ALCS Game 3 Preview

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With a clutch grand slam from their most clutch playoff hitter in franchise history, the Boston Red Sox stole game 2 of the American League championship series from the Detroit Tigers on Sunday night. Now, with the series knotted at one game a piece, both teams have an opportunity to gain control and Justin Verlander wants to ensure that game three doesn’t slip away.

“Obviously that was a tough one,” Verlander said of game two, according to ESPN.com. “At the same time you know this series is going to be a dogfight. Nobody is going to walk over anybody.”

David Ortiz was the hero for Boston again on Sunday as the Sox rallied from five runs down to beat the Tigers 6-5, but Verlander was the hero for Detroit in his last outing, when he and the Tigers shut down Oakland in a 3-0 ALDS series-clinching  game-five win. Today, the two respective leaders will face off against one another, which is a match-up both teams are comfortable with.

“We’ve got a great lineup. I’m going into the game with a great group of guys behind me,” Boston’s game-three starter John Lackey said. “Those guys are going to fight him [Verlander].

“It’s always nice to have Justin Verlander on the mound no matter what the situation is,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “There won’t be any carry-over for our guys from that game last night. That’s over with.”

The league’s best hitting team had been quiet until Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam in game two and considering Verlander has tossed 15 consecutive shutout innings with 21 strikeouts this postseason, it’s likely Boston’s bats will at least be held in check again.

Meanwhile, Boston also has Detroit’s powerful slew of sluggers to deal with. Lackey pitched just well enough for the Sox to top the Rays in his previous five-plus-inning outing, but he’ll need to be mistake free tonight if Boston wants to grab the 2-1 edge in the series, especially going against Verlander.

“He’s kind of our lineup’s problem,” Lackey said of Verlander. “I’ve got my own problems with their lineup.”

Like Boston this postseason, Detroit hasn’t exactly hit the cover off the ball, but Lackey is a guy they’ve already beaten this season in their one match-up against him.

The Red Sox certainly have a good chance to advance to the World Series this year, but this match-up just doesn’t bode well for them, especially on the road. Look for Detroit to earn the win tonight and cover -1.5 runs in the process as they take a 2-1 lead in the ALCS.

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