Even in the best of pitchers' duels, one player eventually goes home the loser. On Tuesday night, that player was Justin Verlander, as his one mistake was enough to result in a 1-0 victory for the Red Sox. Boston now leads the ALCS, 2-1.
The former Cy Young winner carried on his club's recent penchant for having starters mow down the opposing team, holding Boston to just one run on four hits while striking out 10 in eight innings of work. That one run: an errant fastball to Mike Napoli in the seventh, which Nap deposited into the bullpen in left-center.
Verlander becomes the 25th pitcher in postseason history to allow a lone run in at least eight innings of work and take the loss.
Meanwhile Red Sox starter John Lackey was better, though he didn't stay out on the mound quite as long as his counterpart -- and he was none-too-happy about it -- but he didn't need to. After 6⅔ scoreless innings from the big Texan, Boston manager John Farrell handed the ball over to his relief crew, who have yet to give up a run in 8⅓ innings this series.
The Tigers got close to tying things up in the eighth, getting runners to the corners with just one out. But strikeouts of MVP favorite Miguel Cabrera -- whose injuries are surely taking their toll -- and Prince Fielder by Boston's dynamic relief duo of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara ended the threat. Uehara then returned for the ninth and retired the side with a double-play/strikeout combo to seal the win.
Early on, Game 3 seemed to follow the trend of the series' first two contests. Boston did not get its first hit of the game until the Red Sox had two outs in the fifth, and they reached double-digit strikeouts against a Tigers starter for the third straight game. Among the early strikeout victims was Napoli.
Napoli looked just as hapless in his first two times up as he has all series. The struggling first baseman was benched for Sunday's game because of his poor performance, but Farrell's decision to put him back in the lineup Tuesday seems to have worked out. Napoli struck out for his fifth and sixth times in six ALCS at-bats to start the game, but that could be forgiven after he gave his team the win.