DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers insist nothing changed. For the Boston Red Sox, it’s a whole new series.
“Complete change of momentum,” Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks said of the mindset of the Red Sox after their electrifying victory to tie the American League Championship Series on Sunday night. “That’s exactly what it is.”
Boston’s rally and comeback victory in Game 2 at Fenway Park strengthened the legend of designated hitter David Ortiz and floated the Red Sox’s optimism to the brim as veteran John Lackey takes on the Tigers.
The Boston Red Sox right-hander, tabbed to start Game 3 of the ALCS at Comerica Park, won’t be the big-name starter at 4 p.m. Tuesday against Detroit Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander. Verlander makes his first start since nearly no-hitting the Oakland Athletics in the deciding game of the AL Division Series.
“He’s not short on pitching in unfavorable conditions, whether it’s in a postseason in New York, and certainly one that’s going to be in Detroit,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Lackey. “We’re talking about a guy that’s pitched at the highest level on the biggest stage that the game has to offer.
“Given what he’s come through, I’m sure that he’ll relish the moments he’s out there, knowing that he’s come back from Tommy John. The way he’s reshaped his own perception and certainly his body, we’re looking forward to John being on the mound on Tuesday.”
Lackey has made one postseason appearance in 2013, earning the win in the ALDS against the Rays. He went 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
“My last start, the time (off) kind of got me as far as the touch and feel of my pitches,” Lackey said Monday. “I’m going into the game with a great group of guys behind me.”
He made two starts against the Tigers in the regular season, going 0-1, giving up a combined five runs in 14 1/3 innings with 14 hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland shrugged off Sunday’s loss and said it would not have a negative effect on his club.
“We let one get away,” he said Monday. “There’s no secret to that.”
The Red Sox’s chances of winning the series seemed slim once the Tigers scored four runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-0 lead. However, the Red Sox battled back, and Ortiz changed the game with one swing of the bat against closer Joaquin Benoit in the eighth before Saltalamacchia won it with his hit off Rick Porcello in the ninth.
Leyland opted not to insert left-handed reliever Phil Coke because he hadn’t pitched in a big game recently. But he said his most egregious oversight was not reminding Benoit not to let Ortiz tie the game. Benoit had allowed left-handers to hit .188 with one home run in 151 plate appearances.
“It was a tough one, obviously. We’re used to being able to turn the page,” Leyland said. “I don’t look for any carryover.”
“When you consider down four runs, not a very likely scenario that you come back from that many runs that late in the game,” said Farrell, who flip-flopped Clay Buchholz and Lackey in his ALCS rotation.
The Red Sox will try to keep the momentum going in Detroit, though they face a difficult task in trying to solve Verlander. He pitched a total of 15 shutout innings against Oakland in the American League Division Series in two starts, winning the decisive Game 5 after not factoring in the decision in Game 2.
Verlander faced the Red Sox once in the regular season and had a no-decision, though he gave up four runs in five innings. He is 3-4 lifetime against the Red Sox with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts.
“You knew this series was going to be a dogfight,” Verlander said.
The Red Sox had only one hit in 15 innings against Detroit starters in Boston. Farrell said the clubhouse understands the task gets no easier in Game 3.
“The work of (Anibal) Sanchez and (Max) Scherzer was nothing short of dominant,” Farrell said Tuesday. “Those guys have been locked in. You have to tip your hat. They’ve lived on the edge with premium stuff. They’ve just been very good.”
NOTES: Leyland said Andy Dirks would likely start in left field on Tuesday with Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. Dirks is 2-for-5 with a triple and a walk against Lackey in his career. Peralta is 11-for-31 (.355) with 10 singles. … Farrell plans to start Mike Napoli at first base and use a lineup “very similar to Game 1.” He said he didn’t determine his full lineup and was still weighing “the intangibles Jonny Gomes brings.” Gomes had 13 home runs and 52 RBIs in the regular season. “He can bring an overall personality to a team when he’s in the lineup,” Farrell added. … Farrell said Verlander is on top of his game in the postseason. “He’s one of the most durable starters in all of baseball. To maintain his stuff over the course of 110 to 130 pitches — speaks to his repertoire and the work ethic he has. … He doesn’t come by his success by accident.”