Don’t call it an eruption … OK, call it an eruption.
The Red Sox erupted for four early runs in Thursday night’s Game 5 of the ALCS, finally showing some offensive power, as they toppled the Tigers, 4-3, and moved to within one win of the 2013 World Series.
The ALCS will be decided this weekend in Boston, with Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA) scheduled to throw for Detroit in Game 6 Saturday at Fenway against Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA). A potential Game 7 would take place on Sunday night on Yawkey Way, with Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46 ERA) set to once again face John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA).
In Game 5, Detroit chipped away at Boston’s lead in the later innings, as Miguel Cabrera drove in a run in the fifth and seventh and the Tigers were within a run by the time Sox closer Koji Uehara entered in the eighth. But Uehara was once again unstoppable, quickly retiring all five batters he faced.
Offensively for Boston, Mike Napoli made his presence felt early and often. He had three hits total, including a colossus solo clout to straight-away center in the second, which sparked a big inning for Boston. Adding to Napoli’s homer, Jacoby Ellsbury lined one low back to Detroit pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who couldn’t handle the hot shot. Xander Bogaert’s base-running error on a double by David Ross a batter earlier didn’t end up hurting the Boston cause as he scored easily off of Ellsbury’s infield hit. The Sox earned a 4-0 lead by the middle innings as Napoli would also score from third base in the third inning when a shaky Sanchez spiked a wild pitch into the dirt in front of home plate.
Sox starter Jon Lester kept the Tigers’ bats relatively quiet on the night, giving up two earned runs on seven hits over 5.1 innings. He walked three and struck out three on 98 pitches.
Junichi Tazawa, who relieved Lester, allowed an RBI single to Brayan Pena but was able to get out of the sixth inning without further damage thanks to a 5-4-3 double play orchestrated by Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia.
What they'll be saying: Boston's offense finally came through in a game that basically had to have. The pressure is now firmly on Detroit, down 3-2. It will be interesting to see if Detroit manager Jim Leyland would entertain the idea of Justin Verlander out of the bullpen in Game 6 on Saturday night if things get tight in the late innings. After all, Detroit is now playing for its life and it is certainly an all-hands-on-deck scenario going forward.
Obviously, getting to Max Scherzer Saturday night won't be as easy as it was in getting to Sanchez Thursday. But with the way Napoli is now swinging the bat, these one-run outings the Red Sox had been putting up should be a thing of the past ... at least one would think.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @MetroBOS