Tied two games to two, the ALCS has seen historic starting pitching from Detroit and scintillating clutch performing from Boston. Detroit has outperformed Boston but late, timely home runs from David Ortiz and Mike Napoli essentially stole two games out from under the nose of the Tigers. Coming off of a Game 1 start where he held the Red Sox hitless through his six innings of work, Anibal Sanchez takes the ball in a rematch against left-hander Jon Lester. The Red Sox open as road favorites with a minuscule total of 5.5 runs.
In Game 1, the world got to see how dominant Anibal Sanchez can be when he has all four of his pitches working. The reigning American League ERA champion only allowed the six walks while striking out 12. The command issue will become relevant if the Red Sox can string some hits together, which they began to do in the second half of Game 4. It will be interesting to see how Boston handles Sanchez, Scherzer and Verlander in these final three games the second time around because they certainly didn’t come close to breaking through in the first three games. The dilemma for Boston is how to approach Sanchez. One one hand, its patience in Game 1 forced six Sanchez walks and Jim Leyland’s hand after just six innings. The patience taking the count deep also resulted in the 12 strikeouts. I’m interested to see whether the Red Sox come out more aggressive than normal and try to hit Sanchez earlier in the count when he’s not as nasty. On the other hand, if the Boston lineup believes it can continue to draw bases on balls it may take the same approach and hopes Sanchez doesn’t bring his A+ game like he did at Fenway.
Quickly forgotten after his pretty brilliant Game 1 performance, Jon Lester looks to bounce back after being on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat in his home ballpark. Lester scattered six hits over 6.1 innings pitched despite only striking out four Tigers. The ability to bear down at the proper time allowed Lester to duel toe-to-toe with Sanchez. Now he goes on the road in a spot where I looked to possibly fade him at the beginning of the series. His home/away splits are interesting. Lester’s road ERA in 2013 was over a full run higher on the road than at home but his 3 year splits are quite the opposite. This likely means home/away splits are rather irrelevant for Lester, who loves the big stage in a pivotal Game 5. As the total in this one suggests, Thursday night in Detroit looks to be a pitcher’s duel.
I was ready to lay the small juice on Detroit as a pick in this spot. Being at home in a game that it likely must win if it wants to return to the World Series, Detroit should come out and hold momentum until the two return to Fenway. Getting +117 on a solid home pup makes the decision a little easier.
Free Pick: Detroit +117