Three keys for Red Sox against Tigers in ALCS
Boston needs setup crew to step up, more bats in mix, to tame Detroit's big two
BOSTON -- Though the Tampa Bay Rays were a worthy opponent in the Division Series, the Red Sox knew all about them, and it showed.
To beat the Tigers in this American League Championship Series, the Red Sox will have to come up big against an opponent with which they are far less familiar.
But the imposing weapons the Tigers bring to the table -- from Max Scherzer to Justin Verlander to Prince Fielder to Miguel Cabrera -- are no secret.
Manager John Farrell's team spent much of the day on Friday breaking down Detroit through video and scouting data.
Beginning with Saturday night's Game 1 of the ALCS (8 ET on FOX), here are three keys for the Red Sox in trying to win this series and get back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2007.
A sturdy bridge to Koji
In the regular season, the best winning formula for the Red Sox was to get seven to eight innings from the starting pitcher and make it as clean a handoff as possible to Koji Uehara.
But the deeper October goes, the harder it is for a starter to pitch big innings.
The Tigers have a deep lineup that will try to get into the perceived weakness of the Red Sox -- their setup relief crew.
Here is where it becomes critical for lefty Craig Breslow to be as effective as he was last round. And right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who was inconsistent down the stretch of the regular season, is also a key piece.
Against the Rays, the Red Sox, for the most part, only needed Breslow, Tazawa and Uehara in key situations. Don't expect the Tigers to make it that easy.
Someone else in Boston's 'pen will likely need to step up -- be it Ryan Dempster, Franklin Morales, Brandon Workman or Felix Doubront.
More balanced lineup
For the most part, the Red Sox did what they needed to offensively in the ALDS. However, the contributions weren't spread throughout the lineup.
Instead, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz did most of the damage.
To beat the Tigers, who have two of the most dominant starting pitchers in the AL, other hitters have to step up. Mike Napoli, who was a wrecking machine for the Rangers in the 2011 World Series, would be a prime candidate. Daniel Nava had a strong all-around season, though few people outside of Boston knew about it. Jarrod Saltalamacchia can also be dangerous.
If Farrell isn't getting enough of a spark from his regular lineup, look for him to tap into the potential of young Xander Bogaerts, much like Terry Francona did with Ellsbury in the postseason of '07.
Keep Prince, Miggy in the ballpark
Cabrera hit a monster home run in Game 5 of the ALDS against Oakland. But for the most part, the A's did a terrific job of containing Detroit's two-headed monster of Cabrera and Fielder.
The Red Sox need to at least come close to the same rate of success. Nobody knows better than Boston how impactful two sluggers can be on a team's postseason run. Check out Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in 2004 and '07 for proof.
In seven regular-season games against the Tigers, the Sox were pretty effective against Fielder, holding him to a .250 average and one homer. They weren't so fortunate against Cabrera, who made the most of his five games against Boston, hitting .421 with a homer and a 1.206 OPS in 23 plate appearances.
And as Farrell cautions, Victor Martinez is a pretty big threat himself.
Taming the Tigers will be a far more daunting task for the Red Sox than the Rays presented in the previous round.