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ALCS preview: Even with deep rotation, Tigers' strategy is obvious against Red Sox

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  October 11, 2013 05:12 PM

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There's no such discernible potential soft spot in Verlander's game based on his history with the Red Sox -- he's held their current cast of hitters to a .609 OPS in 165 plate appearances.

The 2011 Cy Young winner is known for getting stronger as a game goes on. Now he's getting stronger as the season goes on. He hasn't allowed a run in 15 postseason innings, and that's after putting up a 2.27 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39.2 September innings.

Verlander did have surprising issues with righthanded hitters at times this year -- they hit him at a .275 avg/.739 OBP rate, with 11 homers in 345 at-bats. Lefties were far less fortunate at .237/.658 with 8 homers in 493 at-bats.

Two members of the heart of the Red Sox' order have fared very well against Verlander, while a certain No. 3 hitter has not:

PA AB H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
David Ortiz 30 27 10 2 4 3 8 .370 .433 .741 1.174
Mike Napoli 28 23 7 1 3 5 5 .304 .429 .435 .863
Dustin Pedroia 19 18 1 0 0 1 3 .056 .105 .056 .161
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/11/2013.

Of course, there are so many other elements that will go into determining this series besides how Boston's hitting fares against Detroit's starting pitching. You know the potential plot points:

Is Clay Buchholz the right choice for Game 2? ... Can beat-up yet always dangerous Miguel Cabrera hit anything on the outer half of the plate? ... Will Victor Martinez go on one of his patented tears? ... Should John Farrell find at-bats for Mike Carp? ... Will Xander Bogaerts see more time? ... Will the Red Sox' running game (123 steals to the Tigers' 35) make a difference? ... Will fourth starters Jake Peavy and Doug Fister play major roles? ... Will Jose Iglesias play more than Jhonny Peralta at shortstop?

These teams are so evenly matched and there's so much to consider that a prediction might as well be determined by a flip of a coin.

But I'll offer one up anyway, albeit with a caveat you probably saw coming like a hanging slider:

If Papi is permitted to swing the bat, give me the Red Sox in six.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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