MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

Say what you want about the lack of scoring in the 2013 playoffs, it keeps the games close and every moment pivotal. Little things become big things and solo homers almost feel like grand slams. This puts every player under the microscope and every umpire as well.

| ALCS thoughts (lack of scoring) | NLCS thoughts (Cardinals constant pressure) |

The Tyranny of the Imaginary Strike Zone

Jeff Sullivan looks at one particular strike call from yesterday’s Red Sox victory over the Tigers. He highlights a borderline call on a 1-1 pitch, a fastball at the bottom of the zone.

Courtesy of Fangraphs

This pitch set up the following pitch, another splitter thrown in the same spot. With two strikes and having just seen this pitch called a strike, batter Jhonny Peralta can only roll over, grounding into a double play. Credit belongs with Jarrod Saltalamacchia for framing this pitch nicely. And to Koji for, well, pitching. That’s what this is and what Uehara does as well as anybody. He throws strike after strike and then when he throws a ball, it looks like a strike. Tough to beat.

Any Tigers fans who feel slighted by this great umpiring injustice should reflect on two things: Peralta wasn’t getting a hit off Koji no matter if the count is 2-1 or 3-1 or 3-0. And, as always, the strike zone works both ways.

These five pitches constitute a walk drawn by Alex Avila in the seventh inning. It happens.

The Clothes Make the Man

Mike Napoli hit a home run! It was the difference in the game! What a moment for Napoli!

Wait, does he looks different during this at bat compared to earlier in the game? Chris Creamer of gets to the bottom of this mystery.

Not for a Lackey of Effort

John Lackey pitched really well last night, as I underlined after the game. Today, the oft-repeated storyline is of a general lack of respect for John Lackey ahead of his battle with Justin Verlander. It’s almost as if Justin Verlander is a two-time Cy Young winner who also won the AL MVP in 2011 and has pitched out of his mind for the last two months! You rage against the dying of the light, you bearded victims!

Jonah Keri did a nice job highlighting Lackey’s treatment of Miguel Cabrera last night. This injured shell of Miguel Cabrera is no match for fastballs right now. Though he skied a Green Monster Special earlier this series, he still can’t hack with the heat.

In a tiny sample this postseason, Cabrera is seeing way more heat than in the regular season. More tellingly, he’s hitting more balls in the air right now than before. Obviously there isn’t anything concrete we can draw from 33 plate appearance sample but the lower body issues dogging Cabrera might well prevent him from transferring his weight sufficiently, keeping him from squaring the ball up as we expect him to do.

The highest compliment I can pay to John Lackey is this: when John Farrell came out to remove him from the game, Lackey was visibly agitated. Lip readers parsed his comments and marvelled as the expressive Texan voiced his displeasure to his manager before trudging away from the hill. And I agreed with Lackey, he looked great and deserved to stay in the game.

Farrell knows his pitcher and cannot be faulted considering his bullpen did the job to a tee, but Lackey’s dominance was such that, against the bottom of the Tigers, I would have taken my chances with Lackey getting one more out. But that’s why Farrell’s there and I’m here.

House of Cards

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has a similar record on which to lean when it comes to dealing with his sparkling bullpen. The Cards pen features three young players who make end-game decisions much easier for their manager. It is hard to call on the wrong player when they’re all so good, as Dayn Perry of CBS Sports points out.

The value of stuff can never be overstated. Trevor Rosenthal might have a wide variety of secondary offerings but, as a reliever, he doesn’t need to use them. Rosenthal fires away with a steady stream of fastballs. For one inning outings, you can live on 98 and nothing else.

Looking forward