starter yielded seven or more earned runs, as he joined a list that included Josh Beckett (2008), Matt Clement (2005), Tim Wakefield (1995) and Roger Clemens (1986).

In a series where the Sox had plated a total of two runs against Tigers starters in the first three games, the early, deflating deficit was too much to overcome. Now, Jon Lester and Anibal Sanchez are lined up to face each other in a rematch of Detroit’s nail-biting 1-0 victory in Game 1.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– While Peavy was primarily responsible for his second-inning woes, Dustin Pedroia‘s uncharacteristic inability to execute a turn a double play contributed to them as well. With the bases loaded and one out, Jose Iglesias hit a rocket to Pedroia. The second baseman could not pick the short hop — on a play that likely could have set in motion a 4-6-3 inning-ending double-play, at a time when the Sox were only down, 1-0 — thus permitting the second run to score and leaving the door open for the Tigers to plate three more runs, all with two outs.

Pedroia’s magic hands again betrayed him in the fourth inning, when he could not making a diving snare of Austin Jackson‘s hard grounder to his left with Omar Infante on second and no outs. Had he grabbed the ball, he might have been able to keep Infante at third, and potentially could have retired Jackson. Instead,  Infante scored on the play and Jackson eventually came around to score.

– At a time when the game was in a second-inning scoreless tie, the Sox failed to take advantage of a very promising early opportunity. After Mike Napoli led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on Daniel Nava‘s grounder to the right side, Jarrod Saltalamacchia fouled out to third on a 1-0 changeup at a time when the Sox had a chance to score with either a groundball (the infield was back) or a fly ball to the outfield.

The inability to deliver a hit with runners on third and fewer than two outs continued an ongoing pattern for the Sox. Dating to Game 1 of the ALDS, the Sox are now 1-for-9 with two sac flies and two double plays with runners on third and fewer than two outs — though they have plated six of those 11 runners on third base with Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s walkoff single in ALCS Game 2, the two sac flies, two run-scoring groundouts and another run scoring on a double play grounder.

– Tigers starters continued to dominate. Though Doug Fister became the first Tigers starter to permit a hit before the fifth inning — indeed, he gave up a first-inning single to Pedroia — and permitted eight hits (two more than the first three Detroit starters in the series), he nonetheless limited the Sox to one run while punching out seven and walking one. Detroit’s rotation now has a combined 1.00 ERA with 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings in the series.

Stephen Drew went 0-for-4 with two punchouts while Will Middlebrooks went 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts before being replaced by pinch-hitter Mike Carp in the sixth. In the first four games of the playoffs, the pair has combined to go 2-for-24 with 11 strikeouts and one walk.

David Ortiz went 0-for-5, and while he had the biggest hit of the series to date (the game-tying grand slam in Game 2), he’s now 1-for-15 in the series.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jacoby Ellsbury, who was 1-for-10 in the first three games of the ALCS, had his third three-hit game of the postseason, lining a long single off the right-field fence and a double to left-center against Tigers starter Fister and then delivering another single to left-center against left-handed reliever Phil Coke and a ninth-inning RBI triple against Joaquin Benoit. Ellsbury now has five career three-hit games in the playoffs, more than any other player in Red Sox postseason history, and two career four-hit games in the postseason, making him one of 14 players in postseason history who can make that claim.  He also made a terrific diving catch after a long run in the bottom of the second inning, offering further evidence of the notion that his right foot is not limiting him.

Mike Napoli built on his Game 3 home run by going 2-for-4 with a double and a single.

Brandon Workman turned in two sharp innings out of the bullpen in relief of Peavy, thus permitting the Sox to avoid what could have been a painfully overtaxing night for their bullpen after Peavy’s short start. He was followed by scoreless innings from Ryan Dempster, Franklin Morales and Felix Doubront, with the five shutout innings dropping the bullpen ERA to 0.73, the second-best mark ever by an AL bullpen in the postseason (min. 10 innings) since the expansion of the playoffs to include a Division Series round in 1995.

Xander Bogaerts, making his only plate appearance of the game in the ninth inning, went with a a 94 mph fastball away and drove it down the right field line ofr a double. The knock made good on Bogaerts’ vow that, if he saw Benoit again after popping up to end Game 1, he would “probably do some damage to him.”

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