Baseball is often a cruel game. Through three games the Tigers starting staff is flirting with history, having allowed just two earned runs in their first 21 innings of work this ALCS, a 0.86 earned run average. However all the Tigers have to show for it is a 2-1 deficit in the series, after squandering the home field advantage they earned on Anibal Sanchez’s six-inning, no-hit effort in Game 1 at Fenway Park. Here are some notes about this series so far and what to look for in Game 4.
- The best team in terms of ERA by starting pitchers in a League Championship Series—a playoff round introduced in 1969—is none other than the 2012 Tigers who, behind the familiar starting rotation of Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verander and tonight’s starter Doug Fister, held the Yankees to two earned runs in 27 ⅓ innings (0.66 ERA) in last October’s four-game sweep.
- You have to go back to the 1991 NLCS between the Braves and Pirates to find a series that featured at least two 1-0 games—and that had three. (Curiously Braves lefty Steve Avery won two 1-0 games including one against Pirates southpaw Zane Smith who was both on the winning and losing end).
- Chances are the Red Sox will not win a 1-0 game tonight. Their starter, Jake Peavy is currently on a streak of 47 consecutive starts (including the Game 4 clincher against the Rays in the ALDS) in which he’s allowed at least one earned run. That’s the second longest active streak in the majors surpassed only by the 61 straight scathed starts by Ramon Ortiz which began in 2005 and has spanned seven big league teams, a stint in Japan, 94 minor league starts and a potentially career-ending elbow injury.
- Recently Doug Fister’s appearances against the Sox have been of the all-or-nothing variety. He started twice against the Red Sox during the 2013 regular season. In the first on June 21 in Detroit he allowed 11 hits and six earned runs over 3 ⅓ innings in a loss. Then on September 2 in Boston he was lights-out, shutting down Boston’s batters over seven innings of four-hit, no run ball. That game was the only one of the seven regular season meetings in which a Tigers starter did not allow the Sox a run.
- Fister also allowed the Sox six earned runs in his last start against them in 2012, but in his first start of that season was holding Boston scoreless over 3 ⅔ innings in his first meeting of 2012 before he had to leave after suffering a left costochondral strain which sent him to the disabled list. Overall Fister is 2-4 against Boston in eight career starts with a 4.36 ERA and 1.57 WHIP.
- Peavy last faced the Tigers on July 25, in what would turn out to be his last appearance for Chicago before the trade to Boston. He got the victory but allowed four earned runs. Among the four hits he allowed in seven innings were home runs by Brayan Peña, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter in the 7-4 decision.
- These Tigers know Peavy. He made six starts against them for the White Sox during the 2012 season. Only four pitchers (Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Sale, Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie) started more against Detroit the past two seasons. But on the ominous sidde, Peavy has allowed more earned runs (28) and home runs (11) to the Tigers over that span than anyone (although Sale, his former ChiSox teammate is the only one to fan more Tigers, 58 to 45).
- Torii Hunter is a career .438/.471/.813 hitter against the veteran righthander while Miguel Cabrera has three home runs and nine RBIs in 49 plate appearances. On the other end of the spectrum, Alex Avila is batting just .190 in his career against Peavy, but is one of seven current Tigers to take him deep at least once in his career.
- By contrast, only two Red Sox—Shane Victorino who is 4 for 5 and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5 for 11)—have hit home runs off of the ground-ball inducing Fister. Tuesday night’s hero, Mike Napoli, has but two walks and two singles in 16 career meetings with Fister and David Ortiz has just two extra base hits in 22 tries (.350 SLG.)
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He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrateds 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.
Now living in Marblehead, hes focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.