Detroit, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Hits have been hard to come by for the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, but they've sure made them count.
Mike Napoli broke a scoreless tie with a solo home run off Justin Verlander in the seventh inning, and John Lackey and the Boston bullpen made the blast stand up in a 1-0 Game 3 squeaker that gave the Red Sox the upper hand in this best-of-seven set.
The Red Sox had mustered a mere three hits and one run for the series entering the eighth inning of Sunday's Game 2, when David Ortiz brought Boston back to life with a game-tying grand slam and the AL East champs rallied for a thrilling 6-5 win. They managed only four hits and struck out 10 times in eight innings against Verlander (0-1), but shut down a Detroit lineup that continually failed in the clutch to take a 2-1 series lead heading to Wednesday's Game 4.
Lackey (1-0) was splendid during his 6 2/3-inning stint, holding the Tigers to four hits and striking out eight without a walk. Three relievers finished off the shutout, with Game 2 winner Koji Uehara shutting the door with a four-out save.
"John Lackey was outstanding," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He held his stuff throughout the entire time he was out there. Just very good work by every guy that went to the mound today."
Detroit went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position for the game, with Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez each going 2-for-4 in the loss.
"Today I thought Lackey and [catcher Jarrod] Saltalamacchia were absolutely terrific, game calling, pitch making," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "[Alex] Avila and Verlander were exactly the same. It was just tremendous pitching and both guys called a great game. And that pretty much sums it up."
Boston's slumbering bats were kept quiet by Verlander through the first six innings of play, with the Tigers All-Star surrendering just two hits and a walk over that stretch. Lackey was up to the task, however, matching zeros with his counterpart while permitting only a Jhonny Peralta double between the second and sixth frames.
Verlander was able to get the dangerous Ortiz to ground to short to begin the seventh, but fell behind in the count to Napoli, who drilled a high fastball on the righty's 100th pitch of the night into the bullpen area behind left- center field to end the stalemate.
The homer snapped a string of 34 straight scoreless innings for Verlander, 21 of which had come during this postseason.
"Going to that at-bat, he got me twice early in the game," said Napoli. "Threw me four sliders, which he's never done to me before. But I just kept on going at it. I put a good at-bat together. I was able to get [the count] to 3-2 and got a pitch I could handle."
Lackey allowed a one-out single to Martinez in the bottom of the seventh before getting Peralta to fly out. He was then removed by Farrell in favor of left-hander Craig Breslow, who promptly walked Avila to advance the tying run to second but averted damage by retiring Omar Infante on a slow grounder.
The Boston bullpen snuffed out another threat in the eighth, when a walk to Austin Jackson and Hunter's single off Junichi Tazawa put runners at the corners with one out. Tazawa came up with a huge strikeout of AL batting champion Miguel Cabrera, however, and Uehara did the same to Prince Fielder to keep the one-run edge intact.
"We liked the matchup with [Tazawa's] power against Cabrera," said Farrell. Cabrera has had good success against Koji in the past, hit a couple of balls out of the ballpark against him. And particularly after the base hit the other way by Torii to put them in the first-and third-situation, we felt power was the best way to go here. Whether he climbed the ladder away from him late or just stayed hard with him, it was a pivotal moment. You're getting the best guy in baseball at the plate, trying to preserve a one-run lead."
Martinez led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but Uehara induced a 6-4-3 double-play bouncer to Peralta and then fanned Avila to close out the contest.
The Red Sox didn't collect a hit off Detroit starters Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer through the first five-plus innings of Games 1 and 2, and nearly suffered the same fate in this one. Verlander took a no-no into the fifth until Jonny Gomes legged out an infield single with two outs, though he was left stranded.
Verlander had permitted just one baserunner prior to the hit, when Ortiz worked an eight-pitch walk in the second. Gomes narrowly missed hitting a two- run homer later in the frame, however, before becoming the third of six consecutive Verlander strikeout victims that tied a postseason record.
Lackey was in a groove of his own, setting down 10 straight batters until Peralta drove a fastball into the gap in left center to open Detroit's half of the fifth. Peralta advanced to third on an Avila grounder, but was kept there when Lackey fanned Infante in front of Andy Dirks' inning-ending grounder.