Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

ALCS: To clinch Red Sox must run through Tigers' top arms

BOSTON — One victory to reach the World Series. And all that is in Boston's way is 21-game winner Max Scherzer, with Justin Verlander on deck for a seventh game if it gets that far.

"We all know what we are up against," Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said Friday after a workout to prepare for tonight's Game 6 of the AL Championship Series against the Tigers. "I expect it's going to be another one of those tough games."

A victory clinches the best-of-seven ALCS and sends the Red Sox to their third World Series since 2004. Scherzer faces Boston's Clay Buchholz, a repeat of the Game 2 matchup that the Red Sox won 6-5.

Scherzer took a no-hitter and a 5-0 lead into the sixth inning, but the Red Sox rallied against the Tigers bullpen and tied it on David Ortiz's eighth-inning grand slam. Now at least the Boston batters can say they've seen the likely AL Cy Young winner recently.

But Scherzer has a little more experience against them, too.

"I don't see him making too many adjustments," Saltalamacchia said. "There's not many adjustments he needs to make."

The Tigers did not work out Friday, opting to rest hobbled starters such as Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila, who joined the injured after a home-plate collision with Boston catcher David Ross in the second inning of Game 5.

"We have to go to Fenway and we have to fight hard enough to win a game," said Cabrera, who has been slowed by a variety of injuries since late in the regular season. "If we do that, we have to keep fighting and get the next one. We've done this before, and we've got great pitchers."

Detroit's rotation was its biggest advantage, and it has lived up to the hype. Anibal Sanchez, Scherzer and Verlander all took no-hitters into the fifth inning in the first three games, though the Tigers won only one of them.

In all, Detroit's starters had allowed only three runs in 27 innings through the first four games before Mike Napoli's homer keyed a three-run second inning the second time around against Sanchez.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he would wait to see how Avila feels before making a decision on whether the catcher plays. Leyland did confirm that Jose Iglesias will play shortstop. The 23-year-old Cuban started Game 1 before coming in as a substitute in the next two games; he was back in the lineup for Games 4 and 5.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Xander Bogaerts, a top prospect who wasn't called up until August, will start at third base in place of the struggling Will Middlebrooks.

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