Once again this October, one run was enough.
The Boston Red Sox scored it — and now they lead an AL championship series that seemed to be slipping away last weekend.
John Lackey edged Justin Verlander in the latest duel of these pitching-rich playoffs, and Boston’s bullpen shut down Detroit’s big boppers with the game on the line to lift the Red Sox over the Tigers 1-0 Tuesday for a 2-1 advantage in the ALCS.
Mike Napoli homered off Verlander in the seventh inning, and Detroit’s best chance to rally fell short in the eighth when Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder struck out with runners at the corners.
“This game had the feel it was going to be won or lost on one pitch,” Boston reliever Craig Breslow said. “Lackey kept us in the game. Every inning where he was able to throw up a zero gave us a lift.”
Despite three straight gems by their starters, the Tigers suddenly trail in a best-of-seven series they initially appeared to control. Game 4 is tonight at Comerica Park, with Jake Peavy scheduled to start for the Red Sox against Doug Fister.
Peavy set the tone Tuesday during a pregame news conference, when he sounded miffed that so much of the attention was focused on Verlander before Game 3.
“It’s been funny for me to watch all the coverage of the game coming in,” Peavy said. “Almost like we didn’t have a starter going today. Our starter is pretty good, too.”
Lackey backed that up and then some.
He allowed four hits in 62/3 innings, striking out eight without a walk in a game that was delayed 17 minutes in the second inning because lights on the stadium towers went out.
“I think that little time off gave him a chance to slow down a little bit. He was excited and pumped that first inning,” Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Kind of getting excited with his slider, throwing a little too hard and leaving it over the middle, but he was still pretty effective.”
It was the second 1-0 game in this matchup between the highest-scoring teams in the majors. Dominant pitching has been a running theme throughout these playoffs, which have included four 1-0 scores and seven shutouts in the first 26 games.
“The runs are pretty stingy,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “This is what it’s about in postseason, is good pitching.”