Rounding Third: No need for Tigers to panic

11:54 AM, Oct 14, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Momentum is only as good as the next days' starting pitcher, right?

Well, if that's the case, the Detroit Tigers still have to like the situation they are in in the American League Championship Series, despite a crushing Game 2 loss to Boston that really could have put a stranglehold on the series for them.

If there was one weakness the Tigers had heading into this postseason, it was in their bullpen. That certainly came to fruition Sunday night, as Detroit's relief corps wasted a brilliant outing from Max Scherzer and blew a four-run lead in the Red Sox' 6-5 come-from-behind win.

After managing just one hit in a 1-0 shutout in Game 1, the Red Sox seemed destined for a similar fate Sunday, as Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before giving up a two-out single to Shane Victorino.

Dustin Pedroia followed with a double off the Green Monster for Boston's first run of the series, but Scherzer, who finished with 13 strikeouts, bounced back by fanning the next three Red Sox before grounding out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the seventh with the Tigers holding a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead and a chance at returning home up two games to none with Justin Verlander on the hill.

However, Boston battled back against Detroit's much-maligned bullpen in the eighth, as Middlebrooks doubled and Jacoby Ellsbury walked before Pedroia's two-out single loaded the bases, prompting Detroit manager Jim Leyland to call for closer Joaquin Benoit.

Ortiz wasted little time greeting the hard-throwing right-hander, as the Boston slugger scorched a first-pitch changeup over the right-field wall to tie the game.

Benoit recorded three four-out saves in the regular season and one against the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the AL Division Series. He also had a five-out save during the season, although one of his two blown saves came in a five-out situation.

"He believes in me and puts me in any situation," Benoit said. "Today was one of those days it didn't work."

Boston won the game in walkoff fashion in the ninth as Saltalamacchia's single off of Rick Porcello scored Jonny Gomes to give the Red Sox a 6-5 win.

"Complete change of momentum," Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. "That's exactly what it is. That just shows what this team is made out of, and it all goes to these veterans who have pushed us to be great every day."

Oddly enough, Leyland's bullpen of Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Benoit were hailed as heroes for their one-hit effort over the final three innings of Detroit's Game 1 win.

Still, the Tigers did what they came to Boston to do. They took home-field advantage away from the Red Sox and will have Verlander on the hill in Game 3 trying to extend a remarkable run by Detroit's starting staff.

"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."

Tigers 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 over back-to-back playoff games.

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.

It may not be exactly as the Tigers had planned, but, make no mistake, this is exactly the situation they had hoped to be in once this series returned to Motown on Tuesday.

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