DETROIT — When the Red Sox signed Mike Napoli, they envisioned the addition of a middle-of-the-order power hitter who could offer a threat behind David Ortiz while also possessing the patience and plate discipline to either elevate opposing pitchers’ counts or work a walk. The team viewed him as someone who was capable of doing damage even against top pitchers, as evidenced by some of his past postseason heroics.
Now, the Sox are enjoying a first-hand view of Napoli’s playoff capabilities. Two days after he delivered the game-winning homer in Boston’s 1-0 Game 3 victory, the slugger once again made his mark on Game 3, going 3-for-4 with a massive solo homer to straightaway center field — well over the 420-foot sign and into the Comerica Park hedges that look not unlike his beard — a double and two runs scored.
His mammoth homer in the top of the second inning jumpstarted a three-run Red Sox uprising — just the second time in the ALCS that the Sox had rallied for multiple runs in a single frame — against Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez en route to an eventual 4-3 victory. The fact that Napoli led his band of beardy brothers to a four-run production against Sanchez represented something of a breakthrough for an offense that had plated just three runs against Tigers starters in the first four games of the series.
Interestingly, while the Sox felt that their game plan to drive up the pitch count of Sanchez in Game 1 of the ALCS — where the right-hander issued six walks in his six no-hit innings — was a good building block for Game 5, the team didn’t negotiate a single walk from him in Game 5. Instead, they amassed nine hits in the starter’s six innings, bunching enough of them together to give the Sox a four-run cushion that permitted the team to withstand single runs from the Tigers in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
With the win, the Red Sox are one victory from securing a spot in the World Series as the ALCS shifts back to Fenway Park on Saturday for Game 6, with Clay Buchholz slated to take on Max Scherzer.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Koji Uehara came on to deliver a five-out save, his longest of the postseason. He punched out both Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante in the eighth, then blitzed through a perfect ninth for his fourth save of the postseason.
– Jon Lester‘s stuff was hardly overpowering, as he elicited just six swings and misses among his 98 offerings, but the left-hander pitched around 10 baserunners to limit the Tigers to two runs (only one of which was scored while he was on the mound) in 5 1/3 innings. It was the shortest start of his postseason career, but still represented a sufficient effort to position the Sox to claim a win. Lester’s ERA in nine playoff starts is now 2.35.
– In a pivotal first-inning play, Miguel Cabrera got thrown out by a mile when he tried to score from second on a two-out single by Jhonny Peralta to left fielder Jonny Gomes. Cabrera, of course, is dealing with a left leg injury that has rendered him a complete tortoise on the bases. On the play, it appeared that third-base coach Tom Brookens initially waved Cabrera before switching to a hold sign; by that point, it was too late, Cabrera kept motoring to the plate and Gomes’ throw beat him by perhaps 15 feet. Instead of facing a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the first, the Sox thus escaped a first inning in which Lester issued a walk and permitted two singles without allowing a run. The next inning, the Sox exploded for three runs to completely shift the dynamic of the game.
– Though Junichi Tazawa permitted a run-scoring single to Brayan Pena when he entered the game in the sixth, he immediately clipped the rally with a double play grounder by Austin Jackson. He then stayed on for the seventh, permitting a pair of hits to open the inning by putting runners on the corners for Miguel Cabrera.
But, in a reprisal of the defining matchup of Game 3 (when Tazawa punched out Cabrera with runners on the corners and one out), the right-hander got Cabrera to bounce into a 4-3 double play on a fastball down and just off the outside corner. Though a run scored on the play, under the circumstances, the exchange of a run for two outs was one with which the Red Sox were comfortable.
Tazawa now has gotten three double play grounders in 4 2/3 postseason innings, matching his total from 68 1/3 innings in the regular season.
– Xander Bogaerts, inserted into the lineup in place of Will Middlebrooks, had an instant impact on the Sox offense, ripping a one-out double to left in the second inning. He would eventually score the Sox’ third run of the frame. He later worked a walk, and he’s now reached in five of eight postseason plate appearances with two doubles.
– David Ross had his second career multi-hit game in 10 postseason games, slamming a double to left as part of the three-run rally in the second and later adding a single.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Stephen Drew once again looked overmatched in the series. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, bringing his ALCS line to 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts and one walk, and his postseason line to 3-for-32 with 10 punchouts. He did, however, convert a key double play, when Jon Lester fielded a comebacker but made a poor throw that was wide of second. Drew managed to keep his foot on the bag and maintain enough balance to complete the twin-killing.
– Shane Victorino seemed uncomfortable at the plate, first electing to bat left-handed against Sanchez (against whom he went 0-for-3) and then getting overmatched by a series of curveballs after switching around to hit right-handed against the right-handed Jose Veras.
