These are the nights when baseball shows its true self – the wondrous mess that only a game of contrasts and discordant ideas can produce. The sort of night that defines the term “flattered by the scoreline.” Both Anibal Sanchez and Jon Lester battled tonight, fighting their command or their release point or whatever the case may be – neither pitcher had all his weapons working tonight. Both seemed at the brink of collaspe on more than one occasion.
Yet, in the end, only seven runs crossed the plate tonight, one via a wild pitch. Another run scored on a double play ground out. Two more runners were cut down trying to score. It wasn’t pretty but it was entertaining. The Red Sox don’t care about the aesthetics of their victory, they’re focused on getting one more win to reach the World Series for the 11th time in franchise history.
It wasn’t that there weren’t moments of brilliance or beauty in this game. There was some dynamite defense, best displayed by Jose Iglesias single-handedly destroying what the shift is supposed to mean. You know what Iglesias did, chasing down a high pop up off the bat of David Ortiz, was cool and unsual enough for the chronically insecure to embark on a character assassination of something they barely understand beyond the acronym.
There was a decent running catch in left by Jonny Gomes of all people.There was another great double play turned by the Boston Red Sox. Again Dustin Pedroia stood in to make sure his BoSox converted two outs on a wonderful around-the-horn DP. Jon Lester all but encapsulated his night, flubbing his first attempt at a rolling Jose Iglesias bunt but recovering to make a really smart glove flip for the out. Not the finest execution but the outcome everybody wanted.
There was Mike Napoli, taking Anibal Sanchez way out to center field. Not too many baseball get lost in that section of the shrubbery.
There was Will Middlebrooks, pinch running for the 21-year old who all but stole his job, going first-to-third on a bunt single after substitute catcher Brayan Pena failed to cover the bag, as is his responsibility – and still only making it because Pena swung his tag through a chunk of atmosphere occupied by the third base umpire at that fateful moment.
There was a combined 6.2 innings of relief work between the two bullpens, who combined to allow four hits and two walks between them. There was Koji Uehara, not working with the laser-like precision and not at his best but still at his “waaaaaaaay too good for anybody on this planet.”
just want to say the full-count splitter from Uehara to Peralta in the eighth is the most perfect pitch you'll see all postseason
— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) October 18, 2013
There was a lot to like, in other words. There was enough to dislike on the Tigers side that, after nine innings of baseball, they’re now one loss away from packing up their lockers while a solemn news crew records matters for posterity. One too many mixed signals from third base coach that resulted in the deadest of ducks. One too many MVP and Triple Crown winner grounding into a double play to score a run, obscuring his complete situational failure. One too many corner infield making MVP bucks for utility man offense.
There wasn’t the same sort of sloppiness that typified last night’s game. The Red Sox defense did a great job of picking up their pitcher Jon Lester. Lester struck out just three batters, walking three and giving up seven hits in his 5.1 innings of work. The defense made him look good, better than his mere six swinging strikes on 98 pitches.
Not that Lester really cares – even if he didn’t do quite enough, he didn’t undo anything and now the Red Sox return home, looking to clinch in front of their home fans. The Tigers might be down but they get to start Max Scherzer and, if necessary, Justin Verlander in a potential Game Seven. As far as chances go, you have to think both teams will take theirs, all things being equal. It isn’t about how good you look in the act at this time of year. It only matters that you get by.