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Tigers turn to Verlander as evened-up ALCS shifts to Detroit

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The Sports Network
10/15/2013 10:12:51 AM
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(SportsNetwork.com) - Momentum is only as good as the next days' starting pitcher, right?

Well, if that's the case, the Detroit Tigers have to relish the situation they find themselves in despite a crushing Game 2 loss to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

The Tigers now turn to Justin Verlander in Game 3 and will try to regain control of the best-of-seven set, as the series shifts to Comerica Park.

"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."

Detroit seemed well on its way to returning home with a two-games-to-none lead in this series, as it held a 5-1 advantage in the eighth inning on Sunday.

However, the Tigers' bullpen, which had been so solid in Saturday's Game 1 win, imploded and allowed a game-tying grand slam to David Ortiz in the eighth, before Jarrod Saltalamacchia's RBI single in the ninth lifted the Red Sox to a 6-5 win.

"We've got a ballclub that battles," Ortiz said. "We fight. We never give up. You saw it through the whole season. We found a way to get back and try to win a ballgame. It's never over until the last out, you know?"

The comeback wasted a wonderful outing from Max Scherzer, who carried a no- hitter into the sixth inning and struck out 13 over seven innings.

"We came away with the split," Scherzer said. "You have to see the glass half- full. This one stinks tonight, but guess what? The sun comes up tomorrow, and we're going to be playing these guys at home in front of our fans. It's up to us to choose if we're going to come out and compete. I think we will. I don't think this is going to deter our effort. I believe in this clubhouse. I believe in everybody in here, all 25 guys here. I still believe in us."

Detroit starters hadn't allowed a run in 23 consecutive postseason innings and the staff as a whole broke a major league record on Sunday by striking out 32 batters in the first two games of this set.

"We've got a starting rotation that's relentless, and I said that before the series started. Every guy has their unique ability to shut down a team in their own way," Verlander said. "I'm just one of the four guys right now."

Verlander started the streak with eight scoreless innings in Game 5 of the ALDS against Oakland and comes into Tuesday's start having not allowed a run in 15 postseason innings this season.

Of course, Verlander's terrific postseason comes on the heels of an inconsistent regular season that saw him go 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA.

"Just playing with JV, a Cy Young winner, an MVP ... I definitely think that just playing with him, just seeing him being competitive ... He's working his (tail) off, trying to figure out his arm angle, his curveball, his changeup and figure out a grip," teammate Torii Hunter said.

Boston, meanwhile, will turn to righty John Lackey, who is certainly no stranger to the big stage. As a 24-year-old rookie, Lackey pitched the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to a win in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series and has pitched in the postseason on four other occasions for the Halos.

"He's not short on pitching in unfavorable conditions, whether it's in a postseason in New York, and certainly one that's going to be in Detroit," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We're talking about a guy that's pitched at the highest level on the biggest stage that the game has to offer."

Lackey, though, was not sharp in his ALDS start against the Rays, but still got the win, as he allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Tigers were 4-3 against the Red Sox in 2013, winning three of four at Comerica Park in June.

Justin Verlander (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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