– The run permitted by Tazawa broke a run of 17 1/3 scoreless innings by the Red Sox bullpen.
WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss the latest development at Patriots training camp. Chris says Darrelle Revis has looked great, and that his impact on the defense is actually being underplayed nationally.
WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss Rob Gronkowski's meeting with the media on Friday. Gronk said he doesn't anticipate changing the way he plays, noting that he wants to "keep smashing and dashing."
Julian Edelman joins Merloni, Fauria, and Benz after Patriots training camp.
Jackie Mac joins the guys to discuss her thoughts on a possible mid-season tournament in the NBA, LeBron's return to Cleveland, trade rumors with the Celtics and Red Sox, and Darrelle Revis' contract situation.
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston to talk about the Lebron James Saga, the possibility of Rajon Rondo being traded, and the future of Marcus Smart.
Former coach of Celtics 1st-round pick Marcus Smart, Travis Ford joins MFB to talk about what Celtics fans should expect from the strong point guard. Among other things, Coach Ford says Smart will be a hard worker, and will improve his shooting ability.
Tim Kurkjian joins the program to discuss the Red Sox options at the trade deadline.
Kevin Millar joins Merloni, Fauria, and Benz to discuss David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia's struggles, and Jon Lester's contract.
Rob Bradford is joined by WEEI.com Bruins beat writer DJ Bean, as well as Boston sports fan/blogger Turtleboy to talk all things Bruins free agency. With the B's recent moves, the conversation turns to where the Bruins might next turn and what kind of dent losing Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton might make.
DJ discusses Shawn Thornton's new deal, and the on going negotiations with Jerome Iginla
DJ Bean joins the program to dismiss the recent rumors that the Bruins are in discussions to trade Brad Marchand to the Sharks for Patrick Marleau
John, Gerry, and Steve DeOssie discuss Tom Brady's impact on the rest of the Patriots, plus Steve tells tales from his old days as a NFL linebacker
A whale watch boat is stranded overnight in Boston Harbor
Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront certainly put on quite the pitching performance, as the Red Sox were trounced by the Jays. Does this change the team's approach to the trade deadline?
Christian tells a story about taking his girlfriend to see "Jersey Boys" in NYC, but he leaves out some crucial details. Luckily, she was listening and called the show to clarify exactly what kind of shenanigans he was trying to pull.
MFB discuss a Peter King article that suggests many NFL coaches and assistant coaches have felt increasing pressure over big-money fantasy football players. Christian also weighs in specifically on how his knowledge of game-plans resulted directly in him winning his first season as a fantasy football player.
The Sox lost 14-1 as Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront both had awful performances. On the heels of the loss, rumors began to fly regarding Jon Lester and John Lackey possibly being traded.
The tweet is a little ominous sounding. Dale, Buck and Greg Dickerson discuss what very well could be the end of the Jon Lester era with the Boston Red Sox.
We tackle four topics all sparked by the Red Sox worst to first to worst run in 2012-2014.
We talk about the latest news surrounding Jon Lester and the Red Sox. Could he be dealt to the Dodgers?
Mut and Villani are talking about whether the Red Sox will give Jon Lester the type of contract he is looking for, or whether they might be shopping him with rumors of the Red Sox scouting Cole Hamels.
Mut and Villani are talking about the MLB All Star Game, Adam Wainwright and Derek Jeter, and what are some of the worst ideas in sports.
Sam and Zach discuss changing the format of the Podcast, the Chris Archer-David Ortiz debacle, and LeBron James being a super genius
Particularly in a year where the Red Sox have struggled while trying to integrate numerous young players into regular big league roles, accusations that Red Sox prospects are overrated -- whether by the team or writers -- have been widespread. Jim Callis of MLB.com joins the show to take stock of the matter, and to discuss the team-building impact of overrating and underrating prospects.
With the trade deadline looming, the next few days will be defined by how teams value prospects -- and their potential long-term contributions -- against big leaguers with established track records who can address immediate needs. Are prospects being valued accurately? Red Sox left-hander Andrew Miller -- once one of the two key chips that sent Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins to the Tigers -- assesses the matter.
Rob gave the latest on Jon Lester trade talks and the flap between Ortiz and the Rays.More from this show
Particularly in a year where the Red Sox have struggled while trying to integrate numerous young players into regular big league roles, accusations that Red Sox prospects are overrated -- whether by the team or writers -- have been widespread. Jim Callis of MLB.com joins the show to take stock of the matter, and to discuss the team-building impact of overrating and underrating prospects.More from this show
We talk about the latest news surrounding Jon Lester and the Red Sox. Could he be dealt to the Dodgers?More from this show
Tim Kurkjian joins the program to discuss the Red Sox options at the trade deadline.More from this show