BOSTON - Thanks to a Game 1 loss, in which they were one-hit by five Tigers' pitchers, the Red Sox head into Sunday night under pressure to avoid going down 0-2 when the series shifts to Detroit.
There's also that matter of Justin Verlander, who will start the third game for the Tigers. Given how he pitched in two starts Division Series starts against Oakland, the task will be a tall one for the Bostonians on Tuesday regardless of Sunday's result.
Let's digress, not get too far ahead of ourselves, and look at what's on tap in the immediate. The Red Sox had better take that approach because, before Verlander, they're up against the presumptive favourite to win this year's American League Cy Young award, Max Scherzer.
GAME 2 PREVIEW:
Tigers RHP Max Scherzer (Regular season: 21-3, 2.90, 0.970 WHIP; Playoffs: 2-0, 3.00, 1.111 WHIP)
2013 vs. Boston: 1-1, 2.57, 1.000 WHIP, 14K in 14 innings pitched.
Scherzer on facing the Red Sox:
"Well, they're just a great team. They can grind AB's out, they don't chase a lot. They foul off pitches. Really, it all comes down to, you can mention all those things they're very good at, it comes down to attacking the hitters and making sure I'm working ahead in count. I've got to be 1 2 before I'm 2 1. All the simple things in pitching. If I don't do that, it's going to make it extremely uphill battle for me. If I feel like I'm working ahead in the count, I feel like I can be successful. And that's the recipe for success."
Toughest matchup: David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury have a history of success against Scherzer.
Ortiz in 15 AB: .467/.556/.1.133, 3 HR, 1 2B, 6 RBI, 3 BB.
Saltalamacchia in 12 AB: .417/.417/.667, 1 HR, 2 RBI.
Ellsbury in 9 AB: .556/.667/1.000, 1 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB.
Interesting note: Scherzer, the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft (Diamondbacks,) and teammates Austin Jackson and Phil Coke were acquired in the same three-way trade, from different clubs.
The deal went down on December 8, 2009, with the centerpiece of the deal being the Yankees acquisition of Curtis Granderson from Detroit.
Scherzer and reliever Daniel Schlereth were acquired by the Tigers from Arizona, while the Yankees shipped Jackson and Coke to Detroit.
The Tigers sent Edwin Jackson to Arizona in the deal. The Diamondbacks also acquired Ian Kennedy from New York.
Got all that?
Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz (Regular season: 12-1, 1.74, 1.025 WHIP; Playoffs: 0-0, 4.50, 1.667 WHIP)
Did not face Detroit in 2013.
Buchholz missed three months (June 9-September 9) with a neck injury.
Toughest matchup: There is no Tiger who's faced Buchholz often and had significant success.
Here are the numbers of the four Detroit players who've seen Buchholz the most.
Torii Hunter (24 AB:) .167/.286/.250, 2 2B, 4 BB, 4K.
Miguel Cabrera (21 AB:) .238/.320/.333, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K.
Austin Jackson (19 AB:) .263/.333/.526, 1 HR, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 4K.
Jhonny Peralta (17 AB:) .294/.316/.412, 2 2B, 7 RBI, 4 K.
Of the active players on the Tigers' playoff roster, only Jackson and Andy Dirks (1) have hit home runs off Buchholz.
Up 1-0 in the eighth inning of Game 1, Tigers manager Jim Leyland held his nose and replaced Miguel Cabrera with Ramon Santiago at third base. It's a tough decision to take your best hitter out of a close game but considering Cabrera's groin issues, Leyland felt he had no choice.
"I wasn't comfortable doing that, particularly in this ballpark with a 1 0 lead," said Leyland. "We know we're handicapped a little bit because of our situation. I think the biggest key in that situation was the two guys that they had coming up to lead off that inning were Victorino and Pedroia. Both are excellent baseball players, both smart. Victorino could have dropped the bunt down on Miggy. Pedroia could have dropped a bunt on Miggy. We felt like that was the best way to go."
GAME 2 PREDICTION:
This is an absolute must-win for Boston.
The Red Sox, with their scraggly beards and grind-it-out approach, will muster the will to bounce back from being one-hit.
Buchholz and Scherzer pitch great games but the Red Sox prevail, 3-2, sending us to Detroit with the series even 1-1.