The 17-minute power outage in the middle of the second inning of Tuesday’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit was symbolic of the Detroit Tigers offensive production in this postseason.
With Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter on the corners with one out for the Tigers in the bottom of the eighth, Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa struck out Miguel Cabrera and Koji Uehara entered to fan Prince Fielder and preserve the Red Sox 1-0 lead.
After allowing a leadoff single to Tigers designated hitter Martinez in the ninth, Uehara got Jhonny Peralta to bounce into a double play and caught Alex Avila looking at strike three to give Boston the 1-0 win and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
While Red Sox slugger David Ortiz provided a clutch grand slam on a first pitch fastball to tie the game and eventually give Boston a series-tying 6-5 win in Game 2, Tazawa blew his first-pitch fastball by Cabrera and got the strikeout with two swings at pitches off the plate. Uehara got Fielder to swing at strike three in the dirt.
“That was very good work by Tazawa against Cabrera,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Cabrera has good history with Koji and could get that base hit the other way. I felt like (Tazawa’s) power was the way to go. You have to stay hard with (Cabrera) and that was a pivotal moment. Cabrera is the best guy in baseball and trying to preserve a one-run lead, that’s a swing and miss moment.
“And we got that same thing with Koji (against Fielder).”
John Lackey won a classic pitching duel with Justin Verlander. The Red Sox righty allowed singles to Hunter and Fielder in the first inning but got Martinez to fly to center to end the threat. He was magical from there, striking out eight batters and allowing just four hits and zero walks in 6 2/3 innings. Of Lackey’s 97 pitches – which drew a perturbed response from Lackey when Farrell lifted him – 66 went for strikes.
“I thought we swung the bats pretty good in Game 2 and Lackey and (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia) were terrific in calling that game,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland told reporters after the game. “It came down to (Cabrera and Fielder) and could their pitching cut it. They won the battle.”
Verlander was masterful with his control again, allowing just one earned run on four hits and a walk in eight innings. He struck out 10 – including six in a row at one point — but a 96 MPH fastball to Mike Napoli went 402 feet for a one-out home run in the top of the 7th. It was the only offense in Game 3, which follows suit in a series loaded with clutch pitching on both sides.
“This is what it’s about … postseason pitching,” said Leyland after he was asked to gauge his team’s disappoint in being down 2-1 despite three strong performances for his starters. “Their bullpen pitched well and ours did too tonight. But Lackey made pitches all day long. He was terrific.”
The Tigers continue to get nothing from leadoff man Austin Jackson. The struggling center fielder is now 1-for-13 with five strikeouts and a walk. For the postseason, Jackson is 3-for-30 with one extra base hit, one walk, one RBI, one run and 16 strikeouts.
Will Leyland switch Jackson or move him down in the order?
“No,” Leyland said. “There’s only a couple options that you have but you see guys struggling in the bottom of the order. You don’t necessarily have to change the lineup unless you find something that makes sense.”