One Down, One to Go; Boston Moves On To ALCS While Detroit Pushes Oakland To Decisive Game 5

On Tuesday, we found one half of the ALCS matchup, as the Boston Red Sox beat Tampa Bay 3-1. However, we will have to wait until Thursday to see who they will face, as the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland A’s 8-6 to push the series to a 5th and deciding game in Oakland. Both games on Tuesday provided moments of drama. We also saw managers make intriguing and sometimes head-scratching moves.

The first game of the day was in Detroit. Oakland started 24-year-old right-hander Dan Straily, hoping that he’d be able to shut down the Tigers and clinch the series for them. Straily, in his first full major league season, pitched well this year. He went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.24 WHiP with 124 strikeouts in 152.1 innings. At times, he’s looked downright dominant. Early on in Game 4, he seemed to be too much for the Detroit bats.

In the first four innings, Detroit had no real answer for Straily, as they went hitless while striking out 4 times. However, in the 5th, they led off the inning with two straight hits before Jhnonny Peralta parked one into the left field stands to tie the game at 3-3. Straily was able to calm down and strike out 4 of the final 7 hitters he faced. Overall, he gave up only 4 hits and struck out 8 in his six innings to go with the three runs he surrendered.

Meanwhile, with the series on the line, Jim Leyland decided that probably Cy Young winner Max Scherzer would be available out of the pen, as Justin Verlander could start a decisive Game 5 on full rest. With Doug Fister giving him 6 solid innings, Leyland turned to Scherzer in the 7th. Scherzer wasn’t all that sharp, but he ended up getting the win, as he threw 2 innings while giving up 3 hits, one run (earned) and two walks while striking out 2.

The reason Scherzer got the win was due to the complete implosion by the A’s bullpen. Despite only throwing 76 pitches in 6 innings, Melvin decided to replace Straily with lefty Sean Doolittle to start the bottom of the 7th. Doolittle promptly gave up a home run to Victor Martinez (which was upheld by replay after apparent fan interference) and then an RBI single by Austin Jackson, who had been terrible all series. The Tigers added 3 more runs in the 8th due to a bases-loaded wild pitch by Brett Anderson and an RBI double from Omar Infante.

However, even with a 4-run lead, the Tigers still had to sweat it out in the 9th. With closer Joaquin Benoit in, the A’s made a push. Benoit gave up two runs when Yoenis Cespedes singled in Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie with two outs. Benoit was able to finally shut the door by striking out Seth Smith to end the game. The Tigers have already announced Verlander will start on Thursday night. Oakland still hasn’t made a decision, as it is between rookie Sonny Gray and 40-year-old Bartolo Colon. Colon has historically been bad against Detroit.

Meanwhile, while the score seemed to indicate a tight game in Tampa last night, watching it one felt that Tampa was down by 4 or 5 runs the whole time. Tampa manager almost seemed like he was managing the All-Star game with the number of pitching changes he made. In all, the Rays sent 9 different pitchers to the mound. Maddon ran out of pitchers in the bullpen in the 9th and had to send David Price out there in case the game went to extra innings.

Tampa sent Jeremy Hellickson out to start. However, he was obviously on a super-short leash as after loading the bases with no out in the 2nd, he was taken out of the game despite it still being 0-0. Jamey Wright came in and got through the inning without allowing a run. The cavalcade of pitchers continued as Matt Moore and Alex Torres each pitched two scoreless innings. Tampa was then able to take a 1-0 lead when David Dejesus drove in Yunel Escobar with a single.

That lead would be short-lived, however. With Jake McGee starting the top of the 7th, the Red Sox were able to get two on when Xander Bogaerts walked and Jacoby Ellsbury singled. Joel Peralta then came on with two outs to try to slam the door. However, he threw a wild pitch to score Boegaerts and then Shane Victorino got an infiled single to bring Ellsbury home. Boston went up 2-1 and never relinquished the lead.

In the 9th, Maddon decided to bring in closer Fernando Rodney to keep it a one-run game. This turned out to be an awful move, as Rodney was all over the place and appeared to be rattled. He ended up loading the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch. Maddon then brought in his last two pitchers from the bullpen to get the final two outs. Boston was able to score one more run when Dustin Pedroia hit a sac fly to right. Koji Uehara then mowed down the Rays in order in the 9th to close out the series.

The Red Sox will wait to see what happens on Thursday to see who they face. Regardless, they will have their pitching staff fully rested and can set their rotation however they want. The first game of the ALCS will be Saturday in Boston.

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